YOU have to lose one to win one’ – never has this saying been more applicable than in Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday last.
In action were Glen Rovers, hammered in the senior hurling final by Sars last year, and Newcestown, well beaten in the premier intermediate final by Ballyhea the same day.
Both sides were on a mission of atonement, both had something to prove to themselves and to their followers. Last Sunday night both were celebrating tremendous victories.
On a perfect day for hurling, nobody could have predicted the way the Newcestown v Valleys’ game turned out. Valleys were on a high all season, although mostly in football, and their physical advantage was expected to cause serious problems for the lighter Newcestown side.
Their win over championship favourites, Ballinhassig, in the semi-final had shown them to be in top form coming into this game. Likewise Newcestown had shown in the semi-final against a top-class Mallow side that they were hurling really well. We sat back ready for a titanic struggle. It never happened.
This was one of those days you dream about for Newcestown, when everything you planned, everything you hope for, goes exactly right. Hats off to the Newcestown management team first, who had their team primed like greyhounds for a derby final.
Manager Eugene Desmond, coach Sean Twomey and physical trainer Martin O’Brien have done a wonderful job with this squad. Their hurling touch, in particular, was superb, way ahead of anything Valleys produced.
The hunger in the side to atone for last year’s defeat was evident from the start, and the pace and movement of their lighter, younger players was top-class. By the end they were giving an exhibition of hurling, so dominant were they, and the points flowed from all over the pitch.
The tactic of playing corner forward, Daniel Twomey, out the field worked perfectly, as the two-man full forward line had oceans of space to run and Twomey had a stormer outside, vying for man-of-the-match.
While the neutrals may have been disappointed at the one-sidedness of the second half, this was a superb display of team hurling from the Newcestown lads.
Fore and aft they had heroes. Darren Heffernan was drafted into goal for this final when regular goalkeeper Kieran Kelly was injured in the semi-final, and he never put a foot wrong.
Full-back John Crowley captained the side and what can one say about this great veteran and what he has given to Newcestown teams? Playing on the team before wing forward Sean O’Donovan was even born, John was outstanding on the edge of the square again on Sunday and now has the honour of leading the club into senior hurling for the first time.
He also created another piece of history as his father Sean captained the Newcestown junior hurling team that won the county title in 1972, being the first father and son combination to captain county-winning teams for the club.
Corner backs Micheál McSweeney and Greg Murphy completed a full-back line that Valleys never succeeded in breaching on the day. They are two of the best hurling corner backs in club hurling in Cork.
During the season, the strong Fionn Keane was converted from wing forward to wing back and it was a master stroke as he was majestic on Sunday, clearing ball and setting up scores.
With James Desmond and Conor O’Neill, Keane set up a half-back line that was never bettered over the hour, with this great win based firmly on an outstanding defensive display by all six backs and goalkeeper.
Newcestown opted for three players at midfield, the two Twomeys, Daniel and Tadhg, and the classy and lively Jack Meade, who reached new heights in this game. Daniel proved the real ace in the pack, my man-of-the-match, contributing 1-5 in a masterly display, and this area belonged firmly to the West Cork men on the day.
Up front, the winners had real stars in Cáthrach Keane, an inspiring leader on the forty, and Luke Meade, who covered acres of ground and showed lovely hurling skills, with some class scores.
Eoin Kelly and Cian Twomey worked their legs off and what can one say of surprise choice, young minor Sean O’Donovan? Shifting positions frequently, he looked like a veteran and, as one supporter put it, how good will he be when his tall frame fills out?
Newcestown brought on Mikey Bradfield, Trevor Horgan, Seanie Ryan and 17-year old Colm Dineen, and they contributed handsomely. Bradfield showed lovely skill at corner forward with three great points.
Newcestown have waited a long time for this win and will taste senior hurling for the first time next season, on top of their senior football commitments.
It won’t be easy for such a small club depending on the same players for both teams, but the pride and glory of being the only dual senior club outside the city is a real plus for them.
This win was not only for Newcestown, it was for all of West Cork hurling. How often have we heard it said there is no hurling west of the Viaduct? Newcestown, and Valley Rovers, who will surely learn from this defeat as Newcestown did the previous year, have proved otherwise and it was badly needed at a time when Barryroe were relegated from intermediate and both Argideen and Kilbrittain are going through a rough patch at adult level.
Having a senior hurling team in the division can only do good for the game and, hopefully, the board will see fit next season to fix senior hurling championship games for venues farther west than Ballygarvan or Cloughduv.
Where Newcestown have now led, other hurling teams in the division must follow and it was good to see Ahán Gaels winning the county minor title last weekend as well. Add in Bantry’s progress in junior B hurling and there is hope for hurling in the division.
26 years was a lifetime for the Glen to be without a county title and they had the whole stadium behind them on Sunday. There’s no substitute for hunger and the atmosphere was electric.
Oh yes, full marks to the young Newcestown supporters under the scoreboard who won their battle with Valleys hands down on the day, lending great colour and noise to the occasion.
It must be good for hurling in the city and in the county, overall, to have the Glen back on top and we now wait for Blackrock to follow suit, if not the Barr’s, Douglas or Na Piarsaigh.
And if Castlehaven are looking for a good omen on Sunday, when the Glen last won the county in 1989, the Haven won their first senior football title against the Barr’s.
Slán go Fóill