WITH the local soccer and GAA seasons both restarting this weekend it’s going to get very busy very fast for all the players who juggle numerous sports.
The West Cork League kicks back into action with the resumption of the Premier Division, Division 2, Championship Cup and U19 League competitions in the next week, while the Carbery-Beara football league is also back this weekend with county and divisional championships starting the following weekend. We’re going from a famine to a feast.
Mark Buckley is one of those who splits his time between a number of sports – he is a key man in attack with Dohenys’ senior footballers and junior hurlers, and also a central figure in attack for defending West Cork League Premier Division champions Dunmanway Town. His sporting calendar is about to become incredibly busy.
‘It’s just a great feeling to be back out on the pitches training and playing again,’ Buckley said.
‘I’m out four or five nights a week now even though my legs are a bit sore at this stage. I think it’s important that we have sport back once again. It’s a real positive for everyone involved and such an important thing in people’s lives. It was vital that it came back.’
Conflict between local soccer and GAA clubs looks inevitable considering how many matches and training sessions will take place in the next month alone. In fairness, both organisations have done their best to mitigate the pressure on players, but the next couple of months is going to test the physical and mental limits of players who have been inactive for so long.
‘It is all about schedules,’ Buckley noted.
‘Historically, it has been difficult for players to juggle both codes. All the lads playing for Dunmanway Town represent Dohenys as well. Dohenys were very accommodating to us when we were chasing the league title and still involved in the football championship at the end of May last year. I don’t think there will be any fear of conflict this time around again.
‘A lot of it comes down to communication. We play sports because we enjoy it, so it helps when everyone that’s involved pulls in the same direction. Things worked out well last year, but it will be interesting to see what happens this year with everyone having been out of action for so long.’
Whatever about crowded schedules and multiple games, an even bigger concern centres around players’ fitness levels, fatigue and having sufficient time to recover between games.
‘First and foremost, you look to recover as quickly as possible after every game,’ the Dunmanway Town striker said.
‘There is another game coming around the corner. It is up to each individual at the end of the day. Fellas involved with Dunmanway are good when it comes to managing their workload as they know what’s coming up each week. We will have to take time to recover properly and hopefully things will run smoothly. Injuries can happen at any time and there is nothing you can do about it. We will try our best to stay fit and healthy for as long as we can.’
Buckley’s immediate attention will be focussed on Dunmanway Town’s battle to retain their WCL Premier Division crown. The Mohona club lie in fourth place and are seven points behind league leaders Drinagh Rangers. Crucially, Town possess three games in hand on their arch rivals and will be eager to make up ground as quickly as possible.
‘It was an incredibly proud moment for us to win last year’s Premier Division – and we will be looking to do the same again,’ Buckley said.
‘Drinagh have been the biggest challengers the last few years with Ballydehob, Clonakilty Town and a few others in the frame. Rangers are experienced and set a tough pace but we have a few games in hand to catch up. It looks like we might be playing each other in the last game of the season as well.
‘Psychologically, it was huge for us to beat them (2-1) in Canon Crowley Park earlier in the season. We were just coming in to form too before Covid-19 hit. Adding Johnny Kelly to the squad and having Stephen Keohane back for another season has been huge for us. Despite being 1-0 down, everyone put in a serious shift that day and used all our experience to turn things around.’
There is much for Dunmanway Town to look forward to, not just a title pursuit but a potential league and cup double as well. Town take on Spartak Mossgrove in the last four of the Beamish Cup with a potential trip to Turner’s Cross on offer for the winners.
‘We have to get over Spartak first, a team I’ve never actually played against in the West Cork League,’ Buckley said.
‘I know all their lads from the GAA and they will be strong challengers in the Premier Division next year. Getting to a Beamish Cup final and (possibly) playing at Turner’s Cross would be something special though.
‘All the Dunmanway lads have league medals in their back pockets at this stage. My father (Tim Buckley) keeps going on about how great it was when he won the Beamish Cup with Derrygrath back in the day. I’ve been hearing those stories long enough so it would be nice to put a Beamish Cup medal of my own on the mantelpiece.’