GAA is historically based on rivalry. Every time rivals play, no matter what sport it is, the stakes are high. As a result emotions are going to be high. There are local bragging rights, too.
Four West Cork clubs are contesting for the 2022 Cork senior A football championship, which is in its third staging having been established by the county board in 2020. With only 12 clubs in the grade and a third of them being from West Cork, avoiding each other in the group stage draw was almost impossible.
This weekend of football action (August 12th-14th) is round two of this competition, and championship futures are already in the balance. O’Donovan Rossa will play neighbours Ilen Rovers on Sunday, 14th, in Castlehaven at 2pm in Group A, while the Dohenys go toe to toe with Bandon on Friday, 12th, in Ballinascarthy at 7.30pm in Group B.
A 62nd minute 45 by Conchuir Ó Loinsigh ensured honours were even (1-10 to 0-13) between Ballingeary and Dohenys in their recent Group B opener. Dohenys manager Declan O’Dwyer will have felt aggrieved having not walked away with both points following the last-kick equaliser. On reflection a share of the spoils was probably a fair result and Dohenys will take huge encouragement from their performance.
A slow start by them saw the Gaeltacht outfit storming out of the blocks with Andreais Ó Coinceannain in fine kicking form. Goal-getter Mark Buckley rocked the Muskerry men on their heels on 26 minutes to send his side in at half time only a point in arrears. The second half remained nip and tuck with the lead changing hands on a regular basis. Eoin Lavers and Fionn Herlihy led from the front to put Dohenys in front by a point with time up only for Ó Loinsigh to hold his nerve.
After a brave Bandon effort at Clondrohid, Kiskeam held them off by a goal, 1-10 to 0-10, in round one. Kiskeam were sharper and better balanced but a rousing second-half Bandon comeback came close to pulling the game out of the fire. The first-half goal courtesy of Kiskeam’s Tomás Dennehy ultimately separated the sides. Bandon lacked efficiency, recording wides at critical stages, however their physicality rattled Kiskeam in the second half. They were five points down at half time but three quick ones after the break had the arrears down to two. Kiskeam weathered the storm to come back with three points but Bandon stubbornly refused to surrender with a further three but Kiskeam didn’t panic and saw it out.
In last year's championship at this grade Dohenys qualified from Group A, which also contained Bandon and O’Donovan Rossa. They defeated Bandon with a rousing display by 0-14 to 0-8, with Keith White registering seven of their total. In the league this year Dohenys topped Group 2A, drawing with Bandon along the way back in March.
It won’t help Bandon’s preparation for this season-defining game for them that hurling will have taken precedence in the intervening weeks. They are hugely physical, however, which could become an advantage if the weather turns in their favour. They are dependent on Barry Collins for scores whereas Dohenys have more of a spread in the form of Mark Buckley, Fionn Herlihy and Keith White. Dohenys have no shortage of footballers and will take this one.
Meanwhile, at a low ebb having been relegated from the premier senior championship last season and relegated to Division 3 in this year's league, Ilen Rovers went down to Clyda Rovers in round one by a point, making their mouth-watering clash with neighbours Skibbereen a must-win game for them.
Big Clyda full forward Daniel O’Callaghan proved the match-winner with a late free from distance in a lively game at Kilmurry. It would not have been a surprise if this one had ended all square. Dan MacEoin, again, led the way on the scoreboard for the Baltimore/Church cross outfit with 1-6. From a Cork football point of view Conor Corbett made a welcome return from injury off the bench, making a telling contribution with a goal with his first touch. Corbett’s goal put Clyda four clear, only for MacEoin to immediately goal on the next attack, leaving a point between them. 1-12 each in injury time Corbett again won the free for O’Callaghan’s winner.
O’Donovan Rossa, under new boss Gene O’Donovan, laid down an early-season marker on newly-promoted Newmarket in round one. Goals from David Shannon, Donal Óg Hodnett and Elliott Connolly gave them a handsome 12-point victory, 3-16 to 1-10. They led 1-11 to 0-3 at half time having outscored the North Cork men by 1-9 to a point in the second quarter. Skibb sit top of Group A after a strong statement for what they hope will be a long campaign. Having failed to win a game in their group in 2021 this Skibb performance was full of attitude and desire with Kevin Davis amassing 0-8, assisted by Shannon’s 1-2.
Their more experienced players – in the form of Ryan Price, Paudie Crowley, Donal Óg Hodnett and Kevin Davis – seem to show a renewed hunger blended with the youthful exuberance of Connolly, Hourihane and Co. A win against their arch rivals Ilen would see qualification assured if the Rossas can hold Dan MacEoin and Sean O’Donovan in attack. Rest assured that Ilen, under stalwarts Jason Whooley and Diarmuid Duggan, won’t surrender this one easily as they will have taken a lot of positives from their encouraging performance against Clyda. Still, I fancy Skibb to come through narrowly here. If that is the case, then Ilen will find themselves in another relegation battle.
It’s backs to the wall for Ilen and Bandon, and any animal backed into a corner is a dangerous one. Expect fireworks, particularly in Castlehaven.