Castlehaven braced for 'huge test' against Valleys, says Collins

October 31st, 2021 8:20 AM

By Ger McCarthy

Castlehaven's Mark Collins has stepped back from inter-county football this year.

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MARK Collins is anxious to atone for Castlehaven’s last visit to Páirc Uí Chaoimh ahead of this Sunday’s Bon Secours Cork Premier SFC quarter-final with Valley Rovers (2pm throw-in).

Sixty-four days separate Castlehaven’s last game at Cork GAA HQ – defeat to Nemo Rangers in the 2020 Premier SFC final on August 29th – and this Sunday’s quarter-final, but Collins’ focus is on Valleys and the present, not the past.

‘We are treating this quarter-final like any other game but obviously, we are delighted to get back to the Park as it’s where every club player wants to be playing,’ Collins says.

‘It is as good as any pitch in the country and there will be no excuses playing there on Sunday.’ Valley Rovers will provide Castlehaven with their toughest assignment of an already difficult Premier SFC campaign. Beaten in the last eight of the county by Carbery Rangers (2016) and Duhallow (2017, 2018 and 2020), the Brinny club, with former CIT manager Paul Holland on board, is desperate to make the breakthrough.

Rovers’ 4-14 to 2-18 Division 2A County League victory over Castlehaven in Moneyvollahane – albeit the hosts were missing their Cork contingent – earlier in the year told Haven supporters all they needed to know about a club looking to make their mark in the Premier SFC.

‘Sunday is going to be a huge test for us,’ Collins says.

‘We know exactly what Valleys are going to bring. I was watching that league game earlier in the year and they were very impressive that day. Paul Holland is involved with them and we have had some good battles with Paul’s teams including CIT over the years.

‘We know that they are going to be very well prepared. It is going to be a right battle on Sunday. At this stage, last year, Valleys played Duhallow at the quarter-final stage and were very unlucky not to get through so we know that they are a very good side.’

Castlehaven’s path to the last eight of the championship has been just as arduous. Any team to emerge with a perfect record from a group containing Newcestown, Éire Óg and Carbery Rangers will have had to fight every inch for those three wins.

Cathal Maguire and Conor Cahalane goals helped the Haven see off Newcestown 2-12 to 1-10 prior to a high-scoring clash with Éire Óg that ended 2-19 to 2-16 in the Haven’s favour. A one-point victory over Carbery Rangers courtesy of a Mark Collins injury-time winner in Leap a fortnight ago saw the winners pushed to the absolute limit.

‘They were three great (group) games,’ Collins says.

‘That game with Rosscarbery a couple of weeks ago was a real championship local derby! We have played Carbery Rangers three or four times over the last couple of years and there has never been anything between us. We were absolutely delighted to come away with a win.

‘Newcestown was a week after the county final and a huge game for us. Mentally, it was always going to be tough but we were delighted with the way we reacted to the defeat to Nemo. The Éire Óg match quite honestly could have gone either way. It was a very open, free-flowing game and completely different to the other two games. ‘Everyone was absolutely delighted to get the three wins and hopefully that has set us up nicely for Valley Rovers on Sunday.’

Damien Cahalane missed the Haven’s previous outing against Carbery Rangers but it’s hoped the Cork senior hurler will be fit enough to tog out in Sunday’s quarter-final. In Cahalane’s absence, emerging talent such as Andrew Whelton and Robbie Minihane have been staking claims for starting berths.

‘That’s another massive benefit of the group stages, being able to blood some of the younger lads,’ Collins adds.

‘We made a semi-final against Duhallow in 2019 and there are five or six new fellas who have come in since then and played championship football which is a huge boost. They (younger players) are really putting their hands up and making training competitive. That’s pushing us all on which is a great thing for Castlehaven.’

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