Southern Star Newspaper
January 15, 1994
--Tom Lyons--

For over twenty-five years they proudly paraded their marvelous hurling skills on the pitches of West Cork. Talent, courage, commitment, they had it all as their red and white hooped jerseys struck respect and fear into all opponents. Then, in the height of their fame, they took a giant step into the unknown. When famed Courcey Rovers took the sensational and unexpected decision to switch allegiance to the Carrigdhoun Division, hurling followers in the South West were shocked. It created a huge void in Carbery Hurling, a void which is only now being adequately filled, twenty-five years later.

But for the Ballinspittle/Ballinadee club the move was also traumatic, so much so that it took an unbelievable nineteen years to win the South East junior A title. There was great celebrating when Courcreys finally lifted that long sought title in 1993, not only among their friends in Carrigdhoun, but among their many friends and former opponents in Carbery.

During their celebrating, the minds of many former Courcey players turned to their playing days in Carbery and the great battles they fought against Bandon, Clon, Killbrittain, Dohenys, Newestown, etc.

They were delighted with Carbery's progress to the County Senior hurling final in 1993 but were saddened by the thought that the vast majority of that Carbery team had never seen the famed Courcey Rovers in action in the south west. They were rightly anxious that their proud contribution to hurling in Carbery would not be forgotten by the present generation of hurlers within the division.

Their anxiety is understandable but great former Courcey start need never fear about their place in the development of hurling in the football dominated Carbery division. Their achievements and accomplishments were too outstanding ever to forget, their list of talented players too numerous to ever disappear from our memories.

We are only too delighted to avail of Courceys new found glory to record in this article their huge contribution to hurling in Carbery up to 1974. It would , of course , need a full history book to record all the great wins and accompanying stories. In this short article we can only scratch the surface.

Hurling in the parish of Courceys predates the GAA and in the 19th century Ballinadee hurlers are reported to have remained unbeaten for fifteen years.. One story tells of the captain swimming across the Bandon river to join his team in Dunderrow in a successful battle against famed Canovee. That epitomized the spirit which was later to become part and parcel of Courcey Rovers. 

In 1905 when Championship hurling was played in West Cork for the first time one of the seven teams involved was Ballinadee but their championship debut was an inauspicious occasion as they were defeated in the first round by near-neighbors Bandon by 5-9 to nil. It was, in fact, the first recorded championship hurling game played in West Cork. The Ballinadee colures were red and white. When Ballinspittle later entered the hurling arena in the thirties, they were blue and white and became known  as "The  Old Blues". Most of the games were played at "The Bogs" in Garrettestown which was to become the first home of Courcey Rovers themselves.

A step forward brings us to the early forties when hurling had died out in the parish with neighbours Bandon and Kinsale availing of the hurling talent available. The appointment of the great cork hurler Jim O'Regan as principle of Ballinspittle N.S. in 1943 seemed to be the catalyst which revived hurling in the area. A native of famed Courcey parish, Jim had won All-Ireland hurling medals in 1926,1927, 1928 and 1931 a Munster football medal in 1928, played hurling for Munster and captained Ireland against Scotland in Shinty. He was to play a huge part in the development of Courcey Rovers.

In Ballinadee Dan Sweeney was the main inspiration behind forming a club in 1943 with the help of famed hurley maker Con Flynn who was to become the first chairman, also Danny Crowley, John Nolan and Tom Crowley. Success was instant as the team won the 1943 Carbery junior B hurling title beating St. Finbarrs of Drimoleage in a replayed final by 3-1 to 1-5 with divisional runai Gus Keohane as referee in Enniskeane.

Spurred on by Jim O'Regan Ballinspittle also formed a club in 1943 with Paddy Griffin, Jimmy Cahalane, David O'Sullivan, Bill Nolan, Sonny Collins, Mike Keohane, Stephen Nolan, Pat Coughlan the main characters involved. In 1944 the teams clashed in the junior B championship in Killbrittain with Con Crowley as referee and the huge crowd saw Ballinadee emerge victorious. They went on to beat Argideen Rovers of Timoleage/Clogagh in the final in Bandon.

The players involved in those two successful years included Dan McSweeney, Donal Walsh, Christy Nolan, Jim McSweeney, Robert Sweetman, Charlie Crowley, Tommy Scott, Donal Crowley, Billy O'Connell, Sonny Nolan, Mick Murphy, John McSweeney, Liam Manning, Paddy Galvin, Bill Sweetman, Tom Crowley, John Nolan, Danny Crowley.

The following year, 1945, it was Ballinspittle's turn to taste glory when a huge crowd in Clonakilty saw them beating Drinagh 6-1 to 1-3 in the 'B' final. Team: O'Connell, Maloney, Keohane, Donovan, Dempsey, Sullivan, Bowen, capt., Nolan, Sullivan, Griffin, Donovan, Quinn, Collins, Hayes, Trainer Jim O'Regan.

At a meeting of the Ballinspittle club on January 16, 1947 came the first mention of having a single club for the whole parish. A meeting was fixed between both clubs for January 23 and an amalgamated club was agreed upon. The name chosen was Courcey Rovers, and the colours chosen, probably on a toss of a coin, were red and white of Ballinadee. First chairman was , as expected Jim O'Regan with Humphrey Corcoran as vice-chairman; Dave Sullivan, runai., Dan McSweeney assistant. sec., Sonny Collins treasure assisted by Jimmy Holland. It was agreed to hold meetings on the first Thursday of teach mount, after the fair in Kinsale. Thus came into existence the famed Courcey Rovers.

