CLONAKILTY GAA Club will hang up its brightest colours this Friday evening as its Ahamilla grounds hosts the Munster U20FC semi-final meeting of Cork and Waterford (throw-in 7pm).
Designated as the county’s home venue in the grade this year, Clon got the call-up when Waterford overcame Clare in their quarter-final. Having already hosted the meeting of Cork and Kerry in the John Kerins Cup, they are ready for the real thing and club chairman Ger McCarthy is delighted that Clon have received such an honour.
He credits Cork U20 manager Keith Ricken, who made the initial push, and county secretary Kevin O’Donovan for making the idea come to pass.
‘It’s a huge occasion for us to have Clonakilty considered for inter-county championship games,’ McCarthy says.
‘It’s a big step forward in the overall development of the club again, it brings it to another level, so we’re delighted to be part of the occasion.
‘First of all, we want to thank Keith Ricken. He’s a strong believer that numbers attending football matches are declining and, that by bringing the games to the people and bringing the football back to West Cork, you’ll increase attendance.
‘He was proved absolutely right in the John Kerins tournament, when Cork and Kerry played, a fine crowd turned out that evening to see that game.
‘He went to Kevin O’Donovan and asked that Clonakilty would be the venue for U20 home games and Kevin went got approval from Cork County Board and the Munster Council.
‘We really appreciate their intervention.’
Ricken recently told the Star that the West Cork appetite for football was key behind his push to decentralise.
‘In time, I’d love to see more of it,’ Ricken said, ‘because Cork football is bigger than just having the games in the city.
‘There are areas that have made great contributions to Cork football and it would be good to reward them.’
To that end, he brought the team west for training and McCarthy believes that such a familiarity with the complex will stand to Cork.
‘The Cork U20s have been down to Clon and they’ve trained here five or six times this year already,’ he says.
‘They seem to be very comfortable and very happy with the set-up and we do everything we can to help them.
‘What makes it extra-special is that Maurice Shanley is on the panel and has been playing at full-back. To have a Clon man there and playing a championship game on his home pitch is super.
‘Maurice is a fine young man and we’re delighted for him as well.’
As regards, the logistics of it all, Clon have been making sure that things are as easy as possible for the expected large attendance.
‘In terms of stewarding, the Munster Council are doing the ticket-selling and the ticket-collection,’ McCarthy says.
‘We’re providing stewarding for the car park. We’re going to use the eight-acre plot adjoining the complex that we used last year and that’s ideal for people, that they can walk from there to the pitch.
‘Particularly for people with disabilities or in advanced years, access is very easy to the ground.
‘I’d say that we’ll have in excess of 30 people there to provide stewarding. Our attitude is that whatever is asked will be provided.’
There’s a strong West Cork representation on the Cork U20 football panel for Friday night’s Munster championship game in Clonakilty, including captain Peter O’Driscoll from Ilen Rovers. The panel is as follows: Conor Smith (Aghabollogue), Paul Ring (Aghabullogue), Mark Hodnett (Carbery Rangers), Ian Giltinan (Carrigaline), Jack McCarthy (Carrigaline), Rory Maguire (Castlehaven), Maurice Shanley (Clonakilty), Fionn Herlihy (Dohenys), Brian Hartnett (Douglas), Conor Russell (Douglas), Jack Murphy (Éire Óg), Colm O'Callaghan (Éire Óg), Dylan Connolly (Glanworth), Peter O’Driscoll (Ilen Rovers, captain), Daniel O’Connell (Kanturk), Cian Lankford (Killavullen), Damien Gore (Kilmacabea), Bill Curtin (Kilshannig), Kieran Twomey (Kilshannig), Eanna O’Hanlon (Kilshannig), Sean Meehan (Kiskeam), Michael Mahoney (Knocknagree), Shane Hickey (Millstreet), Cathal O’Mahony (Mitchelstown), Mark Cronin (Nemo Rangers), James O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers), Gearoid O’Donovan (Newcestown), David Buckley (Newcestown), Josh O’Keeffe (Newmarket), Brian Hayes (St Finbarr's), Colm Barrett (St Finbarr's), Liam Grainger (St Michael's), Eoin O’Donovan (St Michael's) and Blake Murphy (St Vincent's).