Carbery Rangers’ All-Ireland Scór na nÓg winners share secret to their success
MOVE over Nana, there are new scones in town.
When Gary and Paul O’Donovan rowed their way to Olympic success two years ago, they praised their Nana’s home-made brown bread and soup as the secret to their success.
Now, we can include Eileen McSweeney’s scones and jam as the latest culinary delight that’s so good, it fuels All-Ireland champions – Carbery Rangers’ All-Ireland Scór na nÓg winning ballad group.
Last month, five childhood friends – Orlagh O’Gorman, Rachel Hodnett, Kate Creedon, Aoife McSweeney and Joan O’Donovan – sparked huge celebrations in Rosscarbery, a town that knows how to party, after their All-Ireland triumph in Sligo, and now we know the recipe to that success.
‘Before the All-Ireland we trained all the time, almost every day,’ explained Joan (16).
‘We had a lot of late, late nights. We could start at seven and not be in the door home until 11 – there was so much to do within the songs, to get to the standard that we needed to win.
‘Aoife’s house was usually the base – and her mom, Eileen, would feed us tea and scones and jam to keep us sane, and to keep us going!’
Scones and jam, the food of champions, and it certainly reaped its rewards when the Carbery Rangers’ ballad group won the club’s first-ever All-Ireland Scór na nÓg crown, just reward for a club that has such strong links to Scór in the Carbery division.
Great clubman Bill Harte has been involved in Scór locally since its inception in 1969 and was there in Sligo to watch the fantastic win, while Breda Hurley, Eileen McSweeney, Liam Hodnett, Michael O’Sullivan and the late PJ Tobin are other local Scór followers in the club, and their importance hasn’t been forgotten by the younger generation.
‘There’s great interest in Scór locally, we got great support from our families who all encouraged us to take part,’ explained Orlagh (15), the youngest of the group.
‘It was promoted in school too, and the club takes the cultural side of the GAA seriously as well as the sporting side.’
Rachel, the only one of the five not to attend Mount St Michael Secondary School as she is a fifth-year student at Sacred Heart in Clonakilty, added: ‘There are so many people in the club who have been such a great support to us.
‘Bill Harte has been involved in Scór since 1969 and I think he has been at every Scór final since then, so it was great for him to see the club win an All-Ireland title, and that goes for all the people of that generation. They take great pride in seeing young people of the parish continue with the culturalside of the GAA, not just the playing side, and being the first club in Cork to win the ballad group competition.’
Long before Eileen McSweeney’s scones and jam became the diet of champions, she was involved in the creation of this ballad group, which is together for the past eight years.
Childhood friends dating back to playschool, all five were involved in Scór na bPáistí (for kids in national school) before they came together as a group.
‘We were involved in the plays, the solo singing, the dancing, and when we started the ballad group, because we are friends outside of school it did make it so much easier and more enjoyable,’ Aoife (16) explained.
Orlagh added: ‘We all started in Scór na bPáistí and we all did solo singing before Aoife’s mom put the ballad group together when we were in first class – and we haven’t stopped since.’
For the past six years, this group has trained themselves, everything building up to their perfect renditions of Lovely Derry on the Banks of the Foyle and Moll Dubh A’Gleanna at the All-Ireland Scór na nÓg finals.
‘This has been a process that has taken a few years,’ Orlagh said.
‘One year we won West Cork and the county but didn’t win in Munster, then we came back again won West Cork, county and Munster titles but lost the All-Ireland.
‘There have been knockbacks on the way to getting where we did this year.’
Each year it was building, the group improving, gaining experience all the time (they competed at the All-Ireland final last year too) – similar in so many ways to when the club’s senior footballers won their first Cork SFC title in 2016.
This ballad group earned their moment in the spotlight.
‘We are five very determined girls who get what we want and we work hard,’ Rachel smiled, showing that practice really does make perfect.
It’s been a busy few weeks for the group since their All-Ireland win.
They won a Rebel Óg monthly award, stole the show at the inaugural West Cork GAA Awards and also performed at Carbery Rangers’ minor medals presentation, every time promoting and highlighting the value of Scór.
As a ballad group, their Scór na nÓg days are over – but this isn’t the last we have seen of this fantastic five.
‘We are hoping in a year or two’s time that we will get back together as a ballad group and sing together at Scór Sinsear, which is the senior competition in Scór, Rachel explained.
‘We won’t be splitting up any time soon,’ she added, music to the ears of all who have heard and watched them perform.
All of them believe more young people should get involved in Scór competitions with the benefits many and varied. ‘In a group like we are, it taught us how hard you have to work for something you really want,’ Joan explained.
‘Confidence-wise, standing up on stage when you are six years old, even though you might not get past a West Cork final, that experience you get from standing up in front of people, whether you are singing, or dancing or in recitation, your confidence grows so much.’
And the Carbery Rangers ballad group are the perfect example that good things come to those who wait.