After years of campaigning, finally a Cork championship game was held in West Cork again, with Clonakilty’s fantastic Ahamilla complex an excellent host. Carbery Board Chairman Tom Lyons was there to soak it in and enjoy the Clon hospitality and a sparkling Cork U20 display
WHETHER it was the West Cork air, Clonakilty hospitality or the feel of being at home in the heartland of Cork football that inspired them, the Cork U20 football team put on a sparkling display in the Munster semi-final against Waterford in Ahamilla.
In front of a crowd of almost 1,000 supporters the Cork lads really enjoyed themselves against a physically strong Waterford side that had unexpectedly beaten Clare in the first round.
5-23 to 0-7 was the final score of a game that saw an exhibition of all that’s best in Cork football and this expedition by a Cork team into West Cork for the first time in many decades for a championship game, was really enjoyed by all involved, despite the lop-sided nature of the contest.
‘It is fantastic to have the opportunity to have a Cork team playing here in this brilliant venue in Clonakilty and we’re delighted that this was able to happen,’ Cork chairperson Tracey Kennedy told The Southern Star.
‘It’s been a long time coming, there’s been a lot of campaigning from West Cork people for a game down here. It’s something that would have been high on my agenda as well and I’m delighted we were able to make it happen.
‘All of these things are part of our plans for Cork football and an opportunity like this was one we were delighted to get. I suppose we were lucky in a way the game came here as Waterford unexpectedly beat Clare, otherwise the game would have been in Ennis.’
The Clonakilty club had put a huge amount of work into preparing for this unique fixture and Ahamilla was like a picture card in the glorious summer sunshine. The ease of parking in the large field adjacent to the grounds was well-appreciated and the yellow jackets of the Munster officials and local Clonakilty stewards were very prominent.
Waterford looked an impressive outfit as they warmed up beforehand and we bumped into a Bantry woman, living in Ballincollig, who goes to all Cork games, near and far, and who was delighted to see a Cork team coming back to West Cork to play championship football.
Somebody mentioned that this was the first inter-county championship game to be played in Clonakilty since the Munster senior and minor finals of 1938 were played in the nearby Showgrounds but we’re pretty sure that some junior or U21 games were played there in the 1960s or 1970s, including the 1963 U21 final in which Cork beat Kerry – that Cork team included two brothers from Clonakilty, Flor and Tim F Hayes.
The huge crowd last Friday included supporters from all over West Cork and beyond, showing a clear appetite for this kind of game west of the Viaduct. We asked the chairperson, Tracey Kennedy, if there was a possibility that venues like Castlehaven might also benefit from this new policy of sharing by the board?
‘Having seen how successfully things have worked out this season, we’ll have to have a look at what games can be played in the west of the county,’ Kennedy said.
‘There’s no reason we can’t go to any good venue in the west. We will be checking out games like the McGrath Cup, those are the types of games we would be hoping to play outside the city. To be fair, the McGrath Cup is usually played in Mallow, not the city. There is a great atmosphere for games in Cork, too, so we’ll be looking at the whole scene in future years.’
There was a great buzz in the crowd as the game got underway and we noticed again the huge amount of youngsters present, not counted in the official figure. As regards promoting Gaelic football in an area that has seen rugby grabbing more than its share of headlines in recent times, this venture was a tremendous success and must be repeated again soon.
On the pitch, the Cork footballers had got over some early nerves and three goals in the space of five minutes, all cheered to the hilt by the crowd, had the game finished as a contest by half time.
It was exhibition stuff in the second half as the scores piled up and we felt sorry for the Waterford players, mentors and supporters who had made the long trip to West Cork. Following on the hurling hammering by Tipperary earlier in the week, with almost half the same team involved, these are not happy days for the Déise but the West Cork hospitality, before and after, more than compensated for events on the pitch.
The experiment of bringing inter-county football back to West Cork this season has been an unqualified success in every way and we look forward to more of the same in the coming seasons.
One can only imagine what the atmosphere and the crowd would be like if it were a Munster final, in any grade, between Cork and Kerry. Or a league outing between Cork and Dublin, when Cork get back to Division 1. A start has been made, credit to the Cork County Board and the footballers who wanted to come west home to show off their talents, and now that the trail has been found, there is no excuse not to keep it open and busy.
We remembered the lobbying by the late, great John Corcoran to get inter-county games for West Cork and the big fella must have been smiling down on Ahamilla on Friday night, rubbing his hands with glee as he made some joke to St Peter about the intransigence of county board officials for many years.
Well, the first battle has been fought and won, John is smiling and we’re pretty sure he is now planning on how to get an inter-county hurling game westward on that Viaduct Trail. The wagons are rolling, westward, ho, the wagons!
Bandon Co-Op is delighted to be involved with and supporting many local community groups all over West Cork. This video encapsulates some of the wonderful people that we have the pleasure of dealing with #TogetherStrongerWestCork