OPEN LETTER TO CLONAKILTY SENIOR FOOTBALLERS
YOU stand on the edge this week, teethering over the precipice, as one of the most important matches in your club’s proud senior football history is days away.
On Sunday, you take on Aghada in the Cork senior football relegation football final in Brinny, at 3.45pm. Win here, and you have saved your season from diaster. But lose, and your club will be relegated to the premier intermediate football ranks for the first time.
Your club chairman Seamus O’Brien has described Sunday’s must-win battle with Aghada as ‘the biggest game the club has played since 1932’, and he added that it’s ‘vital for the club to stay senior’.
The fate of Clonakilty as a senior football club rests in your hands.
This is the time to stand up and fight. This is your last chance. It’s now or never, lads.
You got Clonakilty into this mess, now you must get them out. Forget about the three championship defeats that have gone before. This is all about now, and Sunday.
Take a good look at the men in the picture on the page. These are the Clonakilty men that, in 1931, battled bravely to win the 1931 Cork intermediate football championship – a result that saw your club turn senior, a position it has proudly held since 1932.
Think about that history for one moment. Your club, Clonakilty, is the longest serving senior GAA club in West Cork. It’s a club overflowing with history and tradition, legendary figures and fantastic feats, and it’s immediate future will be decided by your actions against Aghada this Sunday in Brinny. That’s a huge responsibility, and that’s why you must stand up and fight for Clon.
In 1931 Joseph Stalin, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Charlie Chaplin were the names in the newsreels.
It was also the year that your club climbed out of the intermediate football ranks. Think about those men and what they achieved for your club, to give you the opportunity to play senior football for Clonakilty, and for some of you to, gloriously, win a county senior football championship in 2009.
You don’t need reminding that Clonakilty have won nine Cork SFC titles. More than any West Cork club. This is the great institution that you need to protect.
This 1931 Clonakilty team, a superb football team, was known as ‘Dan Taylor’s Fifteen’ as they were called after their renowned captain, Dan ‘Taylor’ O’Donovan, a veteran of the War of Independence, secretary of the club and the last secretary of the old West Cork Board in the mid-1920s.
On that team you had Mick Lillis, a Darrara student from Clare; Dan Burke, the great Union Hall inter-county footballer; Jack Finnegan, a flying forward from Galway; Sean Griffin, a native of Tralee living in Ardfield, the top scorer on the team; Mick Bateman and Jack O’Connor, two Darrara students from Kerry; Tim O’Donovan, a UCC student from Leap; Pat Nyhan, Ballinacarriga; and Tim Coughlan of Ardfield, who was to die tragically in his mid-20s after an accident on his farm.
The aforementioned players were the ‘blow-ins’ who stood shoulder to shoulder with Clon natives ‘Big’ Jim Hurley of Cork and Blackrock hurling fame, Dan O’Donovan, Con ‘Sam’ Collins, Jer ‘Gull’ Leahy, Cha ‘Dempsey’ McCarthy, Jimmy O’Sullivan, Dan ‘Hurley’ Grey and teenager, John ‘Shutter’ Crowley, destined to win seven county senior medals with the club.
In 1930 Clonakilty, your club, won the West Cork junior championship and the county final, beating Ballincollig in the decider (2-3 to 0-0). This was Clon’s first county title since winning the intermediate football in 1913.
In 1931 Clonakilty beat Éire Óg (8-7 to 0-0), St Nick’s in the semi-final (1-4 to 1-2) and Dromtarriffe in the final (3-6 to 0-2), with Sean Griffin scoring 2-3.
That was the start of the club’s senior adventure that has seen your club contest a remarkable 25 county senior football finals, including three replays, and winning nine of those.
It’s a record that leaves Clonakilty as the fifth most successful senior football club in the county.
This is the history that you are fighting to maintain this Sunday. It’s 84 years of unbroken service to the top grade of Cork club football.
But no team has any God-given right to remain a senior club, no matter its tradition or history. You have to fight to protect this right. You have to show how much it means to you. You have to stand up and fight for Clon this Sunday.
Your red and green jerseys are famed throughout this division, this county and this country, and you are the current keepers of this flame, and it’s you that must protect your club ahead of this must-win game to safe-guard Clonakilty’s senior football status.
Your manager, Mike ‘Haulie’ O’Neill, has said: ‘We are staring into the abyss but we don’t actually know what will happen if we fall. Is it a soft landing or is it a long way down? We don’t know, and we don’t want to find out either.’
Yes, you are staring into the unknown, and that’s scary, but the darkest day is always just before the dawn. You have your fate in your own hands. You control your club’s destiny. Win this Sunday, and you save your club’ senior status, but you also lay the first stones in a new foundation.
Look at the above picture of the all-conquering Clonakilty team of 1930/31. Let the great feats and hard work of those men inspire you. They gave you your chance to play senior, and now you must give the future generations that same chance and privilege.
On Sunday, against Aghada, in Brinny, stand up and fight for your club.
The Southern Star