2021 Cork Panels Brimming with talent from Ballygarvan and Ballinhassig
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
They say good things come in small packages, and that has certainly been the case when you consider the extensive list of young players from villages Ballygarvan and Ballinhassig who have featured extensively for Cork panels at all levels this year.
Both areas have a long and proud history of developing young talent, with time and investment committed to their youth structures now bearing to fruition. The involvement of so many players in Cork panels from Minor to Senior in 2021 is testament to the success of both clubs in recent years. Let’s take a brief look at the year that was for some of these stars.
Cork Minor Hurling
It was an historic year for the Cork minors, who claimed their first All-Ireland title in 20 years earlier this year with a victory over Galway in a game which they dominated from start to finish, coming away with a 1-23 to 0-12 win.
Cork were by far the strongest team in the country at minor level this year, with a 10 point margin in their Munster Final triumph over Limerick being the closest scoreline in their contests during the year. While considerable tallies from forwards up front may have caught the eye, it was often the work of two incredible young defenders at the back who made the team rock solid all year.
Darragh O’Sullivan of Ballinhassig and Kevin Lyons of Ballygarvan, worked side by side all year for the Rebels, and were lauded for their defending on many occasions. O’Sullivan himself managed to get two points from play in the All-Ireland final, showing his class going forward as well, while his partner in crime Lyons, was singled out by former Limerick All-Ireland winner, Shane Dowling, for his performances on the Sunday Game. It was fitting that after an incredible year beside each other on the pitch, the pair were picked together in defence for the Minor Hurling All-Star team of the year.
Cork U20s Hurling
Piaras O’Halloran of Ballygarvan was part of the very successful Cork U20s hurling team this year, who claimed a Munster Final and came agonisingly close to lifting the All-Ireland title. Piaras comes from royal blood in Ballygarvan terms, as he is son of the famous Jim O’Halloran, owner of Bridgies Bar.
The 20 year-old is in his second year of Commerce in UCC, and having played for Cork at various underage levels, made his debut for the U20s this year. A former captain on the Rochestown College Harty team and helped Ballygarvan reach the semi-final of the Cork Intermediate Hurling Championship this winter.
While he didn’t feature for the U20s this year, his clubmate and fellow Rochestown College man, Seán Brady, will be looking to follow in Piaras’ footsteps next year, with a potential call-up to the U20s. Seán, has previously represented Cork at minor football level in 2020, and showed maturity beyond his years for his club in this season’s campaign to the South-East JAFC final.
Cork Senior Hurling
Saving the best until last, well what more can be said about the Collins brothers, Ger and Pa from Ballinhassig. Two young lads from a small rural village, making their way to Croke Park on All-Ireland Hurling final day as the starting goalkeeper and sub goalkeeper.
You couldn’t quite write the story and that is probably why in the lead up to the game against Limerick earlier this year, that RTÉ simply had to make their way down to South Cork to pay homage to the uniqueness of the occasion. While Ger’s involvement with the team this year only came in the league, the part he played in his big brother’s preparation throughout the year should not go unnoticed. Patrick or ‘Pa’, shone for Cork throughout the league and Championship, and Cork may never well have made it to the All-Ireland Final if it were not for Pa’s incredible last-second save against Tony Kelly of Clare, which would have dumped Cork out of the competition.
Pa was crucial to the Rebel’s gameplan throughout the year, acting at times as the cool head at the back, playing at times in almost a quarter-back role, often being at the heart of Cork’s development play going forward. It was heartbreak in the final against arguably the greatest team that have ever played the game, but without doubt it was an incredibly successful year for Cork, and both brothers will look to go one further next time around and bring home the Liam McCarthy Cup.