Next Stop - The United States Of America From Goleen In West Cork
Small GAA Club And Community Driven Near Mizen Head
When you live on the Mizen Peninsula everywhere is a journey and so it has been for the players and mentors of Goleen GAA over the years. As for the Club itself, it has been a life’s journey and is still only a teenager compared to other GAA clubs around Ireland.
With its birth in the mid 1950's, early success with a West Cork Junior Football Championship trophy in 1959 and then mass emigration causing an enforced coma from 1966 to its rebirth in 1979.
From then to the present day we have an interesting history with a relative element of success at various levels.
Flanked by a successful Junior 'A' Club on one side and the GAA Clubs of New York being our closest neighbours on the other side, maintaining an adequate number of players to fill a panel, is an on-going challenge. Despite these hurdles the Goleen Club, has over the years, competed at Junior; ‘U21’ and minor level football and since 1992, also at underage level. Mizen Rovers also field teams at ‘U10’ to ‘U16’ football and now also in hurling from 2004.
2010 for the first time, witnessed the club putting out an adult hurling team in the minor league and championship. These underage teams along with the adult teams, now operate out of the state of the art facilities at the Goleen Sports Centre, which was officially opened in late 2007 by former president of the GAA, Mr. Sean Kelly.
The complex boasts a large sports hall for indoor club activities along with a floodlit pitch. This is now a favourite venue, not alone for the home supporters, but also visiting fans, who can avail of a viewing balcony and a seated area called the Michael Burchill Stand.
This stand was erected in memory of a fine young footballer, who sadly passed away, just two short years after he captained our ‘U21’ team when they won the West Cork title in 1999.
Goleen teams over the years did not enjoy such comforts, as training and playing of games took place on a field on the sand dunes near Barley-Cove Beach. This may sound exotic to others, but when fellas had to drop their trousers in full view of tourists, Yanks, Brits and Germans, admiring your legs and everything else from there up to your smile, that was distracting to say the lease – ‘for the players’.
We only (God help us) had small towels or none at all.
It was on those same sand dunes that the Goleen team of 1959 trained and played for that season, culminating in the team beating Newcestown to become Champions of West Cork. This historic achievement was recalled in the week before Christmas 2015 at a function to honour those great players.
The longevity of Goleen Players was evident with seventeen of the panel who travelled from throughout Ireland and England, present to receive their awards from Mr. Sean Kelly. How ironic that the present Goleen team should overcome the same opposition, to win their first Championship game in a few seasons in 2009.
This along with success at minor level in 2007 and trophies at U12, U14, and U16 football, for the past seasons, gives genuine hope in the coming years. The club won their first hurling title in two different grades in 2009 and as a dual club, hurling could make Goleen a force in the not too distant future. Who knows, we could be one of the new breed of dual clubs in the Carbery Division.
Even in these difficult times we are optimistic for our club. With good facilities now in place and top coaches available, Goleen has become an attractive place for players to take part in Gaelic games at all levels.
Note! The above storylines were extracted from the Goleen website. Thank you to all involved in Goleen GAA.
Last year, in the early part of summer 2016, I travelled down and out to the heartbeat of Goleen GAA territory. It was a beautiful, but windy summers evening and the evening sun had set in the west.
Although I went on a GAA fact finding mission to Goleen, my trip was mostly off the cuff and I had a lady wife in waiting, telling me to mind the dangerous bends as we cruised through some of Ireland's most glorious countryside. The scenery invited us to stop and take note many, many times, and out came the camera each time. It was all of forty years since we had been to Goleen and Barley Cove in West Cork. That will be rectified in 2017.
At Ballydehob we stopped off for a brief encounter with a noted local gael and former muinteóir, born in Bantry, who informed me - Gabriel Rangers would shake the 2016 Cork Junior 'A' County Football title. Not only did they shake it - they won a glorious county title.
Ballydehob is an outpost of Skibbereen, but Goleen is almost in another country. I wondered where did Goleen acquire players.
Driving along in my automobile, we could see, not only were the houses leading to Goleen, rare and scarce, they were so infrequent in numbers, we wondered who would want to live in such an outpost with a young family.
Summer is great in Goleen (when you get the weather) and the population greatly expands for most of July and first two weeks of August.
But that's live horse and eat grass. The inhabitants need a special ingredient, created at birth and nourished through to adulthood providing pride, determination and a will to survive, realising thousands of ordinary folk would abandon ship and retreat to higher ground. That is the spirit of Goleen folk.
I got a conducted proud tour of the Goleen Sports Centre (Community Hall) that simply fascinated me. It was state of the art - pure magic and a mighty challenge for the locals to build such a facility. No euros wasted. Just pure magic. That is Goleen.
If you happen to be deep in West Cork countryside, you'll enjoy checking out Ireland's most southerly based GAA club.