Denis Hurley recalls his sporting highlight from 2018
DESPITE having attended a lot of games – perhaps too many – across various codes, 2018 wasn’t a year with a cast-iron, stand-out ‘I’m glad I was there’ moment.
Holidays coincided with Cork’s two meaningful pieces of silverware, the Munster senior and U21 hurling titles – and a so-called Irish Bar in Antibes was showing Russia v Spain in the World Cup and the Austrian Grand Prix rather than events in Thurles. In any case, the failure of either side to go on and win their respective All-Irelands meant that the provincial triumphs couldn’t be truly savoured, which is a good thing overall in that ambitions are high.
Likewise, it was great to see Cork City back in the Champions League after 13 years and there was pride in attending their games with Legia Warsaw at Turner’s Cross and the Polish Army Stadium but, again, the outcome was less than hoped for.
A good start in the home leg suggested something might happen but the late concession of a goal made for an uphill struggle and so it proved. That Legia, in the group stage two years before, were beaten in the next round only added to the disappointment, as did the defeat to Rosenborg in the Europa League while domestically the Rebel Army had to surrender their league and cup crowns to Dundalk. Fingers crossed that things can improve again in 2019, with Schull’s Ronan Hurley playing an important role.
Bandon’s rugby side winning the Munster Junior League Division 1 title with a sparkling display against Newcastlewest was another fine achievement, building on the 2017 junior cup win, and they gave a good account of themselves in coming second in the round-robin play-offs.
As Dundalk sought to bounce back to reclaim their crown from City, Bandon are having to put up with Clonmel’s efforts in 2018-19 and a thrilling battle may ensue in the spring.
Our favourite event though is one chosen for the occasion rather than the match itself. Saturday, September 1st saw Newcestown and Bandon meet in round 3 of the county SHC in Clonakilty, two West Cork teams playing in a West Cork venue witnessed by a huge crowd, a throwback to the great days of the past.
It was the first all-Carbery senior hurling tie since Bandon had played the divisional team in 1977 and Kevin O’Donovan – then vice-chairman of Cork County Board, now secretary – deserves huge praise for managing to ensure that the game stayed in the division.
The only pity was that, on the field, it was a lop-sided affair, Newcestown winning by 4-13 to 2-8, Bandon unable to match them as they missed some key players, but nevertheless it was proof of the logic of playing big games in rural venues rather than constantly decamping to Páirc Uí Rinn.
Newcestown have made a good habit of performing well in the biggest games in recent years and they almost shocked Imokilly in the county quarter-finals, falling just a point short of the side that would go on to retain the Seán Óg Murphy Cup.
While the presence of two Carbery clubs in the senior championship has meant a weakening of the Carbery side, it should not take from what have been great achievements by both Newcestown and Bandon.
The best of luck to them as they seek to maintain their status and push on and best of luck to Kevin O’Donovan as he takes on the role of secretary of the county board. It’s the kind of thankless role where expectations are so high that he won’t be able to please everyone, but if anyone is capable of taking it on, he is.