GER McCARTHY spoke to three men involved in Drinagh Rangers’ league win
DRINAGH Rangers are back on top of the West Cork League having claimed their first PremierHiSpecCars.com Premier Division title in three years.
The Canon Crowley Park side are no strangers to success having dominated the domestic game in West Cork for much of the past decade.
But failure to capture the most important trophy, the Premier Division League, over the previous two seasons meant Drinagh began the 2017-18 campaign under pressure to regain a title that had surprisingly eluded their grasp for over 24 months.
A new challenger, promoted Lyre Rovers, would push Rangers all the way before co-managers Don Hurley and Declan Deasy eventually guided their club to the title.
This season, it was the strength of Drinagh’s squad rather than an over-reliance on the same starting 11 that helped Rangers become champions.
That, plus a level of consistency unmatched by any of their challengers saw Drinagh finish the campaign with the best top-flight defensive record (14 goals conceded), second-highest scorers (35 goals) and only one league defeat (at Ballydehob) en route to top spot.
Three unsung heroes, Rob Oldham, Barry O’Driscoll (T) and Adrian O’Driscoll, played central roles in ensuring Drinagh Rangers became kings of West Cork soccer once again.
Adrian ‘Hedge’ O’Driscoll came off the bench to score one of the most important goals in Drinagh’s title-winning campaign. Drawing 1-1 with Lyre Rovers in an end of season fixture, O’Driscoll scored in the final minute to help clinch the Premier Division League. It was a fitting contribution from a loyal servant over the past 17 years.
‘I was still on the sideline with a few minutes left and not sure I was coming on when I got the nod,’ O’Driscoll recalled.
‘Three lads had already gone on but I was determined to take any chance that came my way. The ball broke loose and I remember saying to myself this has to go in. It was an unbelievable feeling to see the ball hit the net.
‘Of all the years I’ve been involved, maybe not always making the team but staying involved with Drinagh, scoring that goal was just an unbelievable feeling.’
For O’Driscoll, one of the most satisfying aspects of lifting another West Cork League title was the fact Drinagh managed to hold off Lyre Rovers’ season-long challenge.
‘Lyre only came up from Division 1 and we didn’t know what to expect from them,’ commented O’Driscoll.
‘It was obvious from our first meeting (2-2) and their results throughout the year that they are a super strong team. They were fantastic all season and pushed us to play better, to keep getting results.
‘I just loved being a part of it, be it as a starter or a sub. I’m playing long enough to know I’m not faster than the younger fellas but I have that bit of experience and it’s a great group to be involved with.
‘The nickname ‘Hedge’ certainly isn’t anything to do with my hair as there’s so little of it growing nowadays! I still didn’t have a nickname in my third or fourth year but did have a spiky hairdo. I started getting called Sonic the Hedgehog but that became too old-school so it was shortened to Hedge and has stuck ever since.’
‘I’m playing with Drinagh Rangers for nearly 12 years but this league title was important because we have always put priority on the league,’ admitted defensive stalwart Barry O’Driscoll (T).
‘We have won the Beamish Cup and a few other things but the league is always number one. Finishing second over the last two years, we were disappointed with that because it was there to be won but we didn’t get over the line.
‘Lyre put up a serious challenge to us this year in fairness to them but we only lost once (to Ballydehob) and that was crucial. We were four games behind Lyre going into February but pulled out a couple of big victories thanks to late goals away to Dunmanway and Togher. Those felt like big results.
‘We twice came from behind to draw with Lyre too and that was a huge boost as well.
‘The strength of our bench has been unreal, adding in Don O’Driscoll, Daniel McCarthy and Ian Jennings to an already strong panel. All of the players on our bench the last day against Lyre would get on to any West Cork League team and that’s been the difference in being able to field a strong eleven every week and probably the biggest reason why we won the league.’
‘I have been playing West Cork League soccer since I was 18 and after 34 years of waiting I finally got my hands on a Premier Division medal,’ stated 52-year-old Drinagh goalkeeper Rob Oldham.
‘I started with Leeside in Inchigeela, played three years for Little Island in the Munster Senior League but other than that have been involved with the West Cork League for 31 years. Three or four years ago, having gone back playing West Cork Masters, I was asked if I’d be interested be in helping out Drinagh Rangers junior team.
‘Having won every other medal available in the WCL, I thought about it long and hard before agreeing because I wanted the chance to win the one medal that had eluded me. Funnily enough the previous two years we went close but finished behind Riverside Athletic and Dunmanway Town before eventually getting the job done this year after a phenomenal battle with Lyre Rovers.
‘My initial role was to support the goalkeepers at Drinagh but Eoin Daly picked up a shoulder injury and I had to step in. Luckily, my form has been very good this season and I have a brilliant back four playing in front of me. Add to that, Robert O’Regan and Don O’Driscoll in central midfield so I have been well protected all season!’
Oldham, O’Driscoll and O’Driscoll (T) are just three members of a Drinagh Rangers title-winning squad whose experience and consistency are the reasons the West Cork League Premier Division trophy resides in Canon Crowley Park.
An opportunity to claim a league and cup double sees Drinagh facing off against Lyre Rovers one more time in what should prove a fitting climax to a terrific season of top-flight West Cork League soccer.