GARNISH are closing in on their first Beara JAFC three-in-a-row since the late 1990s.
They’ve won the last two Beara finals and are determined to maintain their recent dominance when they take on Urhan in this year’s decider on Saturday in Adrigole at 7pm.
With only two clubs in the Beara junior A football championship, it’s a straight final, so both teams need to bring their A game this Saturday.
‘Winning the Beara final means a lot, partly due to the fact that it is for the Cormac O’Sullivan Cup and he was a Garnish club man, and because we need to keep getting our team to junior A championship level and maintain it,’ explained Garnish club secretary and team selector Tadhg O’Sullivan.
‘We need to keep the young fellas coming through and bring them up to this level.
‘It’s important that we are able to compete at junior A level, and that we know we can. We are in a tight enough corner due to geography and numbers, and it’s important that we give a good account of ourselves at this level.’
O’Sullivan says Garnish are struggling for numbers this season – but the Beara final helps focus minds. They and Urhan both know that they’ll have two games in the next few weeks, this Saturday’s divisional final and then the first round of the county junior championship.
Garnish will look to some familiar faces to lead their charge against Urhan – captain Eanna Murphy, goalkeeper Martin O’Sullivan, Allihies brothers Sean Terry and Brian Terry O’Sullivan, Paul O’Neill in attack, the experienced Joe Harrington, as well as young guns like Gary O’Sullivan and Darragh Henshaw.
‘There is a fantastic club spirit here,’ O’Sullivan says.
‘You always find out how strong you are when you are up against it, and fellas like Paul Murphy, Ollie O’Sullivan, Cormac Neill, they are the fellas urging the young fellas on. They mightn’t be physically able to give it the hour anymore but they are still there driving it on.’
‘That’s what Garnish football has been about for many years – fellas who were away and based in Cork, Dublin and all over the place coming back because they know they are needed, and they do.’
Urhan aren’t fazed by the challenge ahead on Saturday, but John O’Neill is realistic. They were champions in 2015 but Garnish have won four of the last five Beara JAFC titles.
‘They are going for three-in-a-row, they are Beara champions for the past two years and deservedly so, and it’s up to us to try and stop them,’ O’Neill says.
‘We are rebuilding our team at the moment. We have introduced a few new young players. We had a good run in the Carbery U21 championship and we are bringing those players through. This is a process and we are looking ahead for the next few years.
‘Anything we can win at the moment is a bonus, but we are rebuilding.’
Concubhar Harrington and Conor Lowney will be the go-to men on Saturday as Urhan bid to spoil Garnish’s three-in-a-row bid but the bigger picture is the ongoing rebuilding job.
‘We are at the stage where we need to restructure the team,’ O’Neill says.
‘We have had good success underage and we want to bring those fellas through now, not wait for next year or the year after.’
That said, Urhan aren’t here to make up the numbers either. Winning a Beara title would be a big boost in the development of this team. O’Neill agrees.
‘This is our season-defining moment in many ways. Winning is vitally important, you get a lift off that and you can use that feeling going forward then,’ he says.