BY DENIS HURLEY
CASTLEHAVEN know the way the road twists and turns at this time of year.
Since the beginning of the 2011 season, they have only lost three championship games, with only one of those – the 2014 quarter-final defeat to Carbery Rangers – not coming in a final.
The quest for a fifth final in six years resumes in Clonakilty on Saturday as they meet Ballincollig in a quarter-final tie (6pm), and Haven manager James McCarthy cites the experience within the team as a big positive in terms of the latter stages of the championship.
‘That’s a real positive, it’s very easy to deal with these guys,’ he says.
‘Over the last five years or so, they’ve played around 30 championship games and only lost three of them, Carbery Rangers in 2014 and then the 2011 final against UCC and last year against Nemo. When you’re used to winning and digging out games, it gives you great belief.
‘What we try to do is peak for this time of year, with no disrespect to anyone we might play early on. A lot of teams train hard early in the year but then don’t have a lot left, you try to learn to manage your resources properly.’
While Cork star Brian Hurley remains out with a hamstring injury and Seán Dineen is also marked absent after breaking a bone in his foot, the Haven welcome hope to welcome David Limrick back after he missed the Round 4 win over Ilen Rovers on August 13th.
They are top of the Rochestown Park Hotel Division 1 FL (Kelleher Shield), with ten wins and just one loss. What has been really pleasing for McCarthy is that recent victories have been achieved despite some key players being unavailable.
‘We’re very happy with the league form,’ he says.
‘In the last fortnight, we’ve beaten St Finbarr’s and O’Donovan Rossa despite missing ten players between injuries and hurling commitments. Obviously, two of those will still be out but the other eight will be back in the mix.
‘It’s good to be able to blood younger fellas, if we need them then come championship they’ll be able to come in, knowing the style of play.’
One note of caution which may be sounded is that, since the win over Ilen, Ballincollig have played twice. While they needed three late points to secure a draw with CIT, in last week’s replay they were resounding winners.
‘I went to see the two matches against CIT,’ McCarthy says, ‘and they were a different kettle of fish in the second game, you could see that they had benefited from the extra match.
‘They’ll have got stronger and we’d have preferred to be playing sooner after the Ilen match, but that’s the way of it.’ It’s the second year in a row for them to meet at the last-eight stage. In 2015 in Dunmanway, the two sides served up a cracker, Brian Hurley scoring 1-6 as the Haven triumphed by 1-14 to 1-11.
McCarthy would take more of the same, but knows it won’t be easy: ‘Last year’s game was excellent, I suppose we had the hunger in the last ten minutes. This time of year, you’ll find that there’s only a kick of a ball between teams – there are only five left in the championship and that’s definitely the case.
‘A match can come down to a decision going one way or the other, the weather or just form’.
‘Last year, after the Ballincollig game, we didn’t show that kind of form again and it cost us.’