It’s been a great year for Carbery teams on the field – but challenges still remain for Carbery chairman Joe Crowley and the board, as GER McCARTHY explains
CARBERY GAA Chairman Joe Crowley has overseen the most successful year in the history of the West Cork division’s clubs but many challenges still remain including the re-energising of the senior football and hurling squads.
On the field, it’s been a golden year for Carbery GAA’s clubs with no less than seven West Cork sides lifting county titles at various grades. As chairman, Joe Crowley is naturally proud of the division’s achievements and honoured to be part of a hard-working committee.
‘It is an absolutely tremendous honour for myself, my family and my club Randal Óg to be chairman of Carbery GAA during 2016,’ Crowley said.
‘If the great man above had ever turned to me a while back and said pick a year, any year, to be Carbery chairman then it would have to be this one. Not alone because of our clubs’ magnificent county title successes but also because of how historic a year it is in honouring the 1916 anniversary of many gallant men and women who fought for our country’s freedom.
‘It is the most successful year in the history of Carbery GAA when you list out the number of county titles won at various grades.
‘What Carbery Rangers, Bandon, Gabriel Rangers, Goleen, Kilmeen, Kilbrittain, Ibane Gaels and Ilen Rovers (county runners-up) achieved this past year is nothing short of remarkable. I’d pick out Bandon from that group as winning two county titles, seven days apart, was a particularly outstanding achievement, proving hurling and football can be played together.’
Unfortunately, things have not gone as well for Carbery’s divisional football and hurling squads over the past 12 months.
The footballers began their Cork SFC campaign with a deserved 2-13 to 1-14 defeat of O’Donovan Rossa before St Finbarr’s edged the West Cork side 1-12 to 1-9 in Round 2A. From there, Nemo Rangers ended Carbery’s interest in the competition in convincing fashion, 3-11 to 0-8, in August. A decent return, on paper, for a well prepared and committed squad but the fact the majority of Carbery’s footballers were in action for their respective clubs the night before lining out against Nemo scuppered any hopes of causing an upset.
Yet, looking back at 2016, probably most disappointingly off all, the Carbery hurlers’ two humiliating defeats, 0-23 to 0-6 to Glen Rovers and 4-31 to 0-14 to Ballymartle, in the Cork SHC are still hard to take. Those losses raised the question as to whether there is enough commitment from West Cork’s clubs and players to enter a divisional team in the 2017 championship.
Perhaps an even more pertinent question is what the Carbery board, led by Joe Crowley, intends to do about the hurling situation?
‘Well firstly, the last board meeting we held a couple of weeks ago had all our hurling clubs represented by delegates and a rigorous debate on last year’s performances,’ commented Crowley.
‘A unanimous vote was carried at that meeting to enter a Carbery team in the 2017 Cork SHC. The huge challenges facing the Carbery board and their players have been brought up at county level.
‘Take for example the day our footballers played Nemo in the senior championship. Ten of the starting 15 played with their clubs the night before. Avondhu faced similar issues with club players in action less than 24 hours before being asked to tog out for their division.
‘Billy Morgan, in his recent Southern Star interview, made the point that every team, divisional or club should be treated the same way. The Carbery board has control over moving our own junior championship games but when it comes to the scheduling of county games, we just don’t have the same power.
‘We simply have to get the county board to give our intermediate and premier intermediate players adequate time to properly prepare for lining out for Carbery, otherwise where are we going?
‘Losing Bandon and Newcestown to the senior hurling ranks are big, big losses to us (Carbery). Yet, look at the Carbery Hurling All-Star winners announced recently in Bantry. There are 15 good hurlers straight away and with the help of our intermediates Argideen Rangers, Kilbrittain and Barryroe, surely Carbery can field a competitive hurling team next year.
‘If we can get commitment from those players and have our management team in place then I’m confident we can compete at senior level.’
All well and good, but just how confident is the Carbery chairman of gaining that required commitment from every West Cork club considering the divisions hurling struggles in 2016?
‘I would still be confident of getting the requirement we need,’ stated the Carbery GAA Chairman.
‘The Carbery football management team got very good commitment last year. Our hurling backroom team worked extremely hard but didn’t get the commitment from all the clubs they approached. There were definitely players out there that didn’t tog out for whatever reasons.
‘I’d reiterate that the county board’s fixture congestion is the main issue here though.’
The thorny subject of promotion and relegation has remained an issue throughout the county and in West Cork’s division as well. Granted, it has certainly didn’t hamper Carbery’s various county championship winners over the past year and Joe Crowley is honest in his response when asked for the Carbery board’s position on the subjects.
‘We discussed the issue of promotion and relegation at length at our most recent board meeting but to be honest, didn’t come up with any clear-cut answers,’ Crowley admitted.
‘My personal view is that it was brought in three years ago for a three-year period. It is now up for renewal and if the clubs say they want promotion and relegation then the board will go along with that decision. If however, clubs say that they have had enough of it then the board will abide by that decision too.
‘Some people are of the view that what the county board are doing where you only get relegated if you finish bottom of the pile for two years running is the way to go. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea.
‘There were 20 teams in junior A before relegation was brought in three years ago and the aim was to reduce that number which I think we have. It is up to our clubs to decide if we stick with relegation or get rid of it. I’ve no problem with either decision.
‘It won’t be discussed at our AGM but I would envisage the Carbery board holding another special meeting to decide what the clubs want to do and we’ll come up with a championship format based on that decision.’
Away from the stresses of fixtures, board meetings, relegation and promotion issues, 2016 will also be remembered as the year Carbery GAA lost two of its finest men. John Corcoran and Denis McCarthy’s untimely passing had a big affect on Joe Crowley and the entire West Cork region.
‘The late John Corcoran was taken away from us far too soon and we lost another great West Cork Gael in Kilmeen-Kilbree’s Denis McCarthy who also passed away,’ Crowley said.
‘Those two individuals were highly intelligent men and massive losses to the GAA, not just Carbery.
‘I remember parting company with John (Corcoran) following a meeting that went on very late towards the end of January when the great man turned to me and said “do you know Joe, but a cup of tea wouldn’t go astray!”.
‘That was the last time we spoke and I never saw him again. I got word early the following morning John passed away and was just stunned. All I can say about those two men is that Carbery GAA’s loss is heaven’s gain.’