DOHENYS are the team that everyone else will want to beat in this season’s South West U21A football championship – but they are ready to take on all comers, says manager Mark Farr.
The Dunmanway team starts their title defence against Carbery Rangers this Sunday in a quarter-final (3pm, check locally for venue), and they will do so without the spine of last year’s championship-winning team. Goalkeeper Darragh McCarthy, full back Sean Daly, centre back Eoin Lavers, midfielder Johnny Kelly and wing back Jamie Carroll are all overage this season, so Dohenys have lost a lot of experience.
That said, Mark Buckley will lead the attack and the reigning champions also have Keith White, Eoin Murray, Fionn Herlihy, Bill Murphy, Declan Collins, Nathan O’Donovan and Aidan O’Donovan in their ranks.
Dohenys will be without the injured Ray Jennings and Cathal O’Donovan for Sunday while Bill Murphy is a doubt after twisting his ankle in a challenge match.
‘We’ll be the ones that teams will want to beat this season so we have to be ready for that,’ said manager Mark Farr, who is wary of Ross this weekend.
‘Go back three years ago and they beat us in minor so we know this will be tough. Where Ross are now is where we were last year. They have a young team and they will be dangerous.’
Whereas Dohenys have had only one challenge game ahead of the U21 throw-in, Carbery Rangers’ decision to enter the Glenville Cup has paid off as they played Bantry Blues twice, O’Donovan Rossa and Cill na Martra en route to qualifying for the final against Glanmire that has yet to be played.
The loss of former Cork U21 Jerry O’Riordan will be felt, but Ross, while they have a very young team, have plenty of players with senior experience, like Mark Hodnett, Darragh Hayes, Cathal O’Rourke and Davy O’Donovan.
‘We’ve prepared well but we have a tough opener and we’ll be the underdogs,’ said manager Stephen Murray.
‘We haven’t won a game in this championship since 2013, I think, so all we are concentrating on is the first match and trying to get that win.’
Preparation has been far from ideal for the two amalgamated teams, Ahán Gaels and Ibane Gaels, in this year’s U21A football championship who meet in a preliminary round match this Sunday in Ahiohill (3pm), the winner to play Bantry Blues in the quarter-final.
Both teams only discovered recently that their requests to amalgamate again this season were granted by the county board after initially being turned down, so preparation has been hampered.
Ahán – a combination of Diarmuid Ó Mathúna and St Mary’s – have only lost one player from last year’s team that were defeated by Clonakilty, with Kevin O’Donovan overage, but they must plan without the injured John O’Sullivan.
A lot of the Ahán team is up to the age with Dylan Scannell, Billy O’Brien, Brian Everard, Gearoid O’Donovan, Stephen Moore, Sean Buttimer and Jack Hurley all expected to feature prominently.
‘We didn’t get approval to amalgamate as Ahán Gaels until two, three weeks ago so that’s hampered our preparations,’ Daniel Cronin explained.
‘We had the bad weather then last week so realistically we are unprepared going into the championship.
‘It will come down to determination and having the right attitude on Sunday because Ibane will be strong.’
Ibane’s preparations, like Ahán’s, were hindered after their amalgamation request was initially refused with Ibane manager Tom Farrell stating that the link up between Barryroe and Argideen Rangers has worked well for both clubs underage and that the maximum panel the U21s have is 26 players. At their three challenge games, they’ve had 18, 21 and 20 players.
Farrell will be without goalkeeper Conor Madden but Ibane still have David Kiely, Eoin Lawton, Sean Maxwell, Gerry Crowley and Jack Cahalane.
Preparing for a hard game, Farrell did point out: ‘We were beaten by Newcestown in the first round last year but they’re now gone down to B while we’re kept in the A grade. You have Bandon, Newcestown and Skibbereen at B level – but we’ve been kept at A level.’