1997 was one of the one of the greatest years of Drumshanbo volleyball. They followed up a thrilling cadette A,B double in 1996 by reaching the senior A and B finals.
Both finals were thrillers and in the B they won the first set. Despite winning one of the all time best cadette finals later that year, nobody thought it would take 15 years to reach their second ever Senior B final.
It finally has arrived as, next Thursday in UCD, Drumshanbo take on the rising volleyball power that is Davis College Mallow.
It has been a great season for the school so far. The girls won two difficult matches. The senior C boys team beat all other schools but were knocked out by Drumshanbo B. Drumshanbo B cruised into the quarter final and, after a dreadful start, fought all the way to be just pipped by Mallow. Mallow easily won their semi-final afterwards and now face Drumshanbo’s top team.
Drumshanbo’s top string, like Mallow, have powered to the final unbeaten and could be just the panel that lands another trophy in Leitrim. Mallow’s quarter and semi first sets have been outstanding, winning each by 25-8. This alone serves warning that they are a formidable team. They have also hosted Irish squad training for the past two years and four from the school travelled to France with the Irish juniors earlier this year. One of these players did not even make first six in the quarter final. Instead three students born abroad complete the first six!
Three years ago this same Mallow beat Drumshanbo A Juniors 30-28 in a set! This year in Junior A, Mallow beat Drumshanbo to get to their first ever A final. So they are rising and rising.
Last year, at cadette A, where most of the current players would have played, Drumshanbo did better than Mallow and the tight fight Drumshanbo’s B team made against Mallow this week in Senior suggests that Drumshanbo’s first string have a definite chance.
Drumshanbo have been only starting two of the junior A from three years ago although the team has been picked on best training attendance. Brendan McCormack and Diarmuid McKiernan are the defensive core of the team. Shane McNama is older and the most experienced and all three started in the cadette final two years ago.
Setters Jamie Christie, Shane Gillespie and Niall Sorohan all gained in confidence in last year’s cadette campaign and made a major difference in the semi-final. Gary Regan is the surprise starter. Promoted because of attendance his power caused major problems to Dungarvan in the semi. Work commitments caused Shane Walsh, Ryan Heron and Michael Foley to miss training.
Otherwise all three can match the first six as proved in the semi. Shane Flynn has always been first six in Drumshanbo B teams and chose to make the jump this year. His serve causes problems to all. Barry McNama, Shane brother the team’s only cadette can mix it well with all the others.
Senior B semi-final: Drumshanbo bridge a 15 year into final
Drumshanbo VS beat Colaiste Caoimhin Dungarvan (Waterford)25-16 21-25 25-18
Emotions ran high in this encounter as Drumshanbo won a pulsating game in a three set thriller. The first set started totally in Drumshanbo hands as they ran into a quick 10-3 lead through great work at the net from Gary Regan. From 10, Dungarvan started to fight for every point. However Jamie Christie wasn’t fazed as he continued to set excellent balls to the wing for Diarmuid McKiernan to hit winners.
A great partnership was struck up between the two throughout the game. Shane Walsh made an immediate effect on the game by hitting long volleys into the back court. With Shane McNama pouncing at the net and blocking all of Dungarvan’s attempts at winners, Drumshanbo strutted over the line by a comfortable margin .
The second set saw a rejuvenated Dungarvan side come out, a total different team from the first set. Drumshanbo made two further changes to the original set-up and looked uneasy.
For the majority of the set, it was point for point. However as Dungarvan’s play radically improved, Drumshanbo found it hard to compete with the rejuvenated side, once sliding to a 14-22 deficit. Michael Foley came on and immediately tidied up their back court. Drumshanbo made a substantial come-back but, not enough as Dungarvan levelled the tie.
In the third set thriller, Drumshanbo reverted to their original set-up. Dungarvan raced into a 3-0 lead but good blocks by Shane Gillespie and Brendan McCormack got Drumshanbo back into it. Gary Regan hit three winning spikes in a row without reply to give his team a slight advantage. This set was another tense affair until 15-13 when Jamie Christie began to serve. Through one of his aces, and Ryan Heron’s determination to hit any ball at the net, Drumshanbo stomped into an 18-13 lead to give themselves some breathing space. Shane McNama rallied his troops through the final stages of the game and very well demonstrated how to lead a team with his stellar performance.
Senior B quarter-final: Drumshanbo Bs fight to end
Davis College Mallow A beat Drumshanbo VS B 25-8 29-27
For the whole first set, it looked like the whole Drumshanbo panel was shell-shocked by the very early loss of captain Shane McGovern. Shane had just blocked for a winner when he twisted his knee on the way to ground and had to watch in pain as his side fell apart in his absence. Declan Beirne hit one great hit from back court and Alan McTigue covered McGovern’s place well but the team truly missed their oldest and tallest player and his great net ability.
What a contrast with the second set. Owen Duignan was started and his ability had an immediate impact as he set up Brian Moran for two of what were to be many winning hits in the set. Drumshanbo led 5-2 but were caught at 8.
Trailing 9-10 John Beirne came back on and he proceeded to set well and also to put extra pressure on Mallow with his spikes. Drumshanbo hit their best patch. Stephen Carty chased an impossible ball way of court, crashed into a spectator but put the ball into a suitable spot for a winner.
Damien McLoughlin went into peak hitting and blocking form. Mallow tried a time out to break Owen Dolan’s service run but Dolan served them to 20-15 ahead.
There, however, it peaked. Trailing 20-23 Mallow got the next three points. Drumshanbo served for the set at 24 but then had to save match points at 25, 26 and 27. They did. There followed a rally that went on and on and on for over 40 touches but the steadier Mallow won it and then the match at the fourth chance.
Drumshanbo B panel (Serves in brackets) John Beirne (5), Carty (5), McTigue (3), Brian Mooney, Moran (5), Duignan (3), Owen Dolan (6), McGovern, Declan Beirne, Christopher Baxter, McLoughlin (6), Conor Coggins.