LAST Sunday week, Glanworth GAA sent a tweet outlining the extent of the journey which lay ahead for their county FL Division 3 clash with Castletownbere in Cahermore.
According to the AA Route Planner, the journey of 183km takes about two hours and 39 minutes by car (for those seeking for physical activity, it’s about a nine-hour cycle or a day-long hike), and Glanworth would have few rivals nationwide for the longest distance to travel for a game within a county.
Of course, while they were the hosts on this occasion, Castletownbere are well used to such journeys and this year is no different. Their five away ties in Division 3 take them to Carrigaline, Fermoy, Nemo Rangers, Naomh Abán and Bishopstown – a cumulative round-trip distance of 1,238km and a total time of just more than 18 and a half hours on the road, without taking traffic jams into account.
Castletownbere’s manager Noel Harrington acknowledges that it’s far from easy to deal with such logistics, but it’s not something which is new either.
‘Broadly speaking, more than half of the panel live in Castletown,’ he says, ‘most of the rest are in Cork and then we have a few in Dublin and other places.
‘Anyone beyond Cork, it’s not really possible to have them back for training, it’s not feasible so they link up with other clubs and we’d only really see them for games. For the last few years, we’d have been training once a week in Cloughduv
‘We have an 8.30pm slot so that means that lads would be leaving Castletown at about quarter past six and you’re not back again until around half 11, so that’s a five-hour round trip.
‘It’s difficult for everyone but then some lads are self-employed, so that’s a huge sacrifice.’ Castletown encourage their players to carpool and to take turns at driving so as to share the burden. The Cork-based players have a session of their own one night a week at Éire Óg’s facilities in Ovens – theoretically the same night that the home players train at Beara Park, but the weather hasn’t been much of a help on that front.
‘The pitch is unplayable, just due to the high volume of water on it,’ Harrington says.
‘Over the last few months, we’ve had twice the average national rainfall, it has been incessant and the pitch still isn’t dried out.
‘That’s why we had to go to Cahermore for the Glanworth game and the Dohenys match last week, they’ve had recent drainage work done and the pitch is in great shape, we’re very grateful to them for their assistance.’
Such is the way of things for those who expend their efforts in keeping football going in the far west of the county. As Harrington acknowledges, it’s a challenge which has existed for a long time.
‘If we’re trying to arrange a challenge match, nobody will come here,’ he says.
‘We have to travel for all of them and we could be nearly an hour down the road and still not have passed Bantry.
‘It has just always been the case. Back when I played, Beara were taking part in the Kelleher Shield so you might play a senior league game on the Saturday and then an intermediate league game on the Sunday for Castletown.
‘It was just something we had to do, there was no other choice and that’s still the case really. It’s a bigger sacrifice than most other players would have to make, but it just becomes hard-wired into you.’
Dare one suggest the nuclear option and reuniting with the part of the Beara Peninsula which is over the border in south-west Kerry?
‘Oh no,’ Harrington laughs, ‘sharing a diocese with them is bad enough!’