Sport

The glory days for Beara football

December 5th, 2017 1:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Legends: The Beara team that won the Cork and Munster senior football title in 1967. Back from left, Brendan Murphy (former chairman), Gerry Jer O'Sullivan, Mick Murphy, Joe O'Sullivan, Connie P O'Sullivan, Bernie O'Neill, Connie Murphy, Jim Downing, Patrick P O'Sullivan, Patrick O'Shea, Tony Dudley

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It’s 50 years ago since the great Beara team of 1967 won the Cork senior football title. TOM LYONS looks back on that memorable season for the Beara division

 

NOT since 1940 had the footballers of Beara brought home the county senior title, a lifetime for a division that lived and breathed football and had won three-in-a-row between 1932 and 1934.

In 1967 all the omens were good. Castletownbere were Beara junior champions and reached the county semi-final, which was drawn against Midleton. The replay saw the referee abandonthe game which was later awarded to Midleton but the Town had some great players in their ranks, including Pearse Lyne, Mylie O’Sullivan, Finbarr Harrington, Seanie O’Sullivan, Mick Hanley and Joe O’Sullivan, all of whom were to figure prominently with Beara.

Better still, Urhan went all the way in intermediate football, beating Millstreet by an impressive 2-15 to 2-6 in the final at Bantry. Captain Mick Lynch, Patrick P O’Sullivan, Patrick O’Shea, Connie Murphy, big Jim Downing, and the brothers Paul P and Connie Paddy O’Sullivan would provide almost half the Beara team.

Add in Adrigole stars Sean Power, who captained the side, Kevin Jer O’Sullivan and the mighty Bernie O’Neill, as well as John L O’Sullivan and Cormac O’Sullivan of Garnish, and you had a very talented Beara side that had the extra experience of the veteran Riobard O’Dwyer (St Mary’s) minding the net.

 

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In the county championship of 1967 Beara beat Duhallow by 2-9 to 2-3, Muskerry by 2-9 to 1-4 and St Finbarr’s in the semi-final by 1-12 to 3-4. 

While showing great form at times, wasted chances by the forwards and loose marking by the backs were causes for concern as they faced the final against a star-studded UCC side, which contained such outstanding footballers as Eric and Denis Philpott, Eamonn Ryan and Ray Cummins of Cork, and Mick Fleming and Dick Geaney of Kerry. UCC were hot favourites to lift the title.    

Beara trained hard for the final but getting the whole panel together proved a problem. The home-based players trained under Sean O’Dwyer, well-known athlete from Ardgroom, in Beara Park while the city-based players trained in the city under the watchful eye of Donal O’Sullivan, N.T., who had captained the winning three-in-a-row in the 30s and the last successful team in 1940. The team concentrated on their traditional high fielding, catch and kick football.

The final in the Athletic Grounds on October 15th was played in atrocious weather conditions with a wet, greasy ball and plenty mud. Strangely, this actually suited Beara’s more direct style on the day.  

Against the breeze Beara dominated the first quarter with some great fielding and direct football and a goal by Cormac O’Sullivan gave them a 1-1 to 0-1 lead, the point coming from Connie Paddy. UCC came much more into the game in the second quarter and a fortunate goal from Paddy O’Connell gave them the lead. Eric Philpott and Eamonn Ryan kicked most of the points as the College led by 1-6 to 1-4 at the interval, Connie Paddy, 0-2, and Pearse Lyne getting the Beara points.

The third quarter provided some thrilling fare, the lead changing hands on several occasions as the teams swapped goals. Connie Paddy gave Beara the lead, when he raised a green flag, then Mick Fleming goaled at the other end to snatch back the lead. Back came Beara with a Mylie O’Sullivan goal and the outstanding Connie Paddy pointed to increase the lead to two points. It wasn’t over yet as Denis Philpott broke through for a College goal and Beara found themselves a point behind entering the last quarter. That last quarter was all Beara, looking extremely fit, but for 12 agonising minutes there was no score as they kicked a series of wides from play and frees. 

Tension was mounting among the Beara supporters, by far the majority in the crowd of over 12,000, and, again it was Connie Paddy who came to the rescue when he slipped a pass to his brother Paul who lashed it straight and true between the posts for the equaliser.

Beara went all out in search of a winner in the closing minutes but UCC hung on and it finished 3-8 each, one of the great county finals. Referee was Denis Owens of St. Nick’s.

 

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The county final replay was to be Beara’s day. A ferociously-determined team refused to think of defeat and tore into the fray from the word go. 

Against the strong breeze supreme goal-poacher Cormac O’Sullivan rocketed the ball to the net early in the game and Beara were on their way. Throwing themselves in front of College boots, the Beara backs barred the way to goal. Full back Patrick P O’Sullivan broke his nose early on but stayed on to play a stormer. Level at the break, 1-3 to 0-6, Beara were on the way to the title with the strong breeze to their backs in the second half.

In the 43rd minute Cormac O’Sullivan fisted his second goal and with Bernie O’Neill lording midfield and full forward Connie Paddy O’Sullivan playing a blinder, there was no stopping fanatical Beara. Connie Paddy, with a great point from play and an even better one from a 45, put the icing on the cake as UCC were confined to a single point in the second half. It finished 2-5 to 0-7 and the scenes of jubilation after the final whistle had to be seen to be believed.

The story is told that the acceptance speech by captain Sean Power was the shortest on record. On receiving the cup he merely said, ‘Thanks very much,’ and headed off into the crowd! When wing back John L O’Sullivan met him, he asked, ‘Power, how long did it take you to prepare the speech?’

Long or short, Beara were going home with the county senior cup and a 27-year gap had been bridged.

 

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At that time divisional teams were allowed to play in the Munster club championship and Beara met the Limerick champions Claughan the following April at the Limerick Gaelic grounds. Although there was only a point in it at half time, 0-8 to 1-4, Beara pulled away in the second half despite an Eamonn Cregan goal, and with Cormac O’Sullivan getting his customary goal, it finished 2-18 to 2-5.

In the semi-final in Fermoy the Waterford champions, Kill, despite racing into a five-point lead, proved no match for the Cork champions, especially in a blistering second half. It finished 4-12 to 1-5 with Jim Downing and Bernie O’Neill lording midfield through some spectacular fielding. The third goal by Bernie O’Neill was one of the best ever seen at the venue.

It was a Cork v Kerry Munster final with Mid Kerry facing Beara in Beara Park, Castletownbere on 27th October. It was a tremendous contest. Mid-Kerry had a top-class team that contained Kerry players like Brendan and Paudie Lynch, Pat Griffin, later to throw in his lot with Clonakilty, and Teddy Bowler. The teams swapped point for point in the first half until Brendan Lynch goaled to give the Kerry champions a half time lead of 1-6 to 0-6. 

They stretched the lead to four points after the break but a tremendous goal from Bernie O’Neill in the 34th minute revived the home team and they took control to surge into a four-point lead, playing some tremendous football. 

Mid Kerry failed to raise another flag until a minute from time when they fisted a goal but it came too late and Beara were crowned Munster champions. 

Unfortunately, there was no official All-Ireland club championship at that time and an attempt to organise an unofficial one fell through. Beara did play Meath champions, Kilbride, who contained nine of the Meath All-Ireland winning team, in a challenge and won by 1-13 to 2-6.

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