If the Goleen jersey was taken out of the place, the identity of this parish would disappear

Sunday's JBFC final between Goleen and Douglas is a tale of two different worlds colliding. 
If the Goleen jersey was taken out of the place, the identity of this parish would disappear

FRIENDLY RIVALS: Tom O'Connor of the South County Bar and sponor of Douglas GAA in Goleen with his wife Maebh (nee Sheehan) ahead of Sunday's Cork JBFC final at Pairc Ui Rinn.

He was the furthest TD from the Dail and closest to Washington. Goleen’s Paddy Sheehan once sent his daughter Maeve downtown to canvas for votes. In the hotel, she met her future husband. They reside on opposite sides of a novel final this weekend.

“My vote was in Douglas,” says Tom O’Connor of the South County bar with a chuckle. They sponsor the club now. 

On Sunday, Douglas’ third team take on Goleen’s first in the County Junior B Football Championship final at Páirc Uí Rinn. Two different worlds will collide and compete for desperately sought-after silverware.

“There is one team there and we have so many here. To be honest, a lot of people (here in Douglas) wouldn’t even know about this final. Supporters would be excited in fairness, just not as much as the Goleen crowd.

“Maeve and I drove down there yesterday. It is a good two hours. All the way in the road there was bunting, black and yellow flags while there wouldn’t be a flag in Douglas. But this is our chance to win silverware this year. It’s down to this group. I’m delighted these guys have the chance.” 

O’Connor’s affection for the game stemmed from the street leagues under the affectionate stewardship of Eddie Murphy. 

Murphy is now manager of the Junior Bs. They house all sorts, up-and-coming prospects and older stalwarts. Cork senior Nathan Walsh has used the grade as his salvation after a dreadful run of injuries. 

Therein lies its beauty. It can be anything for anyone.

For Dermot Sheehan it is everything. He welcomed O’Connor and Maeve to the shop on Thursday with open arms. Their only priority this week is to chat football. His father, who passed away in 2020, ran the family store before him and that legacy carries on. From the tip of the Mizen peninsula, they strive to make a mark.

The 2023 Goleen junior B football panel.
The 2023 Goleen junior B football panel.

“To be playing football on the 3rd of December is a big thing for us,” Sheehan says. “It lifts everyone. Since we won the semi-final, there is no talk about what is going on in the world, the economy or the weather. It is whether the lads are ok or if it will go ahead on the 3rd.

“This is our fourth final in four years. We’ve tasted defeat three times. Everyone has their fingers crossed it is fourth time lucky.” 

The route to this summit wasn’t straightforward. Goleen were beaten by eventual winners St Oliver Plunkett’s in the confined county junior B football championship during the summer. There was a change of management and an enduring purpose. They did what they have always done. Get knocked down. Get back up.

“We’ve no underage in the club currently. The numbers aren’t there. The football team stems back to the early 50s. At that time, there was no electricity in the peninsula. No public transport. There was a townland, west and east. They had a team each. That is the way it operated back then. It started growing from there.

“In 1959, they won the Junior B West Cork Championship. They were playing Junior A Football for a time after. In 1963, the club went into what I like to term hibernation. That lasted until 1979 until a group of us, we were all young at the time, decided we wanted to kick a football. We had a crack at that and we wanted to put out a team. So on St Patrick’s Day, 1980 we fielded a Junior B team.

“Success eluded us until 2011 when we won the West Cork B for the first time since 1959. We thought all our birthdays had come at once. Then in 2016, they introduced the inaugural Junior C Championship for weaker Junior B clubs.

“We were relegated down to that even though we were going as far as semi-finals. The reason we given was, ‘if you want to get out of it, win it.’ So we did.” 

In Douglas, there is a bye-law banning cups from being brought back to pubs, but O’Connor is hoping they’ll be saluting in his establishment come Sunday night. For Sheehan, a win would mean an endless celebration for the month.

“Castlehaven is a glorious example of what the parish jersey can mean,” he says.

“We are rural Ireland. If you drive off Mizen head the next place you’d come out is the Bronx in New York. We are out on the periphery. 

"If the parish jersey was taken out of the place, the identity of this parish would disappear. It keeps the community together. Younger lads make a name for themselves on the pitch and then the older generation stop them on the street.

“It is the heart and soul here. If we manage to get over the line on Sunday, the streets of Goleen will be like the sound of music until Christmas.”

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