04 Oct 2022

Joe Carroll: The Gunners Jim cheers for don’t play at the Emirates

Joe Carroll: The Gunners Jim cheers for don’t play at the Emirates

Eoin Cody of Shamrocks in action against Ian Kenny of Ballygunner during last years Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Final. Pic: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

It’s easily understood if in recent weeks Jim McCourt has been leaning towards hurling more than soccer. He’s been an Oriel Park (now Casey’s Field) regular for over six decades, wears the black-and-white with pride, and as a member of a group comprised of local enthusiasts, has visited dozens of the English League’s grounds over the years.

Some go to Lough Derg, others climb Croagh Patrick, but the boys go to where Accrington Stanley, Crewe Alexandra and the like play their homes. Yes, it’s a pilgrimage of sorts, their way maybe of cleansing their souls.

Just a couple of days after Dundalk had fallen to an embarrassing 3-2 league defeat by bottom-of-the table UCD, Ballygunner won the Waterford senior hurling championship for the ninth year in a row.
That would have provided Jim with some balm.

In the off-chance of there being someone new to these pages, let me explain: McCourt is an avid follower of what he calls the Gunners – a nod, perhaps, to the team presently fighting out of The Emirates.

The club was founded by his uncle, James McGinn, soon after he left Dundalk to go teaching in Waterford.

James, like his nephew – and his nephew’s siblings, Nicky and John, the latter a retired member of the CBS having given outstanding service to the people of Zambia over many years – was a soccer man, but while he would have been a regular at Kilcohan Park when he first went to the Deise, he knew that to get his young charges involved in sport he’d have to take up a caman and sliotar.

James didn’t live to see Ballygunner become the dominant force in Waterford hurling, or, indeed, at All-Ireland level.

But never does a victory go by without him getting a mention.

That was especially the case last year, when, after winning their eighth successive county title, Ballygunner went on to add the Munster and All-Ireland titles to their collection.

They wear red-and-black, their founder having given recognition to his native town and county in his choice of colours.
Ballygunner’s ninth-in-a-row was at the expense of former kingpins, Mount Sion, and they did it decisively, winning by 2-11 to 0-8. No doubt Davy Fitzgerald, back in charge of the Waterford team, will be looking to the county champions to backbone his assault on next year’s championship.

And what about Jim McCourt’s other team?

The UCD setback was the worst of the season, and there’s now a real danger of Stephen O’Donnell’s side missing out on a Euro spot, with at least one of the routes to the continent, on offer through the cup, closing following defeat to Waterford last Friday night.

Injuries are a problem, but it can’t have escaped fans’ notice how well some of the players they cheered for in the good years, the likes of Gannon, Finn, Connolly, McEleney, are playing with other clubs, and doing exceptionally well.

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