For followers of Killavullen GAA club, or 'The Blues' as they are affectionately known, nothing comes easy, and never was this more apparent than, in our forays at the penultimate stage of the County Junior Football Finals.
After our historic breakthrough in winning the North Cork Junior Football Championship, and winning some splendid games on the way to the county final of 1998, we travelled in great numbers and expectation to Charleville, on the 7th of December, only to see our chances kicked away with an inordinate amount of wides. The final score in the final was Newmarket 0-09 to Killavullen's 0-08.
Those of us that thought that we would be back to claim the crown on the following year got a rude awakening, and it took until the year 2000, and the 4th of December to be precise, before we gained a place in the County final again, this time against Kiskeam. Historically, the venue was again Charleville, and when Davy Hartnett scored an opportunists goal with 12 minutes to go, it allowed Killavullen to bask in the greatest moment in the clubs history. For the record, the score in this 2000 final was Killavullen 1-12 to Kiskeam's score of 2-05.
The Historic Break Through In North Cork
The clock on the main grand stand above at the Curragh racecourse states proudly that "Time reveals all", but on the 6th of September 1998, Killavullen finally made the breakthrough in North Cork Junior Football echelons, comprehensively defeating Doneraile , in the final, which was played in Glantane on a score line of 2-17 to 1-05. The historic team was captained by Martin Carroll, which was due rewards for an outstanding player with Killavullen, that is still, in 2007 playing the highest grade of football in the club, and like good wine appears to be getting better with age. This game was effectively over at half time, after Killavullen raced into an interval lead of 2-10 to 0-02. Due recognition was afforded to several other great servants of the club in the 2nd period of the match when Michael Rea, Johnny Beechinor and others were given an opportunity to participate.
What was to transpire over the next 3 years in particular was an odyssey for Killavullen supporters, as initially, the North Cork Championship crown had to be defended before embarking on the ultimate quest to win a coveted County championship at this grade. This took the team and supporters into uncharted territories and unleashed some fantastic games of open and competitive football, at this grade. Great, great games that will live long in the memory of all.
Background To The County Final 2000
Those of us who tried to sleep through the night of the 3rd / 4th of December in the year of 2000 must have been dismayed with what the God's and the elements threw at the walls of our respective abodes.
The morning dawned, no, it didn't dawn, it just blew in upon us, on this day when Killavullen majestic footballers planned to right the wrongs of '98 with gale force winds and lashing rains cascading down, and there was to be no let-up in the elements as the day wore on.
All modes of transport were utilized to ferry the hardy supporters to Charleville, and as you parked up your car, and walked the last few hundred yards to the pitch, you must have realized that Shanahan Car Sales, proud sponsors of the team, at that time, must have sold every car in the parish.
Not that a parish with a population of just 224 people actually living in the village according to the Central Statistics Office (2002) could explain the huge crowd that descended on Charleville to witness an epic game of football.
Killavullen won the toss of the coin and elected to play against the elements in the opening half. The mind-set must have been to try and contain Kiskeam in the opening period, a time when Killavullen are notoriously slow to start. The decision was tested almost immediately as, as early as the 3rd minute in that opening half, the Duhalllow champions wasted a clear goal chance, when John Angland had only our 'keeper to beat but he blazed wide. Then again on the 10th minute, Jimmy Dennehy should have scored but his effort was superbly saved by our red headed wonder shot stopper Rory Lankford, before Kiskeam's incessant pressure was finally awarded with a goal by Dennehy in the 14th minute after a marvellous passing movement from their own defence.
Though severely stretched at this stage, the Killavullen backs, led superbly by a half back line of John O Regan, Ian O Driscoll and Liam Dorgan began to come to grips with Kiskeam's short passing game, and halted the Kiskeam momentum temporarily to give Killavullen some breathing space.
