Amalgamations can work as Donal Holland told TOM LYONS
WHO will ever forget the closing minutes of the South West U21 B football final this season?
Re-graded Bandon, hot favourites, were five points ahead with three minutes remaining against underdogs Ibane Gaels. A combination of Barryroe and Argideen Rangers, Ibane were dead and buried after a gallant but doomed effort. Ten minutes later they were rejoicing in some style as an amazing goal, from full back Joe Sheehan, and three points without reply gave them a victory that will be talked about in Barryroe and Timoleague for many long years to come.
2-14 to 3-9 it finished but it wasn’t the first sign of what Ibane were capable of as, following a big win in the first round over Urhan, they had produced heroics when beating Kilmacabea in the semi-final. The sides level for the eighth time with 15 minutes to go, Ibane were reduced to 14 players but they lifted their game to new heights to register two winning points, holding their opponents scoreless in that closing quarter. It finished 0-10 to 0-8.
Following their marvellous win in West Cork, Ibane headed for the county championship and a meeting with city kingpins, St Nick’s. The South West champions were on a roll now and with three green flags to their credit, two by ace-forward Mark Crowley, they registered a surprising 3-9 to 0-15 victory to march into the semi-final.
Opponents here were Aghabullogue and again Ibane were put to the pin of their collars to survive as it was not until the 58th minute that Ibane, whose physical strength was vital all season, finally took the lead and a 1-10 to 1-8 victory put them into the final.
Waiting in the final were Clyda Rovers but they were unfortunate to come up against an Ibane side at the peak of its form, honed by the tough wins all the way through. With Killian McSweeney rampant at midfield, the half-back line of Patrick Moloney, David Kiely and Gerry Crowley forming a solid wall across the defence and Mark Crowley and Jack Cahalane leading the forwards in rampaging style, this was a trap to post win for the South West champions.
Goals from Mark Crowley and Jack Cahalane saw them sweep to a 2-12 to 2-5 victory, a scoreline that didn’t flatter them one bit, so superior were they on the day. Mark Crowley was named man-of-the-match and history was made as Ibane won their first county title since amalgamation and became the first team from the South West to win the U2 1B football county title.
The management team that led the team to glory was Donal Holland (manager), Michael O’Callaghan (trainer), Alan O’Leary and Norman Fleming.
Donal Holland, a man with years of experience in charge of Barryroe teams, had the reins of control as manager during an historic season and he spoke to The Southern Star about this season to remember.
‘We amalgamated Barryroe and Argideen because of shortage of numbers at underage in both clubs and in an effort to getting our players competing at higher levels. It has worked out better than we ever imagined in both codes,’ Holland said.
‘We put in more work with this team than other years but we were hampered by the weather at the beginning of the year. It’s not easy either, getting players together for training in an amalgamated team as both adult clubs were busy with fixtures. Bal beat us by a point last season but we had more options this year, with bigger numbers to pick from. We had a strong panel of players this year and it showed there at the end of some matches when we were able to bring on a few good subs.’
There were some very close clashes during the campaign and the team showed they had no fear of being underdogs against more experienced sides, something that delighted Holland.
‘Three years ago at minor our lads were playing B grade while Bandon were premier and that’s what we were up against in the South West final,’ stated Holland.
‘That was a huge challenge for the lads. We came through a very tough campaign considering we were a point down and a man down with one or two minutes to go against Kilmacabea and we won.
‘We were five points down with a few minutes to go against Bandon in the South West final and won it.
‘We beat St Nick’s who had come down from the A grade by a goal in the county and we won the semi-final by two points against a very good Aghabullogue side.
‘We knew going into the final we’d be in with a strong chance if we played to our potential. I never imagined we’d run out such comprehensive winners and I’m absolutely delighted we produced our best display of the season in the county final, because there’s no better place to do it.’
How does Holland now view the amalgamation between the clubs after winning this first county title?
‘The amalgamation between Barryroe and Timoleague has proved a great success,’ he said.
‘The lads are now playing a much higher standard and are improving all the time. Back in 2010 some of these lads played minor with Barryroe and were beaten by eight goals, now they will be playing U21A next season. If we want to maintain two intermediate teams we will have to be playing a higher standard in higher grades. This was a tremendous title win for us against the odds.’