BY JOHNNY CAROLAN
WHILE nobody would wish to go back to the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic, some good things did emerge from that period.
Employers realised that they could trust employees to work from home, nice restaurants began to offer takeaway menus and Beara United made the decision to establish an adult men’s team.
Set up in 2012, the club had focused on underage activity as well as setting up a women’s team. In August 2020, the plunge was taken as a side was entered into the West Cork League’s second-tier Championship. Though the 2020-21 season was abandoned prematurely, Beara achieved a fourth-placed finish in their first full campaign in 2021-22 and followed that with second place and promotion to the Premier Division in the season just gone.
Manager Dominic Heffernan has been pleasantly surprised with how things have gone.
‘We had always spoken about having a men’s team,’ he says.
‘I’ve been involved since 2012 and I was coaching the underage teams all along, that’s what was being prioritised and you can see the value of that with how things are in that area now.
‘It was always the end goal to have an adult side but it did probably come around quite quickly during Covid – a few local lads decided that they wanted to be doing something and they got on to me.
‘We set goals and objectives, but we couldn’t have predicted getting promoted in our second season, that wasn’t even thought about.
‘Coming fourth in our first season was brilliant, that was a successful season and it set a benchmark for this season. The goal was to try to beat that and finish in the top three.’
With numbers tight at times, the age profile of the team is rather fluid.
‘It’s very varied!’ Heffernan laughs.
‘We have one regular player in his 50s and another few in a similar age-bracket.
‘In the Beamish Cup against Togher Celtic, we were playing James Spencer, who’s a 16-year-old, along with his father Séamus, who’s 52 or 53! That was a nice moment.
‘The average age would probably be the mid-20s. We kept the main core from last season but we had a few new additions from this season and that helped us.’
Ultimately, dedication to the task at hand stood to the team, Heffernan feels.
‘There’s a really good standard there and that’s the result of a lot of hard work and effort put in,’ he says.
‘We had tough games, we had games that we won where we shouldn’t have won, we lost games that we should have won, but the hard work paid off in the end.
‘It was between ourselves, Clonakilty United, Sullane and Baltimore for most of the season. Sullane won the league and then Baltimore fell off a small bit. It came down to the last game of the season, away to Clon – winner gets promoted, so it was like a cup final.’
Such an occasion could have the potential to get to players, but goals from Adam Hurley, Aitor Rodríguez and Ben Sullivan ensured a 3-2 win at Ballyvackey.
‘A lot of them said it to me afterwards that they had been nervous about it,’ Heffernan says, ‘even in the week leading up to the game.
‘We had just said to them that it was the same as every week, going out on to the same grass and trying to score more goals than the other team.
‘It was about treating it like a normal match but embracing the occasion. It’s those games, with a lot riding on them, that you learn the most from. They’re what we’re there for, those games where there’s pressure, rather than ones where you’re winning by seven or eight goals.’
And there will be plenty more big games to come as Heffernan knows that the team’s efforts will need to be redoubled in the top flight.
‘You could sit back and say, “We’re great, we achieved everything,” and hope for the best,’ he says, ‘or you can try to kick on.
‘Whatever about the level of effort that we put in this season, the quality of opposition is going to be better so you do need to improve. You can’t just admire the work that has been done or you’ll end up being relegated straight back down.
‘It’s a case of stepping up a level to keep up with the quality that’s there. It won’t be easy – there are going to be a lot of really tough opponents but I think, when we’re on our day, we’re able to compete with anyone.
‘As long as the effort is put in, there won’t be an issue.