TOM LYONS looks backs at what years ending in nine threw up for GAA teams in West Cork to see if a pattern emerges
1889: After a good start to championship football in West Cork in 1888, there was a big lull in 1889. A split in the GAA nationally saw three different county boards in Cork. Most West Cork teams operated under the official Crean’s Board but only five teams entered the western section of the senior championship, the only grade in operation at that time. They were Bantry Emmet’s 1 and 2, Clonakilty, Carbery Rangers and Skibbereen. Bantry 1 and 2 qualified for the West Cork final but there’s no record available of the game ever being played. Bantry were subsequently beaten by Midleton. Dohenys beat Leap Geraldines in the final of the Dunmanway tournament but the club was later suspended by the county board because of irregularities in the running of the event.
1899: Dohenys were again in the news in 1899. Having won the county title in 1897 and the Munster title in 1898, they advanced to the All-Ireland final in 1899, two years behind time, representing Cork. In the final Dohenys, captained by Danny ‘Rick’ O’Donovan, lost to Dublin Kickham’s, captained by Bandon man, Paddy Walsh, a former member of the famous Lees in Cork city. The GAA was at a low ebb all over the country, a legacy of the Parnell Split, and only two teams, Dohenys and Skibbereen, entered the county championship. There was great excitement in Skibbereen when a motor car was seen for the first time in the town, driven by Dr Dobbins of London.
1909: Championship hurling, senior had been introduced to West Cork in 1905 and in 1909 the West Cork teams played in the new intermediate grade. Bandon, who played Kilbrittain three times in the first round, won their first title when they received a walkover from Innishannon in the final. Clonakilty and Skibbereen were the other teams in the championship. Bandon later lost the county final to Carrigtwohill.
Bantry were the dominant team in senior football in West Cork, beating Dohenys in the West Cork final, Dohenys being disqualified for walking off the pitch. Bantry lost the county final, their first, to Macroom by 2-6 to 1-2. Macroom later beat Lees in the final of the Bandon tournament. Bantry 2nds also won their West Cork final against Skibbereen.
1919: The Great War was over, the Spanish Flu had ravaged many families, Dáil Éireann was set up and the War of Independence had begun. The Southern Star newspaper was suppressed for the year and the GAA was in a surprisingly healthy position in West Cork, with Kinsale and a very strong Knockavilla included. Eleven teams took part in western section of Division 3 of the county football championship but only four took part in hurling. Bantry were Division 1 in football and Kinsale in hurling. For some unknown reason Knockavilla didn’t play in the West Cork championships.
There is no record of who won the West Cork football final but in the hurling final Clonakilty and Skibbereen drew. No record could be found of the replay but it was Clon who advanced in the county.
1929: The new South-West Division was only four years old and the year proved a resounding success for the Bandon junior hurlers and footballers, who not only won the South West double, beating Kilbrittain in the hurling final and Clonakilty in the football, but went on to win both county titles, played the following Spring. The hurlers, led by Humphrey O’Leary, beat Ballinora by 2-5 to 2-1 in the county final, while the footballers, led by Sandy O’Driscoll, beat Iveleary by 1-3 to nil.
1939: As World War 2 began, years of heartbreak were ended for Clonakilty when they won their first county senior football title, beating Beara in the final. Six times in the previous seven years they had been beaten in the final. Carbery Rangers won the third of their four-in-a-row in South West junior A football and reached the county final, losing to Midleton.
1949: As their golden senior era drew to a close, Clonakilty’s junior football team was on the march and captured the South West title, beating Dohenys in the final. It was the first time the famed ‘Little Norah’ Cup was presented for the championship. Clon’s efforts at recording a double were thwarted in the hurling final by a Bandon team that had just regarded from intermediate, Bandon beat Clon by three goals and went on to win the county final against Kanturk, to go straight back up to intermediate.
1959: Dohenys were the dominant force in West Cork in both codes. The junior footballers won the South West title for the fourth year in a row, beating Ballinascarthy in the final, and advanced to their first county final since 1935. They lost to Dromtarriffe in that final but the Duhallow side were later expelled from the championship for fielding illegal players. However, Dohenys, controversially, were not awarded the title. Top players for Dohenys were Derry White, Dick White, John Young, Michael Farr and Edda Young.
