TONY O’Driscoll admits that Tadhg MacCarthaigh are in bonus territory.
A season that began with three successive defeats in the Carbery junior football league has built momentum over the summer months.
They now find themselves back in a South West junior A football final for the first time since their 2013 replay loss to St Colum’s.
‘To be honest, we didn’t expect to find ourselves here,’ manager O’Driscoll says.
‘We lost our first three league games of the year and we had a discussion amongst ourselves about where we wanted to be and where we wanted to go.
‘We have lot of young players involved and this is a rebuilding job so we’re ahead of schedule in that respect. Getting to the final is bonus territory.’
This ongoing rebuilding process is one of necessity, O’Driscoll explains.
‘We lost the backbone of the team after last season, five fellas retired, like Sean Murray, Colm O’Sullivan and Brendan Herlihy,’ he points out.
‘We had to replace them and we have been bringing on board some of the younger players. It takes time then to step up to junior level.’
Killian Murray, Eoin O’Donovan, Charlie McCarthy and David O’Connor are among the new, young wave of Caheragh footballers making their presence felt at junior level, and were part of the club’s U21 team that went all the way to the county U21 C football final in July, losing to Donoughmore by a point in the final.
The U21 run was a shot in the arm for the club, boosted numbers at training and instilled that winning feeling, but with an influx of youth at junior level, experience is key. Caheragh are fortunate that they have a core of experienced players who have kept the show on the road the past few seasons and also led the charge in this campaign – captain Shane O’Driscoll, Leon Burke, Micheál O’Donovan, Paddy Kingston, Mark O’Driscoll and Kevin O’Regan.
Then there are Tony’s nephews, the three O’Driscoll brothers – Colm, Kevin and Brian – with the latter two involved with the Cork seniors this past season. Surely, it’s a big boost having inter-county men playing at junior level?
‘To be honest, we just see them three players coming back, albeit very experienced players,’ says O’Driscoll who was a selector last season but is the manager in this campaign.
‘We don’t put them up on a pedestal, we don’t expect them to win games for us, but it is a huge advantage having them given the level they play at and the knowledge they have. It still takes them time to get embedded in junior football, it’s a different paced game.
‘People expect them to go out and win games for us, which isn’t the case.’
That said, having Kevin and Brian back from Cork for this campaign has helped them negotiate the various rounds, particularly the quarter-final against Kilmeen when they came from four points down in the second half to win 1-14 to 1-11.
‘That was a storming last 15 minutes. They had belief in themselves that they can do it,’ O’Driscoll says.
‘The target at the start of the championship was initially to win the first round and not get involved in a relegation battle. After that our target then was to win the next game at all costs and see how far we can get.’
They’ve surprised themselves by going all the way to the final – but the hardest challenge lies in front of them, champions Kilmacabea on Sunday.
‘They will pose a huge challenge. They are West Cork champions for a reason,’ O’Driscoll says.
‘They have an extremely strong panel and have been building for a number of years. They’ve also the experience of being out in the county last year.
‘Kilmacabea have some extremely talented forwards but we are not going there to make up the numbers. We will give it a go.
‘They will be favourites and favourites for a reason, but we have belief in ourselves.’