With the clock ticking down, deep in to injury time, an amalgamation of Douglas Player’s lined the goal to face a 21 yard free. They had a 3 point, lead and knew if they could stop this final Blackrock effort, they would be able to claim the first Under 21 Hurling Championship in the club’s history…
The journey started in early in August. Douglas lined up with a number of players who the year before had claimed the Minor Hurling title and with a large number graduating to representing the club in the Senior Ranks, optimism was high, that this good be a good year for Douglas. A further point that seemed like it would benefit Douglas was the removing of the Divisional Championships from the 21 grade. Now the competition was going to be a full county championship and with this Douglas were drawn to face Courcey Rovers in the first round.
Having Senior Manager Willy Coveney spearheading the under 21 management team proved crucial as it meant from early in the season the 21 team was allowed to gel together and work on aspects of the game that simply are not possible when the management teams are separate. Willy was joined by fellow senior selector Dave McSweeney as well as Brian Boyle, Patrick Scannell and Ray Keating who had all been involved with Minor teams around that period of time.
Courcey Rovers were not able to put up much resistance against a rampant Douglas team in the first round of the competition. The scoreline of 4-26 to 0-15 did not flatter the city side and it served as a loud warning to all other contenders; This Douglas team were to be taken seriously.
The second round saw Douglas travel to the Mallow GAA complex to face Charleville. Managing the balance between preparing teams for assaults on both senior and 21 grades is no easy task, but the management ensured, that the players were fresh and focused. A rather lacklustre start to the game saw Douglas pull away from Charleville without every really getting out of second gear. Brian Turnbull, Shane Kingston and Mark O’Connor did the bulk of the Douglas scoring, with Ross Howell, Donnchadh Murphy, Arron Baldwin and Cathal Sheehan ensuring Douglas remained on course for victory. In the end a 7 point win was secured, the only blot on the copybook being a couple of late goals conceded that caused the scoreboard to reflect a game that was much tighter than it was in reality.
The mood around Douglas Quarter Final against Na Piarsigh was somewhat solemn. Just two days earlier, the Douglas Senior Hurlers, containing many of the under 21 team were defeated by Glen Rovers in the county Semi Final. Inexplicably the Cork county board persisted with the Under 21 fixture a mere 48 hours later. Anybody who was worried about a potential hangover from the defeat two days earlier soon had those worries eased. Douglas began the game at breakneck speed and tore their Northside rivals to pieces. Mark Dolan, Sean Powter and Liam Dineen all shone early as Douglas raced into a lead that was never likely to be in danger. Goalkeeper Andrew Cullinane was a calming presence while Captain Luke McGrath made sure that a lively Na Piarsigh full forward line was kept in check. By the time referee Brian Murphy blew his whistle for the final time, Douglas had come out victors by a margin of no less than 29 points. A remarkable feat given the disappointment felt by this group just a short period beforehand.
The semi-final brought a familiar foe, Glen Rovers. Douglas saw this not only as an opportunity to reach their second ever Under 21 Hurling final, having previously qualified in 2005, but also as an opportunity to avenge their defeat to the same opposition. Douglas welcomed back tenacious defender, Nathan Walsh back for the game. Nathan had missed the win over Na Piarsigh, but was flawless in the semi-final battle. Others to impress that day were Eoghan O’Brien, Diarmuid O’Mahony and Shane Donegan, who had also received from an injury hit year. Douglas soon found their stride after throw in and began to dominate the Glen. Classy scores complimented by ferocious defending ensured that Douglas would book their spot in the final. The final score was 1-20 to 1-10 and so a final against near neighbours Blackrock beckoned.
The under 21 final was played very late in the year. The 13th of November is not the ideal time of year to be playing hurling, but luckily the day itself was dry and allowed for some quality hurling. Douglas kept up the trend of their championship performances and started extremely well. An early injury meant that Eoin O’Sullivan was introduced and his presence caused all sorts of difficulty for the Blackrock defenders. Conor Kingston showed tremendous leadership as Douglas secured a 6 point lead entering into the half time break. Early in the second half, Douglas continued to dominate and when Brian Turnbull created a an opportunity for Shane Kingston, the Cork Senior Star, wasted no time in sending the ball crashing in to the back of the net. Douglas’s lead at one point was as much as 11 points, thanks in large part to Mark O’Connor’s 4 points from play. However Blackrock were not going to go down without a fight and they continued to battle. A fortuitous goal really allowed them back in to the game and so as the time was ticking down Blackrock were awarded a controversial just outside the 20 meter line. Blackrock had already scored their goal from a similar position and there was a collective holding of breath as the free was struck. Alas Andrew Cullinane got the vital touch and blocked the ball and with that the referee ended the contest.
Douglas had defeated Blackrock, with three points to spare. They were crowned Cork Under 21 Hurling County Champions for the very fist time.
Scorers for Douglas:
M O’Connor 0-7 (0-3 f), B Turnbull 0-6 (0-4 f), S Kingston 1-2, M Dolan, L Dineen, R Howell 0-1 each.
A Cullinane; L McGrath, S Donegan, N Walsh; R Howell, D Murphy, C Sheehan; M O’Connor, L Dineen; C Kingston, M Dolan, S Kingston; B Turnbull, E O’Brien, D O’Mahony.
E O’Sullivan for O’Brien (2 inj), D Ward for Sheehan (50), S Powter for D O’Mahony (59).
Special. From speaking to those in the club who grew up with Caolan, those that were his friends, his teammates, there is a desire to find a word to sum him up, but there isn’t one word alone that can do him justice. Special is a close as it comes and even that comes nowhere close to summing up Caolan.
