IT’S hard to believe that 50 years have passed since Newcestown won their first county final.
Now one of the foremost clubs in the county, the only rural club fielding dual senior teams, as the 1960s began, the club was only a couple of years old, charting its way out of the bottom junior B grade in West Cork in both codes. In those years of the early ’60s, Clonakilty was the only senior football club in West Cork; there was no intermediate grade and the vibrant West Cork junior football scene was dominated by Dohenys, who had won four-in-a-row from 1956 to 1959; O’Donovan Rossa, county junior finalists in 1961, and Bandon, SW winners in 1960.
The infamous Ned Roche case ended Rossas’ prospects from 1964 onwards and Bandon faded until the early 1970s, so the SW junior scene rested between Newcestown and Dohenys in the mid-sixties.
In 1964 Dohenys lost the Ned Roche case and were dismissed from the championship as emerging Newcestown landed their first-ever SW junior A football title, after just five years in existence. They never received due recognition for that first title because of the hype surrounding the Roche case.
1965 saw Dohenys back in vengeful mood as the reigning champions were swept aside in the SW final on a terrible day in Clonakilty. The Dunmanway men later lost the county final to Na Piarsaigh in even worse conditions in Macroom. They were the days when playing in fields of mud, rain pouring down and wind howling, was taken for granted and never a reason for a postponement.
The rivalry between the two clubs was growing rapidly, often times on the verge of becoming a faction fight. And a faction fight, a real throw-back to the past, is what it became in 1966 when the sides again met in the SW football final in Bandon.
This was the game that showed that Newcestown had really arrived as a real football force as they played Dohenys off the pitch for 50 minutes with the quality of their football. But, it was also the day Dohenys showed that tradition never disappears as the fighting heart of the green and white rose to the surface in the closing minutes in semi-darkness to snatch the title with a last-gasp goal, following an almighty melee near the sideline.
It was daylight robbery, which was made worse for the Newcestown lads as they watched Dohenys going on to land the county title in a replay against Grange.
That 1966 final was, undoubtedly, the peak of the Newcestown v Dohenys rivalry, until it was resurrected in the early 1990s, as Dohenys advanced to the intermediate grade for 1967 and Newcestown set about picking up the pieces in the West Cork junior A championship.
Those Dohenys and Newcestown teams of the ’60s contained outstanding footballers fore and aft. Dohenys had the terrible twins of inter-county fame, Johnny Carroll and John Crowley, backed up by the Farrs, Micky and Derry; the Youngs, Leo, Johnny, Edda and veteran Eamon; the Lyonses, Denis (DD)(captain in 1966), and Raymie, goalkeeper Pat Cronin, Mick Bambury, Brendan O’Rourke and Harry McCullough.
Newcestown were powered by one of the great West Cork GAA families, the Kehilys, with Frank, Dermot, Norman and young Kevin on board. ‘Mackey’ Collins, Maurice and Jerry O’Callaghan, the two Seán Collinses, Dan Cahalane, Aidan O’Halloran and Kevin Callanan.
Those years in the sixties saw Newcestown and Dohenys backboning a superb Carbery team that had inter-county players in almost every position, and after losing the 1964 county final, in controversial circumstances, to UCC, they landed the Division’s second title in 1968 when beating Clonakilty in a replay, now part of West Cork GAA legend.
It wasn’t easy recovering from the disappointment of 1966 but Newcestown, captained by the legendary TJ ‘Mackey’ Collins, were in determined mood in 1967, and wins over Kilmeen, Bandon and Rossas had them back in the SW final. Opponents were Bantry Blues, soon to grab their own glory after a long time in the doldrums, and as underdogs, they really put it up to the hot favourites in the SW final. Newcestown eventually won, 0-8 to 0-5, but it had been a tough battle.
A second SW title safely secured, it was into the county championship then and they were busy days for the Newcestown men, 52 games played during a long season, as they were on the trail of a SW double, their junior A hurling team looking for their first title at a third attempt.
Since their foundation in 1958 the club had paid equal attention to both codes and it paid off when they beat Round Tower (now St Mary’s) to win their first junior hurling title, captained by Barry Murray. The rare double complete, the footballers set their sights on the county title.
A tough, four-point win over Carigaline was followed by a superb display when beating a fancied Naomh Abán in the county semi-final.
The story took a twist then as the whole parish was gearing itself up for a first-ever county final appearance. An outbreak of ‘foot-and-mouth’ in England and the danger of it spreading to Ireland saw all GAA activity being closed down in the closing months of 1967, including the Cork county finals.
The team had to continue training over the Christmas period and it was not until the following March 10th that Newcestown faced Midleton in the final in the Cork Athletic Grounds. Expectations of a real battle between the big town and the country boys were blown out of the water when Newcestown ran rampant for the hour.
All the winter training under former Kilmichael and Muskerry footballer, Jack Lynch, paid off as goals by the lethal Aidan O’Halloran and Fin Collins copperfastened a marvellous 2-12 to 1-2 victory. The club’s first county title had really been worth the wait and Newcestown’s great march to its present exalted position had truly begun.
Team – Seán O’Shea, Seán Collins (Gurrane), Seán Collins N.T., Dan Cahalane, T.J. ‘Mackey’ Collins (capt..), Frank Kehily, Kevin Kehily, Dermot Kehily, Kevin Callanan, Norman Kehily, Maurice O’Callaghan, Jimmy McCarthy, Aidan O’Halloran, Anthony O’Flynn, Jerry O’Callaghan. Subs, Fin Collins. Also – Jack Lynch, Seán Ryan, Raymond Crowley, Paddy Crowley, Frank Murphy, Barry O’Sullivan and Leo Halloran.
In that history-making year of 1967, 50 years ago, the president of the club was Fr J Forde PP; vice-president, Jerh Kehily; chairman, Fr Liam Aherne and secretary Jimmy O’Mahony.
The selectors of the victorious football team were Fr Aherne (a native of Tracton and a county junior hurling winner), Jerh Kehily, John Kelleher, Patrick O’Mahony and captain ‘Mackey’ Collins.
The memories of that great season, 50 years and others besides, will be recalled soon with a club re-union of the players and people involved. Many have since gone to their eternal reward – go ndéana Dia trócaire orthu – but they will be fondly remembered.
It promises to be a great night.
– Slán go Fóill