Four-in-a-row for All-Ire­land win­ning céilí band

Irish Examiner - County - - News - Pet O’Con­nell

A north Cork céilí band has made Fleadh Cheoil his­tory by win­ning a record four All-Ire­land ti­tles in a row.

The feat, never pre­vi­ously ac­com­plished by a céilí band at any age level, was achieved by the Freemount-based Cross­fields Céilí Band, who lifted the un­der-18 tro­phy at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉire­ann.

The band, with mem­bers drawn from within a 10-mile ra­dius of the vil­lage, rep­re­sents Craobh Chróná in branch of Comhal­tas Ce­oltóirí Éire­ann and is un­der the in­struc­tion of Alan Finn.

He put their con­sis­tency at the top level of youth céilí band com­pe­ti­tion down to the young mu­si­cians’ ded­i­ca­tion.

“They play with great heart in the mu­sic and they’re not play­ing for medals - they play to en­joy it,” he said.

“If a medal comes, it’s great, and if not, they’re still play­ing mu­sic out­side of that. They wouldn’t be medal-hun­gry.”

Finn is well used to Fleadh Cheoil suc­cess, hav­ing re­cently led the Shan­drum Céilí Band to three-in-a-row All-Ire­land glory at se­nior level, as well as teach­ing Craobh Chrónáin’s un­der-15 cham­pi­ons.

But whereas a win­ning se­nior band is au­to­mat­i­cally qual­i­fied for the next year’s fi­nal, un­der-age groups must start from scratch each year and qual­ify first at county and then pro­vin­cial level.

“It makes it hard be­cause Mun­ster is such a strong com­pe­ti­tion,” said Finn, who said the band mem­bers’ long ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing to­gether had been cru­cial to their suc­cess. “Some of them would have played to­gether ever since they were un­der 12s; a lot of them would have won an un­der 15 All-Ire­land, and some would have done threein-a-row un­der 15 as well.”

A fourth con­sec­u­tive ti­tle, how­ever, is unique.

“The four-in-a-row had never been done in any band com­pe­ti­tion, un­der 15, 18, or se­nior.”

The pos­si­bil­ity of achiev­ing the record feat, though, was not al­lowed to dom­i­nate the young­sters’ prepa­ra­tions for this year’s com­pe­ti­tion.

“I didn’t men­tion the fourin-a-row to any of the band mem­bers,” said Finn. “They knew, but I didn’t want to put them un­der pres­sure.”

The Cross­fields, com­pris­ing Shane Curtin on ac­cor­dion, Hannah O’Fla­herty (fid­dle), Emma Moyni­han (flute), Dar­ragh O’Shea (banjo), Ciara Hart­nett (flute), Dar­ragh Two- mey (pi­ano), Anna Buck­ley (fid­dle), Leah Mur­phy (fid­dle), Marie O’Neill (con­certina), and Rónán Buck­ley on drums, will still have seven of their cur­rent mem­bers aged un­der 18 for next year’s Fleadh and with a steady stream of young tal­ent com­ing through the ranks in Freemount, the signs are “hopeful”, says Finn, for a tilt at five-in-a-row.

The Cross­fields Céilí Band, who won their fourth All-Ire­land un­der-18 ti­tle in a row at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉire­ann in Drogheda.

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