THERE won’t be any silverware up for grabs in Timoleague on Sunday afternoon when local rivals Kilbrittain and Barryroe clash, but the points on offer will be vital.
Both clubs are in the Co-op SuperStores Cork Lower Intermediate Hurling Championship, a grade which will only exist for two years before anyone left in it has to decamp to junior level.
It was at junior A that the two clubs played out three divisional finals in the 1980s and, while Barryroe came out on top 2-1 in that regard, it was Kilbrittain who went on to intermediate, and later senior, after emerging victorious in 1985.
The 1981 decider was Barryroe’s first appearance in the final, with Kilbrittain having won in 1978 and lost three other finals in the 1970s. However, in Clonakilty, Barryroe blitzed them with goals – they led by 3-0 to 0-4 after 15 minutes, by half-time it was 4-2 to 0-8 and at the end they were still ahead, winners by 5-4 to 1-15. Micheál White recalls that victory as the culmination of good underage work.
‘The foundations were laid in the late 1970s,’ he says.
‘We won a couple of minor titles and a few of the Tobins had gone to Farranferris, though unfortunately one of them, Phil, died in an accident on his way down for a match after he had started college.
‘Another big factor in the success was that Dan Dwyer, who had been a Cork minor, came back to the club and Paddy Murphy, who was the driving force in the club for years, put in a huge effort.
‘We were a bit green and new to it but the goals told on the day. Kilbrittain probably had more hurling and got more scores but a goal can really change things.’
Pa Brennan was the Kilbrittain captain in 1981 and naturally the feeling among the black-and-amber brethren was that they had left one behind them.
‘They got four goals in the first half,’ he said.
‘In the last minute, we had a sideline ball and it was sent in to Fr Michael O’Mahony. He put it over the bar but the whistle went as it was going over.
‘Given the crowd that was there, I’d say the West Cork board were mad that the referee blew the whistle!’
Barryroe had to curtail their celebrations as they fell to St Finbarr’s in the county championship the following week but in 1982 they showed that they maiden victory hadn’t been a fluke.
Kilbrittain secured a draw thanks to a late Peter Brennan point the first day out in Bandon, but – on the day Séamus Darby and Kerry shocked Offaly – Barryroe came out on top in the replay, winning by 2-9 to 2-4 despite playing much of the game with 14 men.
‘We had a few shaky ones leading up to the final but we had taken a lot of confidence from 1981,’ White says, while Brennan felt that Kilbrittain ‘should have won it the first day.
‘Barryroe were a strong team and Kilbrittain’s older fellas were finishing up and the newer lads were only starting off.’
While both sides suffered early exits in 1983, they were back in the closing stages in the GAA’s centenary year. This time, they met in a semi-final and Kilbrittain turned the tables before beating Bandon in the final and making it all the way to county decider, where they fell to Midleton.
‘It was huge boost,’ Brennan says.
‘The U21s were going well, they played Glen Rovers in a county semi-final and only lost by a couple of points.
‘We had had a bad record against Barryroe but those young fellas really gave us extra impetus.
‘The problem when we got to the county final was that none of us had ever been in one before, the players or selectors.
‘We only lost by three points but if any one of us had known what it was like, we’d have been better prepared.
‘That experience definitely helped us in 1985.’
Having gone so close, Kilbrittain were keen to go that step further and did so in emphatic fashion. Against Barryroe in the final in Bandon, they triumphed by 3-16 to 1-5 and went on to county glory, beating Cobh in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
‘We got two goals early on,’ Brennan says.
‘We had developed a real confidence. Dan and Charlie O’Connell could always be relied upon to get a goal or two and that was a huge asset to have.
‘The county final probably wasn’t the greatest game, the 1984 final was a better hurling match, but the main thing was that we came out on the right side of it.’
Barryroe did bounce back to win Carbery in 1986 and made the county semi-final but ultimate glory would remain elusive for that team.
‘I met a man leading up to the 1985 final and he said, “Ye won’t do at all”,’ White says.
‘He said we were fit out from all the running but we didn’t have enough hurling done and he was dead right on the day. Our hurling let us down and Kilbrittain won well. Kilbrittain went away from us but Newcestown came back and Timoleague were emerging too.
‘We had great games with them but they all seemed to move on and we were left there. It was 2007 before the club made the intermediate grade. That’s the way it goes, but we have great memories from those days.’