Carrigtwohill make the ascent

January 15, 2008
After years of frustration and disappointment, Carrigtwohill will have senior hurling to look forward to in 2008 after finally landing the Cork intermediate championship title last October. The intermediate win was the highlight of an outstanding year for the East Cork club who also celebrated successes in minor hurling and in football. There were great celebrations in the East Cork town of Carrigtwohill on October 14 last following the local club's first premier county intermediate hurling championship victory in 57 years. Following their defeats in the 2002 and 2006 finals, it was a case of third time lucky for Carrigtwohill who defeated divisional rivals Watergrasshill in a thrilling contest to earn their place in the senior ranks for 2008. The victory capped a fantastic year for the club which saw them win no less than five championship titles. "It was the icing on the cake," says Carrigtwohill PRO Sean Buckley. "When Carrigtwohill supporters look back on 2007 in years to come, they will remember it as one of our most successful years. As well as winning the county intermediate hurling championship, we won the county minor 'A' hurling title, the East Cork minor hurling and football titles and the East Cork under 21 football championship. "That's five championship wins in the same year which is a great achievement by any standards." The intermediate hurling success was due reward for Carrigtwohill's perseverance and dedication after many disappointments in the past. The 2006 county final loss to Bishopstown was an especially bitter pill to swallow, but as Buckley explains, it led to a greater effort from the players this year. "Losing the 2006 final strengthened the players' resolve. They didn't want to experience that again and as a result, the lads pushed themselves that bit harder in training. Also, we were involved in every football final in East Cork from under 15 upwards and the success the football teams were having seemed to rub off on everyone." The Cork intermediate hurling championship is run on a straight knock-out countywide basis. Under the guidance of Mallow man Diarmuid O'Riordan and his selectors Paul Keegan and Philip Kidney, Carrigtwohill were drawn against Aghada in the first round on May 6. On paper, it looked a difficult assignment for the blue and golds, but they produced a dominant display to win by 3-13 to 1-9. Carrigtwohill received a bye into the quarter-finals where they accounted for Aghabullogue by 1-24 to 2-11. But after half an hour of their semi-final joust with Ballymartle at Pairc Ui Rinn, they looked down and out. "We were shocking in the first half, only scoring four points," Sean recalls. "Cloyne hammered us in a challenge match the week before that and I think the lads were suffering from the after effects of that. But whatever was said in the dressing room at half-time worked a treat as the lads came out for the second half and produced the best hurling I've ever seen from them. "Seanie O'Farrell brought us back into it with the first goal, Robbie White added two more before Brian Lordan scored a fourth goal. It was looking like a replay would be needed when Ballymartle, who had 22 wides, levelled near the end, but then Niall McCarthy showed his class by scoring a brilliant winning point from close to the sideline." Carrigtwohill's dramatic 4-11 to 1-19 victory over Ballymartle ensured that confidence was high going into the county final against Watergrasshill at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. But once again they were slow to get out of the starting blocks and trailed by seven points at the end of the first quarter. By half-time, however, they had turned things around in remarkable fashion to lead by 1-7 to 1-6 and with former Cork star Sean O'Farrell helping himself to a hat-trick of goals, they went on to triumph by 3-14 to 3-12. Watergrasshill dominated the early exchanges and John Halbert's 10th minute goal had them 1-2 to 0-1 in front. They tagged on three more unanswered points before Niall McCarthy converted his second free for Carrigtwohill at the end of the opening quarter. Halbert restored Watergrasshill's seven-point advantage in the 18th minute, but they weren't to score again for the rest of the half as Carrigtwohill - benefiting from county player Jason Barrett's switch from midfield to centre back - finally got their act together. The game took a decisive turn when Michael Barry set up full forward Sean O'Farrell for a vital goal in the 22nd minute. That reduced the deficit the minimum and Niall McCarthy, an inspirational figure on the '40', followed up with two points to complete an amazing first half recovery by Diarmuid O'Riordan's charges. Carrigtwohill extended their lead to three points early in the second half before they were stung by a Paddy O'Regan goal for Watergrasshill in the 38th minute. Almost immediately, however, O'Farrell pounced for his second goal and he twice went close to completing his hat-trick before Robbie White stretched their advantage to four points at the end of the third quarter. Watergrasshill refused to wilt, though, and an Eoin O'Reilly goal in the 51st minute pushed them 3-10 to 2-12 ahead. They were still a point to the good with five minutes remaining, but then the unstoppable O'Farrell blasted his third goal to put Carrigtwohill back in the driving seat. Watergrasshill reduced the deficit to the minimum again before Niall McCarthy replied with his ninth point in injury-time to seal Carrigtwohill's first intermediate title victory since 1950. "After what happened in the semi-final, nothing was going to faze the lads, even when they fell seven points in arrears. Sean O'Farrell scored three great goals and overall, I thought we just about deserved our victory. We knew Watergrasshill would push us all the way, having taken us to a replay in last year's quarter-final," Buckley explains. The other highpoint of Carrigtwohill's year was their county minor 'A' championship final victory over Newtownshandrum. The team was managed by Frank Flannery who was also in charge of the successful minor and under 21 football sides. "We're expecting a good few of those minors to filter through to the senior team in the next year or two. Robbie White has already made the breakthrough and was one of our best players in this year's intermediate campaign," Sean adds. With players of the calibre of Niall McCarthy, Jason Barrett and Sean O'Farrell in their ranks, Carrigtwohill will hope to make an impact on the 2008 Cork senior hurling championship, but their affable PRO sounds a word of caution. "We're all excited about playing in the senior championship next year, but the reality is that it's going to be a big step-up and we'll have to be at our best to survive the first year. "We got our first taste of what it's like to play a senior team when we lost to Clonlara in the Munster club intermediate championship. They went straight back up senior after winning the Clare intermediate championship this year, and what that game showed is that we still have a lot of work to do to become a decent senior outfit," he concludes. The Carrigtwohill team which claimed Cork IHC honours was: M Fitzgerald; M Nolan, JP O'Riordan, S Flannery; R Power, Seamus O'Farrell, M O'Riordan; F Flannery, J Barrett (captain); S Dineen, N McCarthy, B Lordan; M Barry, Sean O'Farrell, R White. Sub used: S Barry.

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