Success was instant. Clon were the top junior team in Carbery in the forties but in '47 they had upgraded to intermediate. their second squad reached the W.C. final but there was no stopping newly formed Courceys from capturing their first junior 'A' title on the score 8-3 to 3-2 in Bandon. Clon were back down to junior the following year intent on revenge but a big surprise ensured in the first round when goalie O'Connell inspired the red and whites to a hearth stopping 1-10 to 2-4 win. Nor did Courcey Rovers go on and win the title but they added the 'B' title to complete their first ever Double.

By this time Courceys had moved from their old pitch in the 'Bog' to the present pitch at Kilmore Cross, courtesy of Mr. Franks of Garrettestown House who owned the land. The pitch in the early days was at right angles to the present pitch and the first S.W. final to be played there was in 1950 when Clon had their revenge winning 6-4 to 3-2.

Courceys were back for their third title in 1951 and that year was also notable for their controversial junior 'B' football final clash against Carbery Rangers in Clon which saw the club capturing its first football title. 1953 was the beginning of a Golden era for Courceys, winning the S.W. junior 'A' hurling title five years in a row from '53 to '57 with a host of marvelous hurlers. Sterling centreback was Mick Nolan, one of Courceys' all-time greats: Davy O'Sullivan who also held almost every officership in the club; Paddy Bowen who played in every position on the pitch; Gerard O'Donovan of the deadly 21 yard free; the amazing Chris Corcoran, beautifully ambidextrous, holder of a record eleven medals in the '50s, '60s, and '70s and captain for many years; John Nyhan, R.I.P. at midfield; the beautiful ballplayer Liam Hurley; ironman Jeremiah Keohane at full back; outstanding Connie Regan with his ten S.W. medals; Sean Hales, D.P. Griffin, Tom Donovan, Tadgh Fitzgerald, Liam Keogh,. These were the men along with Doheny importees Con Coakley and Mick Farr who took Courceys to their first ever County Final in 1957 against Tracton. Unfortunately 'flu struck the camp beforehand and having led by eleven points at half time the were over-run in the second half by a Tracton side which went on to win by 4-5 to 3-4 on November 17th in Kinsale. 

Courceys then entered a lean patch but with brothers John L. and Frank O'Sullivan doing great work in the schools organising leagues, under age success saw a new generation taking up the struggle in the sixties. Gerard Collins, Seamier Hayes, P.J. Minihane, Tadgh O'Mahony, the Nyhan brothers, Jerry Deasy, Paschal Kiely, teddy Harrington, Andrew Hannon, Vinny O'Donovan came through to lead the club to S.W. titles in '64, '65, '66 and '68 with great battles against newcomers Newestown, Dohenys, Bandon, Clon, etc. Only a surprise defeat by St. Marys in '67 prevented another five in a row. Junior 'B' titles in '62, '66 and '68, under 21 hurling in '69, junior 'B'  football in '66 crowned a great decade on the playing fields. The seventies started where the sixties finished with the team winning the S.W. junior 'A' but loosing the county final to a very strong Clughduv powered by Teddy O'Mahony, Connie Kelly, Noel Dunne. Team:: A.Crowley, P.Twomey, P.J.Minihane, M.Murphy, J.O'Donovan, T.Harrington, A.Hannon, D.O'Donovan, G.Collins, L.Hurley, O.Crowley, B.Nyhan, V.O'Donovan, T.O'Mahony. Also C.Corcoran, l.Keogh.

In 1971 they lost to Bandon who went on to win the County and in 1972 to Newestown who also won the county. Even though the S.W. title was regained in 1973 and retained in 1974(their 15th title) the failure to again win out the county was leading to frustration.

The team was involved in tournaments in Carrigdhoun   and found the hurling their more to their liking. Traveling to matches in the west of the Carbery division was also a problem and geographically the club was much more suited to Carrigdhoun. There was also a firm belief among players and mentors that a change of division might also bring a change of luck and their standard of hurling would improve in Carrigdhoun. Accordingly, at the A.G.M. in early 1975 it was overwhelmingly decided to seek permission to transfer from Carbery to Carrigdhoun.

The loss was mainly Carbery's but amazingly also Courceys, because their luck did change, but for the worse. Establishing themselves in Carrigdhoun proved a daunting task and the successful team of the early seventies broke up soon after. There were near misses in both Football and hurling but it wasn't until the second half of the eights that Courceys finally began to emerge as a real power in Carrigdhoun.

A concentration on youth finally began to lead to success in various grades which culminated in their very first S.E. junior 'A' hurling title win in 1993 against arch rivals Ballinhassig. The wheel had finally turned full circle. Up to that great win Courceys' greatest day in the S.E. came in May1988 when the Jim O'Regan Park was officially opened. Jim was the man who had begun it all back in the 'forties. The park and complex are a fitting tribute to a man who not only hurled for Cork, but was later chairman of the Courceys club, chairman of the S.W. Board, President of the Co. Board, trainer of the Cork team and All-Ireland referee.

Doing justice to Courcey Rovers' contribution to Carbery hurling from 1947 to 1974 in an article like this is impossible but this vibrant club, embracing about 400 houses and 1,400 people, stretching from the Old Head to Bandon., whose loyalty to their parish is legendary, will never be forgotten by hurling followers in Carbery.


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