ANTHONY Seymour has ownership of the Castlehaven number one jersey and he’s in no mood to relinquish it.
He has started the Haven’s three Premier SFC group games and will be between the posts again in the county semi-final this Sunday night at Páirc Uí Rinn (7pm throw-in).
He’s now their first-choice goalkeeper, but he has been in this position before and ended up back on the bench, so he’s taking nothing for granted.
‘In 2018 when we had the run to the semi-finals against Duhallow, then I probably would have thought it (that I was first choice), but maybe that was my own downfall,’ Seymour said.
Two years ago, Seymour started on the bench in Castlehaven’s opening Cork SFC game against Dohenys. Colm O’Driscoll got injured in the first half, Seymour took over and held the position as Haven played six more championship games, including that three-match semi-final saga against Duhallow.
In 2019, he was back on the bench, as the experienced Paudie Hurley started Castlehaven’s two SFC games, against Fermoy and Carbery Rangers.
‘There has always been that competition since I joined, and that’s healthy,’ Seymour said.
‘If you take your eye off the ball, there’s Paudie, and at times Colm O’Driscoll who was a Cork minor goalkeeper, waiting, so none of us could afford to ease up. As a group we have all benefitted from having that competition.’
The battle for the number one jersey has kept all the Haven net-minders on their toes but, on the other hand, knowing that you are the first-choice goalkeeper is also a huge confidence booster. Perhaps that’s why Seymour seems to have stepped up this season, because he knows he is now first choice.
‘If someone tells you that you are number one and that nothing will impact that apart from your long-term performances, it gives you confidence to try new things and to get the head back up if you do make a mistake. As a goalkeeper it’s a brutal position if you do make a mistake because you’ll cost your team three points every time,’ Seymour explained.
‘You need confidence as a goalkeeper and it makes everything else much easier. There is a fine line, though. If you’re number two you don’t want to be discouraged that you’ll never get in there either. As a goalkeeper it’s great when you know that you’re part of the long-term plan and not a quick-fix for one game.’
Seymour’s form in the Premier SFC group wins against Carbery Rangers, Newcestown and Ilen Rovers has been impressive. He’s playing with confidence. In the opening game against Rangers he pulled off two crucial saves and he’s built on that. In the second game, against Newcestown, as the latter chased the match, a delivery was dropped into the Castlehaven square but Seymour was there to take control and avert the danger.
The format of the championship, and the tighter schedule, has also helped him.
‘In other years you play in April and you have to wait then until August again, but getting that run of consistent games this year means you can get a rhythm going with your backs, a rhythm going with your kick-outs and you get confidence off the back of that. This benefits a goalkeeper down to the ground. Maybe a midfielder might like a break after covering 12 kilometres in a game but as a goalkeeper you can’t ask for anything more,’ Seymour said.
Right now, Castlehaven are where they want to be. They’re in a county semi-final and moving along nicely. Seymour is where he wants to be too, between the posts and playing in big championship games – and that’s why the Bishopstown man transferred to the West Cork club in 2012.
An All-Ireland U21 winner in 2009, Seymour decided in 2010 that he would leave his home club because he wanted to play championships games at the highest level (senior) and felt he wouldn’t get that chance with Bishopstown.
‘After U21 in 2009 I was with Bishopstown the following year, I was playing between outfield and goal, Ken O’Halloran was in goal for Bishopstown and was in with Cork too. He is only two years older than me so I was thinking that no matter how long I hang in here I probably will always be second in line,’ he explained.
‘When I looked to move, I didn’t want to move anywhere close because there is no issue with my home club and I have so many great memories there too. I said I would go further afield so that that would be happy enough to leave me go.’
Seymour’s friendship with Castlehaven’s Seanie Cahalane opened the door to the west. Seymour, Cahalane, Colin Crowley from Skibbereen and Niall Coakley from Carrigaline were amongst a gang that spent the summer of 2010 in Boston. Seymour and Cahalane stayed in touch – and then an opportunity presented itself.
‘I went training with Castlehaven to test it out and, to be honest, it’s a different world and I loved it,’ Seymour said.
‘It’s all football and it struck something in me and it brought my enjoyment back. Once the transfer papers went in it took another two years to get going.’
He has been playing with Castlehaven since 2012 and there have been good days and bad. This year he hopes will be a good one as James McCarthy’s men are two wins from a county title. Their form gives them hope.
As does the talent that they can call on – Mark Collins, Brian Hurley, Michael Hurley, Damien Cahalane and Conor Cahalane, all inter-county men and all vital to Haven’s chances this Sunday.
Considering the players they have, there’s an argument to be made that Castlehaven have underachieved. Certainly in 2019, they were out after Round 2.
They haven’t reached the county senior final since the 2015 replay loss to Nemo Rangers and their last SFC title was in 2013. Granted, the team has changed since then, but the Hurleys, Mark Collins, Damien Cahalane, Conor Cahalane, Roland Whelton, John O’Regan and Darragh Cahalane all featured in the 2015 finals and are all still involved now.
‘Even before I arrived down we were in a county final in 2011, we went back-to-back in 2012 and 2013. When you look at the age profile of that team – and Mark and Brian being there and so young – we do think we should have performed much better since 2013. Okay, we fell just short of the line in 2015 but we never kicked on. I know we lost some big players but you would have hoped that we had enough experience to take it on,’ Seymour said.
‘We know, as a group, and there’s an honesty amongst us, that we expect more from ourselves and we want to win more. You play football for a short time, you want to make the most of it and we do.’
Castlehaven are keen to make the most out of their opportunity this year and that’s why Sunday’s Premier SFC semi-final in Páirc Uí Rinn is so important. It’s a chance to lay down a marker and another opportunity for Seymour to show why he’s Haven’s number one.