BY KIERAN McCARTHY
GARNISH manager Niall Cronin admits his team are under pressure to win their ‘All-Ireland final’ this Sunday afternoon in the Beara junior A football championship decider against reigning kingpins Urhan in Castletownbere, at 4pm.
Underdogs in a two-team championship, after last season’s finalists Glengarriff pulled out, Garnish have it all to do to wrestle the crown off Urhan, insists Kiskeam native Cronin.
‘Being honest, we are serious underdogs,’ he said.
‘Urhan are playing Division 1 football in Carbery, while we had to pull out of the Carbery league this season because we didn’t have the numbers. Urhan are top of their group in the county junior league as well, so they’re going well.
‘We lost the semi-final last year to Glengarriff by a point, and in the final Urhan gave Glengarriff a beating so that tells you the challenge we have. We’re under pressure but we’ll give it a rattle.’
Cronin’s right, Urhan lead the way in Group 2 of the county JAFL with a 100 per cent record after wins against Glanmire and Dromtarriff, and a walk-over from Passage West, and they have two wins from six games in Carbery-Beara JAFL Division 1 where they mix with it with Carbery’s finest.
Garnish, meanwhile, have had three competitive games all season, all in Group 3 of the county JAFL, with a win against Muintir Bhaire in April their only victory while they lost their last league game 5-14 to 1-4 against Tadhg MacCarthaigh in late May.
Boosting their chances of upsetting favourites Urhan this Sunday is the return of three key players.
‘We had three players in America during the summer – Sean Terry O’Sullivan, Paul O’Neill and Hugh O’Sullivan – but they’re all back now. They’re important players for us, Sean and Paul are regulars with Beara. We only have them back with a few weeks, so it’s getting them back on board. Our pick is small, we are tight on numbers, so we need all the bodies we can get,’ Cronin explained.
Brian Terry O’Sullivan, Eanna Murphy and captain Joe Harrington are three other important Garnish players, but there are fitness doubts over Harrington who is carrying an ankle injury.
Urhan are also boosted by the return of an important player from America, as Conor Lowney was away for a few weeks but he’s back now – he’s a major asset to the team managed by selectors Brian McCarthy, Jerry Coughlan and Liam O’Reilly.
Urhan reclaimed the Beara JAFC title last season, for the first time since 2012, when they blitzed Glengarriff in the final, winning 5-18 to 0-7, with Concubhar Harrington, Martin O’Neill, Phillip O’Shea, Martin McCarthy, Vinnie Lehane and Sean O’Sullivan all getting on the scoreboard.
Urhan will look to captain Lehane for leadership, while Cormac O’Shea, David McCarthy, Luke Daly and James Healy are other players to look out for. Dan O’Dwyer is suspended for this game.
In a two-team championship, resulting in a straight final, there is little form to work off, but both camps acknowledge that Urhan are favourites – however that won’t stop Garnish from dreaming of winning back the crown they last held in 2014.
‘It means a lot to both teams. It’s their All-Ireland final,’ Niall Cronin said.
‘I’m originally from Kiskeam and I’m living in West Cork now, and winning the junior football championship in Beara means the same as winning it in Duhallow – it means everything.
‘The amount of teams doesn’t lessen the importance.’