TOM LYONS selects his South West junior hurling championship team of the year
WHILE we rue the lack of county titles won by the winners of the South West junior A hurling champions, Barryroe being the last in 2007, we can have few complaints about the level of entertainment thrown up by the junior hurling championships within the division itself each season.
Maybe the standard is lacking at times, as evidenced in the subsequent county championships, but what it lacks in quality, the hurling in Carbery more than atones in spirit, effort and determination.
There can be little doubt that the old grá for the little village is still alive and well and in the A final we had two little villages, Ballinascarthy and Rossmore/Ballygurteen vieing for the honours, while in B we had the contrast of struggling big town, O’Donovan Rossa, with a little help from their neighbours, against possibly the smallest hurling club in the division, Randal Óg, who annually punch above their weight. It all led to thrills and spills.
We witnessed some great patches of hurling during the season, the second half of Kilbree v St James and Kilbree v Mathúnas, standing out, but the best end to end game we saw was the battle of the Saints, James v Mary’s, in Rossmore, a thriller from start to finish.
We nearly had the comeback of the season in the final when Ballinascarthy, suffering their second final defeat in a row, came strongly in the closing minutes to take the lead after looking dead and buried. It wasn’t to be as Kilbree proved they were the best team in the division this year by reeling off four winning scores.
Which brings us to some marvellous scoring achievements in various games. Time was when a score of ten points by a player would be held in awe, now it’s almost common-place for players like Don McCarthy of Kilbree and Jeremy Ryan of Bal, with young Dylan Scannell of St Mary’s ready to join those ranks.
When it came to goals, what a goal-scoring machine we have in Kieran O’Donovan of St James, a definite Cork senior if he was involved with a prominent senior team. Cork badly need goalscorers and there is a ready-made one in O’Donovan. Which, of course makes it imperative that the Carbery senior hurling team be resurrected so that outstanding juniors like O’Donovan can be show-cased.
Mentioning O’Donovan brings us to the large number of hurling brothers we saw in action, many giving outstanding dual displays. O’Donovan’s brother, Diarmuid, starred in goal for the Arfield men, while we also had the Evans’ brothers in green and gold. Ciarán and Brian Everard of St Mary’s, Mark and Sean White of Clonakilty, Ogie and Shane Scannell of Kilbree, Stevie and Kevin Cotter of Rossa’s were but some of the hurling brothers who shone and the most consistent must have been Kevin and Brian Keohane of champions Kilbree.
One of the hardest positions to pick in a Carbery All-Star junior side is that of goalkeeper as we watched some outstanding goalkeepers in action. The veteran Alan Foley still continues to defy teams for Rossas, while being a top scorer from frees in every game. Cork senior football goalkeeper Mark White of Clon is as good with the small ball, while Patrick Lynch of Randal’s, Darragh Hennessy of Bal and the long-hitting Denis Dullea of Kilbree all caught the eye.
Speaking of veterans, isn’t it great to see a player like John Collins of Randals still togging off and inspiring the younger lads around him.
When it came to hurler-of-the-year there were many contenders but in the end the exciting scoring exploits of Kilbree’s Don McCarthy could not be ignored as he won several man-of-the-match awards in the championship, including the final. He just shades the issue from his team-mate, Ray Collins.
And so to our Carbery Junior Hurling Team for 2018 –
Alan Foley (O’Donovan Rossa): The veteran Rossa goalminder had to fight off a host of good keepers this season but his scoring rate in each game is a huge plus and gives him the edge.
Chris Ryan (Ballinascarthy): More natural at full back but good enough to fill any position in the full line. Top class and consistent all season.
Jonathan Deasy (Kilbree): Rangy and flexible, was a mainstay in the Kilbree defence, rarely bettered in front of goal.
David Lowney (Clonakilty): Plays farther out with Clon but proved with Cork U.21s and UCC that he is an adept and skilful corner back.
Conor O’Driscoll (St Oliver Plunkett’s): His consistency from season to season is amazing. One of the best hurlers in the division and the powerhouse of the Plunketts’ team.
Brian O’Donovan (Kilbree): Totally efficient, a top-class sweeper and a great reader of the play. Loves driving Kilbree forward from the centre.
James O’Driscoll (St James): A great year for St James and one of the standout figures was O’Driscoll, whose scores from frees were vital, as well as his forceful play.
Dylan Coffey (Kilbree): The Kilbree captain led by example in every game and his leadership, commitment and spirit epitomised Kilbree’s year.
Ray Collins (Kilbree): One of the tidiest, classiest and most effective hurlers in the division. His non-stop action is vital to Kilbree’s success.
Flor Crowley (O’Donovan Rossa): We have a soft spot for this ageless warrior who has stuck with Rossa’s through thick and thin. His hurling was again a joy to watch as he led Rossa’s to the South West B title and the county final.
Don McCarthy (Kilbree): A scoring machine, averaging an amazing ten points per game all season. Every winning team needs a class scoring forward and McCarthy is exactly that for the champions.
Jeremy Ryan (Ballinascarthy): Another scoring machine, whose class, style and accuracy have almost landed Bal the title. While playing midfield for Bal, he could not be omitted from our team.
Seán Ryan (Ballinascarthy): Big, young and so full of determination, his hurling improved immensely during the season and his goals almost pulled off a great comeback for Bal in the final.
Kieran O’Donovan (St James): The big full forward is a rare breed, a top-class goalscoring forward.
His hand is like a vice and he thinks only goal every time he gets a ball. A nightmare for any full back.
Damien O’Gorman (Kilbree): A class act, a poacher supreme. His movement on and off the ball is superb and his scores have won many games for Kilbree, including his vital goal in the final.
Subs include Denis Dullea (Kilbree), Gearóid O’Donovan (Diarmuid Ó Mathúna), Kevin Keohane (Kilbree), Darragh Coakley (Kilbree), Ciarán Nyhan (Ballinascarthy), Michael P Keohane (St Oliver Plunkett’s).