Developing the Dripsey dream

You’re rolling down a country road and you notice the bunting: a small club in a county final.
Developing the Dripsey dream

The blue and red flags past the Angler’s Rest in Cork don’t lie.

Dripsey are in tonight’s county intermediate hurling final against Charleville. You may remember their split with Inniscarra, but how have they fared since they left those headlines behind?

Over coffee in Griffin’s Garden Centre, Tomás Ryan and John Buckley of Dripsey are keen to stress that they’ve moved on.

All of them.

“You came in by the Angler’s Rest, that’s the start of the parish,” says Ryan. “Go a mile back the road past here (Griffin’s) to the end of the parish.

“Go north to Fox’s Bridge for the other boundary, and back down then to Tower Bridge. Berrings, Matehy, Tower, Cloghroe, Dripsey and Leemount. That’s Inniscarra parish. It’s huge.” There were four schools serving the parish but before Dripsey there was only one U12 GAA team to cater for all of those kids. Ryan points out that in comparison, there were four soccer clubs providing an outlet, and that interest in hurling and football in Dripsey was waning. There had been a time cars were filled with players going to train in Inniscarra, but that had dwindled before Dripsey GAA club was established.

Foreign territory for all involved. Those in Dripsey learned that all you need to begin a club is to apply formally to your county board with a list of fifteen players, but infrastructure is taken for granted with the GAA: playing grounds. Underage set-up. They had to contend with an embargo on underage players joining them - any Dripsey youngster who’d played with Inniscarra couldn’t join his local team, which might have been a mortal blow.

They went to the High Court to fight the embargo but when the matter went before a newly-established body, the Disputes Resolution Authority, it upheld the embargo.

“Eventually (former GAA President) Christy Cooney helped to mediate a resolution,” says John Buckley. “But the youngsters involved spent nearly the two years on the line. Anyway, that’s all history now.”

The pay-off was their first ever game as a club. Do they remember? Is it a day you could forget?

“A junior league game against Ballincollig but a championship crowd,” says Buckley. “Excitement, flags, all of that.

“By any standards the team was weak enough, but it was like winning an All-Ireland final. People ran onto the field, hugging the players.” “People were crying,” says Ryan. “It was hugely emotional.”

They’ve built since then. Dripsey have combined forces with another nearby club, Gleann Na Laoi, at underage level. With only a dozen kids coming into the primary school every year, they had to.

“This is the first year of it,” says Buckley. “And it’s going well. The most important thing is that the kids are getting a game.

“When we started off we promised that all the kids would get a game, and we couldn’t fulfil that promise unless we combined.”

Co-operation has been a feature of their brief history, they point out.

“Other clubs were very good to us,” says Buckley. “The bulk of Muskerry, in fairness, weighed in behind us immediately,” says Ryan.

Within a few weeks of starting, their great rivals, Grenagh, were in touch offering the use of their hall and their indoor equipment. Donoughmore offered use of a pitch.

Others lent a hand: the two local pubs were very strong for the club, and Quish’s, the Supervalu in Ballincollig, have been huge supporters “The kids coming up now, they know nothing about Inniscarra,” says Buckley. “They’ve always been Dripsey, and they’ve never played for anybody else.” Buckley says the key to their survival was the “staggered” victories, a trophy every couple of years. Most people are aware they won an All-Ireland junior hurling club title in 2009, but there were shots of adrenaline - a county junior B championship in football in 2005 - to keep them moving past the disappointments.

“In 2005 we went down in the first round of the junior hurling championship to Blarney,” says Buckley.

“Blarney’s second team, at that. It was very disappointing. But we went on, 2006 and 2007 we did better in football and in 2008 we beat Cloughduv and Grenagh, our old rivals, in the same year in the hurling. Even in our years with Inniscarra we would have found it hard to beat Cloughduv, and winning then was a great boost.”

Tonight they’ll be underdogs, but Buckley says they’re looking for a performance and they’ll see where that gets them. “We’ve been in two relegation finals the last couple of years, and to be honest we were thinking the same about this season after we lost to Meelin in the first round, but suddenly it took off. We had 28 training the other night, and there were three players missing even then.” One last question: where did those colours come from?

“Quite simple,” says Ryan. “Red for the county, blue for the parish.”

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