Midfield Battle & Down The Middle
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going" as Billy Ocean used to say and never was this more apparent than in the second quarter of the opening half of this titanic battle
Paul Hartnett and Gene Kelleher put in the hard yards to haul Killavullen back to supremacy at midfield, and with James O Mahony, now a tower of strength at Centre Forward, Killavullen had draw level with Kiskeam by the 20th minute on a score of 1-1 to 0-4, with Jamsie kicking two magnificent points from frees, from distance into the teeth of the strong wind. Indeed only a brilliant save by the Kiskeam goal keeper, denied the lively Michael Whelan a certain goal.
Respite From The Elements & Half Time
That Mikey Whelan effort on goal was at the end of a brilliant movement involving no less than six players, and boded very well for our chances in the second half, and when the teams went in at the break, with Kiskeam leading by a solitary point, on a score of 1-02 to 0-04, the Killavullen supporters had every reason to be optimistic.
Surely, in lieu of the dreadful conditions, one point would not be enough of a lead for the brave Duhallow champions. While the players retired to the dressing rooms, the hardy individuals on the banks in Charleville had to make do with the pipe band, and more rain.
The half time talk among the spectators was of Rory's outstanding save, the efforts of both sets of forwards to wrestle advantages from tigerish and teak tough backs, the underfoot greasy conditions, and the hopes and aspirations of both sets of supporters.
In the prevailing conditions, supporters from both clubs were amassed on one side of the pitch, in a vain and futile exercise in self-preservation, so conversations was easy with the inter -mingling of the respective followers of both clubs, and of the many others neutrals that travelled to the game from far and wide.
Opening 2nd Half Salvo
The selectors on the day, showed astute judgment in bringing Brian O Driscoll from full forward to midfield for the start of the 2nd half, so that his legendary pace could come to the fore. When I say legendary, have you ever tried to live with him, over those crucial first 10 yards?
The old failing of wides reared its ugly head again, when we kicked four wides in the opening 10 minutes of this half, but peppered in between these wides, we had raised 4 white flags, to open up a 3 point lead., and we looked briefly to being on our way to a historic first County title triumph at this level.
However Kiskeam rallied to the task, and came forward in droves to show their metal, so that when Jimmy Dennehy scored one of his specials from an acute angle, down low, where even Rory could not reach it, the game was now truly in the melting pot, Kiskeam took the lead through a free with left us inexplicably trailing by that one score with over 12 minutes to go, in this absorbing contest.
Cometh The Hour, Cometh The Messiah
With our backs to the walls, the selectors sprang David Hartnett from the bench, and he certainly hit the ground running.
The Kiskeam corner back won possession on his own end line but, due to pressures from the inrushing Killavullen forwards, he came across the face of his goal with the ball and, as he dropped it to his foot to clear, Davy Dot who had just come on, managed to fist the ball to the empty net, and there was only going to be one winner after that.
Jamsie kicked two quite brilliant long range points to open up a cushion that was to see us over the line. But it was not over yet. Kiskeam rallied, and in a defence splitting move, one of their forwards bored down on goals against Rory again, only to blaze his shot over the bar. If that had been lower, then the outcome may have been different, but modest Rory always maintained that he had it covered.
Killavullen finished the game on the ascendancy and scored a further brace of points to leave the final score at Killavullen 1-12 to gallant Kiskeam's 2-05. the cup was presented to our own captain fantastic, Edmond O Connor.
This most honest and spirited Kiskeam got the county title they cherished in 2002 against Adrigole
For the record, the Killavullen team and scorers was as follows;
Rory Langford, Edmond O Connor, Padraig Lankford, Bartley Hayes, John O Regan, Ian O Driscoll, Liam Dorgan, Paul Hartnett, Gene Kelleher (0-1) , Tom Foley (0-1) , James O Mahony(0-6 - 2 free's) , Martin Carroll (0-1), Alan O Driscoll (0-2), Brian O Driscoll, Michael Whelan,. Substitutes - David Hartnett (1-0), Declan Dorgan (0-1)
Other players that were part of the panel were Micheal Rea, Joe Taylor, Kevin Thompson, Alan Brennan, Richard Dorgan, Michael Nagle, Tom O Shea and Billy Norris
The coach of the team was Tony Leahy, manager was John Beechinor, and selectors were John Brennan and Pat O Regan
County Final 1998
You know the pain that a tooth ache gives; well the memories of the county final of 1998 are a good deal worse than that. Yes we went into the game on a sea of optimism, but when you own the ball, and have the lions share of possession, but kick 19 wides over the course of the game, then you are gifting your opposition a fantastic opportunity to prevail, and lets be fair to Newmarket, they readily accepted it.
