KILBREE hurlers were rewarded for a trophy-laden season with the presentation of a West Cork Sports Star monthly award at the Celtoc Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery.
Kilbree hurling has come good over the last three years by winning a pair of Carbery junior A hurling titles, a Carbery league triumph and coming within a whisker of reaching this year’s county junior A decider.
The foundations of the rural club’s recent successes lie in an underage structure that has produced a steady stream of talented hurlers, accustomed to winning trophies coming up through the ranks.
That infusion of positive mentality reaped dividends at junior level in 2018. The momentum gained from annexing their second West Cork hurling trophy has elevated performance and expectation levels but club captain Dylan Coffey wouldn’t have it any other way.
‘I was playing junior hurling ten years ago when Kilbree suffered a lot of heavy defeats due to being a bit young and inexperienced,’ Coffey said.
‘Things are different now though because of the way this team has come together. It makes an awful difference in the dressing room to have 19- and 20-year-olds pushing the likes of myself and the other 30-year-olds.
I would say that we have six or seven experienced fellas who are very driven and responsible for driving things on. The younger fellas just fall into line.
‘Looking back, only for the likes of Kevin O’Donovan and Chris O’Regan (now a selector on the team) who we had from U10 up to minor and U21, well, we wouldn’t be doing what we are doing today. It is very hard to find good trainers in clubs that will drive fellas on and give the time so we are very lucky.’
This year’s West Cork final triumph over Ballinascarthy was hard earned and there were times the game looked to be slipping away from Kilbree. That was when the experience garnered from claiming a Carbery title two years previously and edging plenty of close games in between stood to the Kilmeen-based club.
‘Things got a bit ropey against Ballinascarthy and a few years ago we would have easily lost that game by seven or eight points,’ admitted the 28-year-old Carbery Group electrician.
‘I don’t think we ever panicked though and that is the key with this current team. That is the one brilliant thing about all the young fellas that have come on to the team in the last number of years. Time gone by, when matches were in the melting pot, we would have lost. Now, our younger fellas never seem to panic under pressure and that comes from playing high quality teams at minor and U21.
‘There has been change in mentality, definitely. Too many games were in the melting pot this year for the selectors liking I’d say! But we didn’t panic, believed enough in ourselves to turn things around and that’s what has made the difference this year.’
The only blemish on an otherwise marvellous year for the Kilbree hurlers was their narrow county junior A semi-final defeat to Russell Rovers. That’s one game Coffey and his team mates would love to have back.
‘Oh definitely, that Russell Rovers game is one we would love another crack off but we couldn’t complain at the end because we had more than enough chances to win it,’ Coffey stated.
‘Russell Rovers are a very good team but it was a very disappointing result. You have to learn from your mistakes and move on. On the plus side, once you have finished playing for the year you usually want to throw the hurley away and not see it again for a couple of months. Every one of our fellas is looking forward to the break but we will be tearing for road and wanting to get back on the pitch after coming so close to reaching a county final.’