FACING Castlehaven is nothing new for manager Tom Wilson and Newcestown when it comes to the Premier senior football championship.
Skibbereen was the venue for last August’s senior football West Cork derby in which a Michael Hurley goal proved the pivotal score, as the Haven ran out 1-12 to 0-9 winners.
This time around will be slightly different in that Castlehaven have the benefit of last weekend’s full-throttle 2020 county final defeat to Nemo Rangers under their belts.
‘It is certainly an advantage for them,’ Newcestown senior football manager Tom Wilson says.
‘All we have been doing over the last few weeks is playing a couple of challenge games. As a dual senior club, our hurlers have been doing the exact same. We don’t get full time with the players and that is just the way it is.
‘In having had a full championship game (county final) to get up to speed, I’m sure Castlehaven will have learned from it.’
Newcestown are facing into a tough opening group phase against West Cork rivals Castlehaven and Carbery Rangers for the second year in a row. Add in newly crowned SAFC champions Éire Óg and Newcestown will need to be firing on all cylinders, starting with this Saturday in Clonakilty (4pm) against Castlehaven.
Yet, Wilson’s side possesses plenty of quality and underlined their strength in depth by qualifying for last year’s county quarter-finals.
St Finbarr’s ended the Carbery club’s interest in the competition at that juncture but there is enough appetite, quality and belief within Newcestown’s ranks to go a step or two further in 2021.
‘It is pretty much a new championship again even though an awful lot of the personnel will be the same on both sides,’ the Newcestown manager said.
‘It is a new game, a new year and a new challenge. That is how we are approaching it anyway. It is just a case of getting on with it.
‘As for Éire Óg, I think they are going to be a big danger to the other three clubs in this group. They are a very talented, driven and determined team. It is obvious that Éire Óg are a really good side. From our own point of view, we doesn’t face Éire Óg until the final group game. They blew Mallow away in the county final a few weeks ago but were coming up to premier senior with a strong pedigree anyway.’
The county board’s decision to change the old knockout system to a group-based and subsequent knockout format is a decision Wilson both approves and disapproves of.
Even though Newcestown are a dual senior club and there are extra demands on the West Cork club’s panel of players, having three Premier SFC games gives every entrant a fair shot of success.
‘From a purely football point of view, having three county championship games is great,’ Wilson noted.
‘You know going into your last group game exactly what you need to do. For us, being a dual club, things are an awful lot tougher than it is for two of the other three football clubs in our group.
‘Éire Óg would be pretty much in the same category as ourselves in that regard. From Castlehaven and Carbery Rangers’ point of view, they will have a three-week turnaround to work on what went wrong in their first match.
‘In that same timeframe, we will have played two senior hurling games. So, we will have, at most, two nights to prepare for our next (Premier SFC) game. It is not easy.’
Despite a hectic football and hurling schedule, Newcestown have adapted well over the last couple of years and are capable of reaching the knockout stages of both codes once again this year.
‘Our hope is to be in a position to try and qualify for the quarter-finals heading into our final group game this year,’ Wilson said.
‘It will be the same in both codes. It is just that little bit tight in terms of matches so any injury or niggle means fellas cannot recover in a week. We will get on with it like we always do.
‘As a manger, I always look forward to the championship and this year is no different. This is what you live for.’