The Doheny hurlers had reformed in 1958 and surprised everybody by beating Courcey Rovers, going for six titles in a row, in the final. Captained by Michael Farr, Dohenys retained the Astna Cup in 1959, beating Kilbrittain by 4-8 to 0-1 in the final. The ‘Flyer Nyhan’ Cup was introduced two years later in 1961. Goleen won a rare South West junior B football title to the delight of their success-starved followers.
1969: A year after Carbery had won their second county senior title, Clonakilty were campaigning in senior, with Dohenys and Newcestown in intermediate. Bantry were emerging as the main force in junior football, powered by the legendary Donal Hunt, Deccie Barron and Dan Dineen. They beat an unlucky Ballinascarthy in the South West final for the second year in a row. In junior hurling Newcestown, captained by Paddy Crowley, beat neighbours, Bandon, in a thrilling final by a single point.
Castlehaven began the great march to glory when they won the South West junior B football title. Little could anybody have protected the future for them.
1979: One single performance stood out in 1979. Unsung Castlehaven had won the county junior in 1976 and intermediate in 1978 but when they met kingpins Nemo Rangers in the county senior semi-final in their first year in senior ranks, they were rank outsiders. The surprise of the decade followed that day in Clon when they beat the city men by 1-7 to 0-9, the golden goal coming from TJ O’Regan. They may have lost their first senior final to the Barr’s but that day in Clon will never be forgotten.
O’Donovan Rossa were on the march in junior football with the veteran Bobbie Evans, Micky Burns, Karl Swanton, Donie Hurley, John Evans and Tommy Salter to the fore and they beat Gabriel Rangers in the South West final, while regraded Newcestown captured the South West junior A hurling title, beating Clonakilty.
1989: Castlehaven had to wait ten more years before reaching the senior final but by then they were an experienced senior outfit and when Larry Tompkins arrived from New York to join Niall Cahalane, John Cleary, Mick Burns, Mick Maguire, the Collinses and company, they had all the pieces of the jigsaw. As a bloodied Tompkins raised the Andy Scannell Cup to the skies, having gained revenge on the Barr’s in the final, a new football power in Cork was truly born.
For the second year in a row Kilbrittain were beaten in the intermediate hurling final, this time by neighbours, Valley Rovers.
Ballinascarthy captured their first-ever South West junior A hurling title, surprising champions Newcestown in the final. They reached the county final but were out of luck when losing to Clyda Rovers in a replay by a single point.
1999: The nines again proved profitable for Bandon when their junior hurlers, their top team at the time, beat Barryroe in a replayed South West final, despite conceding six goals in the drawn game. They went on to beat neighbours, Courcey Rovers by a single point in the county final.
Ilen Rovers, Carbery Rangers and Tadhg MacCárthaigh were the main teams in junior A football. It took extra time in a thrilling replayed final to separate Ilen and Carbery Rangers, the Church Cross men emerging winners, the first of their three-in-a-row. They were surprisingly beaten by Youghal in the county final but won the title two years later. Randal Óg also lost a county final, in junior B football to Glengarriff, having beaten Clann na nGael in the South West final.
2009: Clonakilty celebrated their transfer to their fine new headquarters at Ahamilla by surprisingly winning their ninth senior football title, beating the Barr’s in the final, with David O’Regan kicking the winning point in a 1-13 to 1-12 victory.
St Mary’s won their first South West junior A football title, Enniskeane having won three in the 1930s, when they beat neighbours, St Oliver Plunkett’s, by two points in a thrilling local derby final in Castletownkenneigh.
Bandon’s second team deprived Clon of a football/hurling double when they surprisingly beat them by a point in the South West junior A hurling final. While the Kilbrittain hurlers took a rest for the season, their junior B footballers went all the way, winning the South West and county titles. They accounted for Russell Rovers in the county final. Randal Óg reached the county junior B hurling final, losing by a point to Ballinacurra in a thriller.