After the initial win in North Cork, we had defeated Illen Rovers in a brilliant game of attacking football and Donoughmore in a more dour and dogged game on the way to the final, and we genuinely felt, that though it was a giant step into the unknown, this Killavullen team had the where with all to see us through. We worried about the prowess of Mark O Sullivan, and the teak tough qualities of Danny Cullloty, but in our hearts of hearts, we did think that we were good enough to be in the final on merit.
The official attendance in Charleville on the day of this historic tilt at the County honours by Killavullen was 5,251 persons, which was a remarkable feat, considering the respective sizes of the two participants.
Despair at the 1st Half
Killavullen had the wind to their advantage in the 1st half and threaten to run Newmarket ragged with the pace of their attacking game, and precise movements out the field. With only 3 minutes go in the game, we already had 2 points on the score sheet, but ominously, we also had 2 wides. Newmarket looked dangerous in attack, but the Killavullen backs, supremely marshaled by Edmond O Connor seemed to have their measure. After 10 minutes we were leading by 3 points to no score, but then on the 12th minutes, Newmarket got their 1st point. Shortly after this, Rory Lankford in our goals brought off a brilliant double save, and we thought that our luck was in. Martin Carroll kicked a number of frees, but all the time, the score to chances ratio was very poor, as we left our scoring boots at 2nd mass in Killavullen.
At the half time break, Killavullen led by 6 points to a score of 3 points for Newmarket, but given the amount of possession that we had, this score line was criminal. We wondered as to what would happen when Newmarket enjoyed their moments of supremacy in the game, as invariably happens, as you will never be in top for an entire game, and the answer to this question came pretty quickly in the 3rd quarter of this absorbing game.
Same old story 2nd Half
Within six minutes of the 2nd half, Newmarket had drawn level with quick scores and then in the 9th minute of the half, they had taken the lead. This quick reversal left us reeling, but to be fair to us, we steadied the ship. The score line read 0-07 to 0-06 against us at this stage. Newmarket added a further point on the 12th minute, and in a effort to stem the tide, Killavullen selectors brought Brian O Driscoll to midfield, with a degree of success. How we continued to squander so many chances is still one of the great mysteries of life to the inhabitants of the parish, but suffice to say, that facing into injury time, in the game where we dominated possession, we trailed by 3 points, and had not scored at all in the 2nd half. Finally, Alan O Driscoll scored a point to leave just 2 points between the teams.
The coup De Grace
When the referee, Michael Collins from Clonakility signaled two minutes of injury time, and with just those two points between the teams, we felt that we still had a chance.
Then with time also up, Brian O Driscoll raced forward with Newmarket players giving chase, and his pile driving effort just tipped the top of the cross bar and went over to seal our fate. We had come so far, but it was not to be, and the county Cup was presented to John Paul O Neill. Newmarket had 6 wides over the course of the game, to our tally of 19 which was the chief reason that they became champions and we had to wait a further two years for glory
Our Gallant team was as follows;
Edmund O Connor Padraig Lankford Barthly Hayes
John O Regan Brian O Driscoll Liam Dorgan
Gene Kelleher Paul Hartnett
David Hartnett Martin Carroll Alan O Driscoll
Michael Whelan Ian O Driscoll Joe Taylor
Substitutes - Tony Carroll for Joe Taylor