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Achievement of U16 Hurling Team

posted 7 Dec 2012, 15:41 by Unknown user   [ updated 7 Dec 2012, 15:47 ]
 Photo: Karl McDonough

The Ballinkillen team and management celebrate their U16 county title win over Bagenalstown at Dr Cullen Park in August

By Darragh O'Neill

As we close the book on another year of GAA action it’s always worth taking a glance back at the winners and losers to select a standout performance or team. With that in mind, the county U16 hurling championship saw a rip-roaring battle with victory going to a special group of players from Ballinkillen in August.

The boys in blue and yellow showed a fantastic range of skills and a never-say-die attitude to beat Bagenalstown in the county final. However, rewind two years and you will find the same Ballinkillen team winning a county title at U14 level. Another two years prior to that, Balllnkillen got to the U12 final but were eventually beaten by a strong Rangers team.

It takes a dedicated group of players to continue to work on their skills year after year, constantly challenge for honours and along the way they developed the winning mentality that got them across the line.

The players who competed in this team through all the age groups are: Thomas Dowling, Billy Nolan, Sean Brennan, Ryan Luther, Jamie Wall, Seanie Whelan, David Foley, Owen Roberts, Michael Redmond, Martin Bridgett, P.J. Dowling, John Farrell, Darragh O'Neill, Eddie Brown, Ciaran Whelan, Michael Brennan, Eoin McDonagh, Declan Quirke, Declan Murphy, Eoin Quirke, Sean McDermott, Ian Cohen, Mark Treacy and Ben Treacy.

If you turn the clock back to 2003, five of the team mentioned turned up in St. Mullins on a rainy day to partake in a hurling blitz, they were only seven at the time. This was the first step on a long road for these young men as their interest in hurling began to grow and flourish.

Thirteen of the Ballinkillen team started playing hurling competitively while attending Ballinkillen National School. They won several Cumann na mBunscoil titles together and some of the members even played for the school team in four consecutive winning years.

When Ballinkillen beat Clonegal in a school final, little did three of the Clonegal men know that they would be togging out in the blue and yellow of Ballinkillen in the not so distant future.

That future came after the disappointment of the U12 loss for Ballinkillen. Three Kildavin/Clonegal men joined the team
and immediately clicked with the existent squad.

The 2009 season saw a managerial change for the then U14 squad when Michael Doyle and Seamus O’Neill took up leadership of the team.

The two men instantly got to work with the team, training and organising challenge games to test the players in match situations. Much of the success that this young Ballinkillen team achieved goes down to the hard-work and dedication of the mentors on the training field.

After the disappointment of the U12 final loss, Ballinkillen put their best foot forward for the upcoming U14 championship. They were unbeatable in the league running up to the finals, winning every match they played. An encounter with Rangers in the semi-final has to go down as one of the toughest matches this team has played. With nothing to separate them at full time, extra time was called for. Ballinkillen just edged it after an epic encounter at Dr Cullen Park. It’s these sort of tough games that stand to a group of players and improves them for the future.

St Mullins were the opponents for the final, but Ballinkillen comfortably eased past them for their first county title together.

They now had the taste for victory and every member of that team wanted to taste it again.

Fast forward to the summer just gone when the U16 panel were hungry for another county title. The league games weren’t as easy this time around, with old friends Rangers beating the boys comfortably. Morale was down in the Ballinkillen team, with players not enjoying defeat.

However, the character of the team shined through as they bounced back to win the remaining league games. A magical second-half performance gave Ballinkillen the victory over Naomh Brid in the semi-final, setting up a tasty final against local rivals Bagenalstown.

A poor first-half performance against the town saw Ballinklllen trailing by five points at half-time. But after words were said and bottles thrown, Ballinkillen came out onto the field a different team. How they played in the second half of that game was reminiscent of how they played during their unbeaten U14 winning year.

Three second-half goals for the village team saw them overcome the challenge and win the prestigious trophy. It was the sweetest victory of all for Ballinkillen.

So after three seasons together, two county titles and memories to last a lifetime, this Ballinkillen team will go down as one of the finest juvenile teams to play the game in the county.

The mentors expressed their gratitude to the players for their hard work and commitment and had this to say about the team, “A nicer bunch of players you could not meet, It has been a pleasure. We wish them well in sport and life in all the years ahead of them."

From Carlow Nationalist