WHEN there’s damn-all sport happening (and no, ‘damn’ isn’t the word we use in daily discourse), you tend to become a bit more philosophical in terms of appreciating things.
Now, we could of course focus this column on whether or not this weekend’s GAA Congress adopts a black card but the machinations of Congress are difficult enough to break down without the variable of faulty broadband thrown into the mix. Short answer: it probably will be passed, despite opposition from Proper Hurling Men, and any issues with hurling over the next couple of years will be put down to this flagrant lack of manliness.
Instead, it feels apposite to celebrate this corner of the world, which has always punched above its weight in terms of tourism and is now consistently doing so on the sporting front.
This reverie is inspired by a question that sports editor Kieran McCarthy asked of Ireland’s fastest woman, Phil Healy, in the latest episode of the Star Sport weekly podcast (in fact, there’s two podcasts out already this week), namely if West Cork was taking over.
Phil isn’t one for empty rhetoric bloviation but, given that she’s part of the western cavalcade, she was emphatic in her answer: ‘One hundred percent, if only people realised that well before now! I'm always pushing West Cork!’
After Kieran posted it on Twitter, a reply came from the Three Red Kings account, which is run by Tom Savage and focuses on Munster Rugby. It simply said: ‘#WestCorkMafia’, referencing the impact made by the Coombes and Wycherley families in recent times.
If the current rate of takeover continues, the whole Munster team will be of West Cork origin in just under two years.
The success enjoyed by Skibbereen Rowing Club members has become so commonplace that it’s almost taken for granted, but throw in Darragh McElhinney taking 16 – sixteen – seconds off his personal best in the 3000m and Ronan Hurley scoring in Cork City’s opening pre-season friendly against St Patrick’s Athletic, hopefully paving the way for a strong season, and you begin to wonder – what would West Cork sporting endeavours be like if there wasn’t a pandemic throwing a spanner in the works?
That’s all before we’ve even added Gaelic games, the original sporting lifeblood in the region, to the mix. Castlehaven have a county football final coming up – hopefully some time this year but we can’t be sure – and the various Cork panels are festooned with top-level western practitioners.
One of the latest additions to the Rebel football panel, Maurice Shanley – and we have an interview with him in next week’s Star – and his first exposure to senior championship was to have to mark David Clifford in the Munster semi-final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Such a task could be considered to be of such magnitude that even the thought of it could lead to a full-back being beaten before stepping on the pitch, but Shanley carried out his job quietly and efficiently and Cork got the rub of the green.
Fair enough, they didn’t go on and win Munster – probably because there were not enough West Cork men on the team, of course – but the overall curve is pointing upwards and when action resumes, Cork will be ready to kick on. The return from injury of Shanley’s Clonakilty and Cork clubmate Liam O’Donovan should be a real boon to Ronan McCarthy’s men.
There have certainly been times during this lockdown, and the one before it and the one before that, where we have wondered exactly what to write about on a given week, but there has always been something. If we were based in an area that was not as much of a sporting hotbed, the existential crisis would certainly have been longer and louder.
The only question now is what sports are out there unconquered by West Cork people? There might be a few, but the list is dwindling and you can rest assured that, as each is mastered in turn, the Star will be there to chart the epic feats of the local men and women doing so.
We know that the notion of resting on laurels isn’t far off accusations of complacency, but if there’s ever a time to do so, it’s now. Let’s just sit back and acknowledge how good we have it here.
Back in November 2019 – before any of us had heard of a pandemic – Bandon musical duo Kees Hendrickx and James Downing, better known as The Shruggs, went viral with a new song which showcased the best of the area aurally and visually and the chorus sums things up perfectly: ‘Oooh, I love West Cork.’