This past week marked six years since the passing of Caolan. In his 18 years on this planet, Caolan left behind a legacy that people who live five times as long could only hope to replicate.
From a sporting point of view, it was very apparent early on, that we had got a gem. Following in the footsteps of his brothers Odhran and Eanna, Caolan joined the street leagues and made an immediate impression. His friend Brian Cuthbert, recalls a time representing Sligo in Under 9 hurling, when someone who he didn’t know was dominating the game. It was his first interaction with Caolan and on this particularly hot day, he remembers this guy with an unusual name, getting stuck in and taking control of the game. Not one to hold back, Caolan, did as he always did and gave his everything, resulting in the heat eventually getting the better of him and he crouched down in exhaustion. Water bottles weren’t necessarily the norm for Street leagues at the time, so one of the coaches asked the parents if anyone had a drink. One of the fathers duly stepped up and after Caolan had taken a few drinks, he was ready to go again. Brian, also feeling the heat went looking for a drink but was told he would have to wait until he worked as hard Caolan before he deserved one. Even in Street Leagues, Caolan set standards.
Personally, I struggle to remember much from my street league days, yet Caolan made such an impression, everyone remembers him from this time. Whether it was Caolan being able to convince Daithi Curtin’s parents to allow him to join the Street Leagues or Caolan, taking the unprecedented step of playing for the age above him as well as his own age on Saturday mornings, resulting in him collecting two trophies on Finals day, something that kids could only dream of, Caolan always had a positive impact.
Caolan’s sporting brilliance continued through the underage ranks. It was mentioned a lot over the last week, that Caolan always had an air of confidence about him. Nothing seemed to faze him. When someone from the ‘Barrs started throwing his weight around in an underage championship game, other players seemed reluctant to take a stand. Not Caolan. He may have been one of the smallest fellas on the pitch that day, but it didn’t stop him standing up for his teammates, taking a stand, and quieting down the brash opponent.
Caolan was blessed with the Mulrooney sidestep. Another teammate and friend of Caolan’s, Alan Cadogan remembers the ‘iconic’ sidestep. It doesn’t seem to be something you can teach, but it is something each of the Mulrooney children and likely the parents have. Caolan perfected it.
It was impossible not to like Caolan. Martin Barry recalls a challenge game up in Urlingford one time. Martin, as he tends to be, was intense about the challenge ahead and expected to be named centre back. When the team was announced, Caolan was named to the number six position, as he so often was, so Martin had a word with him before the game. “Don’t be going running up the field and trying to score now and making me look bad from the times, I played Centre Back ,” Martin pleaded. There was almost a smirk on Caolan’s face, every time he got the ball. At one point, Caolan ran the length of the field and slotted a score from 20 metres out. As Caolan ran back to his position Martin, was absolutely bulling. As he went to give Caolan a piece of his mind after the game, a huge grin broke out on Caolan’s face. He would back his teammates up no matter what, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t wind them up whenever he got the chance as well. Martin, failed at stayed angry with Caolan and the two of them laughed about it all the way back to Cork.
Centre back was the position that Caolan made his own. Likely the most difficult position on the pitch to play, Caolan was able to excel there. It was the position he played in the Minor County final. Douglas were beaten that day, but as he always did, Caolan performed. The number six jersey seemed to be huge on him, but no challenge ever seemed too big for him. After Caolan’s passing the club decided it would not use the number six jersey at Minor level for the foreseeable future to honour Caolan. When Douglas captured the Minor football title in 2013, the centre back that day, wore the number 26. The same when we won the Minor Hurling Title in 2015. Shane Donegan lined out at centre back wearing 26. Those attending the game, not from Douglas, may have found it strange, but everyone in the club knew that Caolan was still there with us. Still fighting alongside us, like he always did.
As I spoke to people this week about Caolan, there seems to be one frustration. There is a frustration that they can't find the words to accurately represent Caolan the way they still see him. Passionate, confident, friendly, genuine, positive, centre of attention, friend. These are all words that are used to describe him and yet everyone seems feel those words alone are not enough. Special. Special is as close as we can come. Simply put Caolan was special. He had a way about him that he would treat everyone the same. It didn’t matter whether you were the most popular kid, or the quietest, Caolan seemed to be friends with everyone. He was always there for his friends. To this day, a number of them still wear wristbands with his name on it. It’s their way of keeping someone who meant so much to them, close.
A person like Caolan will never be forgotten. Whether its seeing someone dominating the centre back position in Douglas colours, watching his sisters Seosai and Muiread play camogie, watching his brothers Odhran and Eanna when they eventually come back to Cork and resume playing with the club, seeing someone with the ‘Caolan’ wristband or seeing his parents Eugene and Margaret, we will remember Caolan. He touched people in a way that makes those that knew him thankful to have had the opportunity. He will live on in our memories, in our club until we get to see him again. Forget icon of the week, Caolan was just an icon, a legend. He was special.
*New Year, New Opportunity*
In 2018 If your looking to
Improve fitness ✅
Improve strength ✅
Improve posture ✅
Improve mobility/stability ✅
Feel and look better ✅
Improve your knowledge of training and nutrition ✅
Looking for a challenging workout where you are coached on correctly performing exercises and your progress is monitored on a weekly basis?
Then read below ⬇️
In 2018 I will be launching a second class on Saturday mornings from 10-11.
Both Monday and Saturday classes will run simultaneously in blocks of 6 weeks (1st block 5 weeks). I will hold a talk on training and nutrition on the 1st night of each block giving people the opportunity to weigh in (optional) and set an individual plan in place for the following six weeks.
5 week block. Starting Saturday the 6th
€10 pay as you go (either class)
There will be a limited number per class so booking is essential to secure your place. Gift vouchers also available.