BY KIERAN McCARTHY
DAVE Fenton is hoping for better luck than his native Kerry when he lines out with Castletownbere in a county premier intermediate football championship semi-final this Sunday.
The experienced Castletown campaigner has started all of the Beara club’s four PIFC games this season – the last three in midfield alongside brother-in-law Andrew O’Sullivan – as the 2012 intermediate champions have reached the dizzy heights of the last four of the premier intermediate.
Unlike Kerry, who failed to perform on the big stage last weekend, Derrynane native Fenton is confident that his adopted Castletownbere will hit the right notes against St Michael’s this Sunday in Dunmanway (3pm throw-in).
Whether that will be enough against a strong city side remains to be seen, as Fenton, a Garda based in Castletownbere, acknowledges the huge test that lies ahead.
‘It’s a big ask for us. It’s the first time that the club has got this far. We won the intermediate in 2012 and this is our third year up,’ he said.
‘St Michael’s were in the final a couple of years ago and they are after knocking out Mallow, who were the favourites, so we are up against it. They’re a good city team that plays a good brand of football. They mean business.’
Last year Castletownbere lost to St Michael’s (1-11 to 0-8) in the opening round of the PIFC before bouncing back into round four, only to be beaten by Mallow. The season before, their first in the PIFC ranks, they lost a quarter-final to Macroom.
But now, here they are, in a county semi-final where anything is possible.
For Fenton, it’s another chapter in his Castletownbere adventure. He has Kerry minor, U21 and senior championship medals to his name, and was part of the South Kerry senior panel that beat Laune Rangers in the 2004 Kerry SFC final, a team that included Maurice Fitzgerald, Killian Burns, Denis O’Dwyer and a then youthful Declan O’Sullivan and Bryan Sheehan.
‘I played football up along with Declan (O’Sullivan) and he won a lot of medals for me! He was as focussed then as he is now,’ Fenton commented.
Trained as a Garda, he was stationed in Dublin for three years before, in October 2007, he transferred to Castletownbere, which is now his home.
He is married to Laura (sister of teammate Andrew O’Sullivan), and they have three young kids, 12-week-old twins Ollie and Mike and their older sister Emma (4).
As you can imagine his hands are full this week, and considering he is one of the experienced players on the Castletownbere team, he has an important role to play against St Michael’s on Sunday.
‘We are in the position that we are lucky we have young lads coming through,’ he explained.
‘There is a certain level of expectation on the older fellas in the team, like Andrew, Donagh Ban O’Sullivan, Lorcan Harrington and myself that we have to perform in the championship. That’s the same in any team because the spine of a team is expected to perform.
‘We are in bonus territory, a county semi-final, a place we didn’t think we would be a few months ago after losing to Carrigaline in round one and scraping over Ballinora, who are in a relegation final now.
‘We are delighted to be in the position we are in. The task ahead of us is pretty big.’
Fenton admits that Castletown were deservedly beaten by Carrigaline in round one (0-9 to 0-7), but wins against Ballinora (2-12 to 3-9), Naomh Abán (3-12 to 2-6) and Ballingeary (2-11 to 0-11) have seen the Beara men surge into the PIFC semi-finals.
2015 Cork minor Gary Murphy has scored 1-11 in this championship, former Cork midfielder Andrew O’Sullivan, a key man in midfield, has 1-9, Dean Murphy has 2-6, while Fenton himself has racked up 2-3, the goals coming against Ballinora and Naomh Abán.
‘We are a team in transition. We have a lot of young lads. When we lost to Mallow last year in the championship we had seven or eight minors on the field,’ Fenton explained.
‘Those guys are after a year or two at premier intermediate football so they are wising up to what this is all about, but it has its limitations too, and naturally so, because young lads aren’t as robust in tackles or in possession – but that comes with time.
‘We are getting more used to each other – the younger lads with the older fellas on the team and vice versa. You can see that in the performances and the results this year. We need a big performance on Sunday.’
With Fenton vowing to do what Kerry failed to do (perform on the big day), then Castletownbere’s voyage in this year’s PIFC might have some distance to run yet.