BY MATTHEW HURLEY
PAUL Holland has hailed Ibane Gaels’ all-conquering U21s as ‘the tightest dressing-room’ he has ever been in. This has been a sensational season for Ibane’s U21 footballers and hurlers, as they won the Carbery U21A double.
In May Ibane defeated Newcestown 2-21 to 3-17 in a thriller to win the Carbery U21A hurling title, and last month they beat Newcestown again, 1-20 to 3-13 in another epic, to get their hands on the Carbery U21A football title for the first time. Both deciders went to extra-time and were decided by dramatic late Ibane winning scores, Adam McSweeney for the hurlers and Ryan O’Donvoan for the footballers.
Football manager Paul Holland has enjoyed every moment of this journey with Ibane, an underage amalgamation of Argideen Rangers and Barryroe.
‘I have been in a lot of dressing-rooms and this dressing-room in particular is the tightest I’ve ever been in. From the word go, they’re just a nice bunch of lads and they were nervous starting out,’ Holland told the Star Sport Podcast.
‘I can remember them back in U15/U16, it was tough on them, but they stuck with it, and they got their reward. That team didn’t win anything in five years since U16. They were playing Premier 1 and Premier 2 football for the last three years at minor.
‘We got to the final of the non-exam league a few years ago against Douglas, lost it with the last kick of the game. We’ve played Mallow, Glanmire, the Barrs, Ballincollig. They’ve got plenty of exposure. They weren’t as good as the teams they were playing all the time and they had to tighten up as a group, back each other and help each other out. Definitely this season it helped.’
The Ibane U21 footballers defeated Castlehaven and Carbery Rangers en route to the Cabery final against Newcestown. They were up against senior clubs, but came out on top each time, and that will stand to Ibane’s players when they return to their home clubs.
‘We’ve got fellas that can play football, so we play kind of an attacking brand of football,’ Holland explained.
‘With guys at that age, you want them to enjoy their sport as much as possible. Winning the championship is a bonus.
‘We played Castlehaven, Carbery Rangers and Newcestown. To beat the three of them was a great achievement but equally from my point of view is the exposure to the guys, testing themselves against guys playing at a higher level and bringing that confidence back to Timoleague and Barryroe and trying to make our junior teams stronger. That’s the ultimate aim.’
Argideen Rangers and Barryroe both play in the same junior championships – Cork Premier junior hurling championship and Carbery Junior A football championship. Both clubs will benefit from Ibane’s success this season as these young guns continue to develop, learn and improve.
‘We have fellas from the U21s that didn’t start for their respective junior teams this year. We started fellas who were given important jobs who didn’t even start in minor. The lads that were interested stuck at it, they tried to improve, they learned,’ Holland said.
‘They go into Bandon to watch Castlehaven play Nemo or they go down to Clon to watch Ross against Nemo. They’re going to watch guys their own age playing on a big stage, big experience, big exposure. The biggest job down through the years with our lads was trying to get belief into them. It’s a level playing field now.’