Green shoots of recovery in Cork’s forgotten club

A COMMUNAL green area in a Cork suburb doesn’t look like an obvious theatre of dreams.

Not when you consider the GAA club superpowers operating nearby: Nemo Rangers, serial winners of the All-Ireland club title in football.

Or St Finbarr’s, who have won All-Ireland club titles in both codes and developed a cottage industry in farming out intercounty senior hurling managers.

But an unremarkable patch of grass in Deerpark housing estate is our focus this morning, because it may be the launching pad for the revival of a club whose eminence predates both Nemo and the Barrs.

Redmonds were winning Cork senior hurling titles when postboxes in this country were still imperial red in appearance, but the demographics of their Barrack Street base have been unkind in the last couple of decades.

A general tendency among young married couples to move out of the city to the satellite towns and suburbs on the outskirts isn’t doing much for Redmonds’ supply line of young players, leaving them reliant on an ageing core group of members to keep fulfilling their fixtures. With no underage players coming through to replenish the natural wastage, the Sporting Reds are struggling to keep afloat.

Hence their embrace of Games on the Green, an initiative run by the Cork County Board’s urban development officer, John Neville.

He’s trying to rekindle interest in hurling and football in the city’s urban areas, and Redmonds are struggling for numbers.

A marriage made in Barrack Street, then.

“We’re in the same position we’ve been in for the last few years,” says Sean Holland of Redmonds. Struggling. “John Neville got onto us to see if we’d be interested in getting going with it, and it’s win-win for us, if you like. We’ve nothing to lose with it.”

Hence the Saturday morning sessions in Deerpark housing estate, where Neville has helped Redmonds re-launch their underage section in Games on the Green. It’s a small start, but it’s a start.

“The residents there have been very good, they have no problems with us using the space, and we had nine kids there last Saturday week, which we were very happy with it for a start.

“The idea is to keep it going. John [Neville] has been very good with that whole idea of urban development generally, and he’s trying to involve the weaker clubs in leagues where you might play eight-a-side or whatever, with mixed age groups, which would be good for the games in the city.

“What we’re hoping for, obviously, is to have lads feed through later on into our junior team.”

It’s not accidental that Redmonds are playing in Deerpark, either.

They may be sandwiched by club behemoths on the southside of Cork city, but they’re mindful of what their history entitles them to.

“Our traditional area would be Greenmount, Barrack Street, Douglas Street and so on,” says Holland.

“But the likes of the Barrs and Nemo have been taking those players for years, which is part of the reason we’re in the situation we’re in with the club as a whole.

“With those clubs drawing from the area we’re trying to attract lads the whole time. It’s easy to say, ‘it’d be terrible if Redmonds disappeared’, but that’s the problem.

“It’s an easy thing to say but there are only three or four of us keeping the thing going, whether that’s coaching teams, making sandwiches, first aid, or booking bands for the bar.

“I’ll be honest, it’s getting on top of me at this stage, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it next year, but look, my father was a Redmonds man, so what can you do?”

The club’s adult team plays junior C, and Holland says there’s an annual sweat as to whether the City Division of the GAA in Cork will abolish the grade (“Though if you go down to Beara they’re playing junior D,” he points out).

“Another generation of Redmonds players may be strolling down to the green areas in Deerpark, but the challenge now is to keep the flag flying until they graduate to the adult grade.

“If you know anyone who wants to play a bit of junior football, tell them to get in touch with me,” is Sean Holland’s sign-off.

He laughed when he said it, but he was serious as well. After the dream, the reality.

* Contact: Twitter: MikeMoynihanEx

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