WITH his feet now under the table and ahead of his second year in the hot seat, Carbery Rangers senior football manager Declan Hayes is eager to make an impact in the season ahead.
His first year as Ross boss didn’t go to plan. As Carbery Rangers lost to Éire Óg by six points and Newcestown and Castlehaven by a solitary point in the Premier SFC, they didn’t advance from the group stages. It was the second season in a row that Rangers exited the championship at this early stage. The plan in 2022 is to go a lot further.
‘Everyone is back for the new season,’ Declan Hayes told The Southern Star.
‘There are a good few younger players coming through and it is up to us (management) to get them ready, stronger and a bit more robust, for playing in the senior championship. Football-wise, there is plenty of talent there, so, it is just physically-wise, right now our focus is on getting the younger fellas ready.
‘Last year, the Newcestown game especially, is one I felt we threw away even though we were down to 14 players from the 21st minute. We also lost narrowly to Castlehaven but there was a lot of good stuff in that game as well. Obviously, this year, we want to keep doing what we have been doing but add to where we need to add. We need to add a lot to our game.’
Hayes will be able to call upon some familiar faces, both on and off the pitch, in an attempt to turn Carbery Rangers’ fortunes around in 2022. Within that returning playing group, John Hayes’ name is perhaps the most important of all.
‘My backroom team is much the same as last year although we do have a new strength and conditioning coach, Brendan Walsh, coming in for 2022,’ Hayes revealed.
‘There will be myself as manager, James Kingston (coach/selector), Mark Ronan (selector) and Denis McSweeney (logistics), who were all involved last year. Alan O’Neill and Anthony Roche are new and joining our management team for the coming year.
‘John Hayes is going to be a massive part of our panel once again. He is a great example to the entire panel and especially our younger players. John remains very fit and very strong for his age but has been really unlucky with injuries over the past two years. That has been frustrating for John but we are all hoping that he will get a good injury-free run this year. Hopefully, he can get into a rhythm as John Hayes is still one of the best forwards in Cork.’
Now in his second year at the helm, Declan Hayes is hoping to put everything he has learned from the past Covid-affected season to good use as his Rosscarbery club awaits the upcoming county championship draws.
‘It is my second year at it but the fact that we have had a full pre-season together is absolutely huge as it is something we didn’t get to experience last year,’ Hayes admitted.
‘Players training on their own was very tough so having a pre-season is vital for us as we are trying to embed a few younger players for 2022. Obviously, we are hoping that will be of benefit to the team.
‘As for the county championship draw, no matter what your seeding, no one is going to get an easy draw. It is going to be tough for everybody because that is the way the premier senior championship is now. Carbery Rangers are guaranteed a tough draw no matter what. The way the championship is, with 12 teams now, you are certain of playing three tough games no matter who you face. That means you have to be on your game if you want to get out to the knockout stages.’
So, is it fair to say that the 2022 county league campaign will be of much more importance to Carbery Rangers compared to other West Cork clubs?
‘Absolutely, the league is going to be very important,’ Hayes said.
‘We have to get into the habit of winning games and performing, more than anything, really. I’ll be straight up and honest about it. The league is going to be very important for Carbery Rangers. We will be prepared for it.
‘This year’s league structure is very good. You are guaranteed nine games and playing every two weeks. That gives you time to do a bit of work in between games. Last time, we played pretty much every week but that didn’t give us any time to work on things in between.
‘You couldn’t really work on specifics with players as there wasn’t time with another match the following weekend. Playing every fortnight gives us a chance to work on things and improve in between matches which I think is much better.’