In 2001 Newcestown played Newmarket in an intermediate football semi-final replay at Coachford and, with four minutes to go, the West Cork side trailed by eight points.
Naturally, the crowds had begun to disperse, but an amazing thing happened when three attacks yielded three goals. Newcestown snatched it in an act of grand larceny and would advance to the final where there would take care of Nemo Rangers with ease.
“This crowd never know when they’re beaten,” deduces the club’s strength and fitness coach Niall McIntyre.
“It’s something about the culture of the area and the club. Individually, they’re winners, they’re very high achievers in their own lives and they have this attitude; a real positive outlook. But I think this particular core group of players are special, they’re in high-profile jobs, are really well educated and have their own successful businesses — and they just don’t give up.”
Indeed, Johnny Crowley (the oldest member of the team at 36) wore number four that day over in Coachford and remarked “there might have been people leaving as we were losing by eight – but they weren’t Newcestown people”.
That never-say-die attitude which seems interwoven into the club’s fabric has seen them escape out of many a scrap, but Crowley reckons it’s unfair to brand the team as just bloody-minded warriors who rely on heart.
“We’ve got some really talented young players, guys who played in the Harty [Cup] with Hamilton High School last year have come into the team and our 24/25 year olds are really after maturing into leaders on the team too. They’re really showing for it this year,” he said.
“There’s a real resilience there and great hunger, yes, but we’ve some talent there too, it’s not just all heart.
“The training we’re after doing as well this year has made a huge difference. “Niall [McIntyre] is after making a big difference, we’ve been very lucky in that we haven’t had that many injuries and that comes down to his training.”
Indeed, McIntyre, born and bred in the parish, has been around the block with successful spells at Erin’s Own and the Cork IT Sigerson teams in recent years. He also coaches underage teams around the county and extols the virtues of minor details and structured training.
“We met on January 4, a Saturday, and we gave a presentation up in the club about where we wanted to go. Forty eight lads turned up and we made a pact whatever it takes, be it hurling or football, we’ll win something this year,” he said.
“We’ve had five phases of strength and conditioning this year, be it weights or circuits, and the lads have bought into it. The extra things like hydration and sleep, we’ve been ultra-careful with those and making sure we’re always on top of it while three nights this week we’ve asked the boys to go to bed one hour earlier. That all adds up.”
Five weeks of intense circuit training intertwined with running around the village laid the foundation for their fitness in the early part of the season. After that it was into specific strength training with four more phases of that bringing them into championship.
And, as McIntyre explains, “From mid-July onwards we’ve been topping up that base. But all the time working on foot quickness and agility with what we call ‘foot innovation drills’. I truly believe the work we’ve done in that area has sharpened us and you can see that in their movement on the pitch. They have a phenomenal side-step, a lot of them can side-step very quickly and move forward very powerfully. Not only that, but it really united the group.
“These lads all went to the one primary school [in Newcestown], there’s only two in the whole panel who didn’t go to school there so they’re a very tight bunch anyway, they would’ve all went to either St Brogan’s or Hammies in Bandon then afterwards, so they’ve been together all the way up and are the best of friends on and off the field.
“I’ve trained a lot of different groups, CIT Sigerson, Erin’s Own senior hurling and without a doubt a doubt Newcestown are the closest bunch and bring the most intensity to any training session I’ve ever seen. That’s the way they are.”
Ballyhea represent a huge challenge tomorrow, and having played seven times in championship in 10 years, they’re well accustomed to one another.
“We would have been expected to beat them maybe three or four years ago, but something has happened there in the last two years; there’s been a resurgence, they’ve found themselves again and they’re not the Ballyhea of three or four years,” McIntyre warned.
“The fact they’ve beaten us in the league this year and beat us in championship two years ago — let alone beat Cloyne in the last four — gives them that little edge over us because of recent meetings and it’s good, for our sake, it’s like that.”
While he’s tasted his fair amount of success wearing the bainisteoir’s bib, a win tomorrow would be up there with the best of them all.
“I was with Erin’s Own when they won two county titles, they celebrated, but Newcestown will explode! I saw it there when they went up senior football in 2010, Corny Mahony’s pub won’t know what hit it. The whole village will be in there.
“It would be just amazing if we won. We’d be the only dual senior club west of the viaduct and, maybe, the most amazing thing about it all is that most of the players are on both teams, hurling and football. The positions might be a bit different, but the personnel doesn’t change, for the most part.
“In January, we believed we could do it. I put a lot into this team and I wouldn’t have done it unless I felt I was getting a buy-in and the results could be got. We’ve just one more result to get now.”
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