Carbery Rangers start the defence of their hard-won Cork SFC title this Sunday. Before a ball is kicked in anger KIERAN McCARTHY got the thoughts of attacker John Hayes
BACK on a Sunday afternoon in mid-June 2006, John Hayes could only watch on as Clonakilty gave Carbery Rangers a lesson in football.
It was Ross’s first season up in senior football, and while they’d won county, Munster and All-Ireland intermediate titles the previous campaign, the jump to senior is considerable, as they found out to their cost.
Clon ran riot in Enniskeane in a round four tie, Colm Callanan, Conrad Murphy and Colin O’Donovan pulling the strings in this 3-15 to 0-8 mismatch.
John Hayes was injured that day and could only watch on in what he describes as a chastening experience.
‘That was an eye opener to what you need at senior level because if you are a little bit off the pace then the better teams will expose you,’ the Ross forward explained.
‘It took us a few years to find our feet, even though we had the ability. It was a slow process but we got to grips with senior football and we have been competing at the latter end of the championship for the past few years and that’s where we want to be again.’
It took Ross time to acclimatise to senior football but they did, becoming the most consistent club in the county for the past six seasons before winning the county title last year, while their neighbours Clonakilty have struggled these past few years.
And while the clubs have met in the championship in the intervening years, with Ross getting the upperhand of late, now it’s very much roles reversed from that June Sunday in 2006 with Carbery Rangers the team to beat.
KIERAN McCARTHY (KMC): I’ll kick off with a nice easy one. When you consider how much everyone invested into winning that first Cork senior football title and how long it took, and then the relief and joy at winning last October, is it only natural that the motivation this year won’t be as high?
JOHN HAYES (JH): I don’t see a difference in terms of attitude towards training or anything like that. To get to the top is one thing, to stay there is even harder. If anything we have had to up our work rate and up our intensity levels at training.
We know the challenges for us are greater than what they were before. We’re up there to be shot at now. The guys recognise the challenge of trying to stay where we are. It’s not difficult to motivate ourselves, we have always been very motivated and we invest as much as we can for Ross, so nothing has changed in that respect.
KMC: Football ability aside, is the challenge now more to do with the team’s mindset, that ye won’t fall into the trap of being happy with one title and that ye won’t become complacent?
JH: The mindset is focused on only one thing now: Clon this Sunday. It was a good draw, against our next-door neighbours and there is no shortage of motivation for either side, it helps refocus the mind. That’s all we are thinking about now, Sunday.
KMC: No doubt teams will up their game against Ross from now on. We know how everyone wants to beat the champions.
JH: There is an element of that always when teams go up against the reigning champions but that’s not something that we control. All we can do is bring our own high level of performance to the game. There’s the cliché about how standing still is the same as going backwards, and we know we have to improve this year in order to progress in the championship. It will take a big performance on Sunday to get us up and going.
KMC: Is there a feeling that to be considered a great side as opposed to a good side that Ross need to win another county title?
JH: It’s natural for sports people that every time you go out you want to win. There is a competitive spirit in most sports people where the taste of success makes you want more. You see it with successful teams that it can be difficult to back it up and you’ve seen before where the season after a team wins a big trophy their performance can drop a level.
Once you are preparing properly and have done the hard work, the success you have had should motivate you to try and achieve more. Good teams can win one county championship, the best teams back it up. We want to do that this year but it really is all about Clon on Sunday.
KMC: Let’s look at the new management team, Maurice Moore and Shane Crowley are the joint-managers, taking over from Ronan McCarthy. Is having joint-managers much different to before?
JH: There’s so much commitment involved now that it’s difficult for one guy to do it on his own. Even previously when Micheál O’Sullivan was training us on his own, Colin Murphy would have done a lot of the physical work so there was variety in the training. Johnny Murphy has done a lot of the training in the past as well. You need different guys there to take the slack off.
Last year Ronan McCarthy was the manager but Maurice (Moore) was heavily involved as well as a trainer, both on the football side and the physical training side. It’s been pretty much the same this year with Shane coming on board – he has his own character, his experience as a player and a trainer with Skibb, he knows a lot about the club football scene with Cork. He has brought his own style of management.
We have a good core of senior experienced players here who know what it takes and who are driven to keep standards extremely high, so it all works quite well.
KMC: Is it important that Maurice Moore brings continuity from last season?
JH: Maurice is a former Ross player too, and it’s always nice to have one of your own lads involved in the set-up. He brought a lot to the set-up last year and he learned a lot about what it takes. He’s gone to another level as a trainer this year. It’s good to be going to training knowing that the two lads have brought a variety. Our preparation has been excellent, we can’t fault that.
KMC: It’s time to mention Clonakilty this Sunday, your neighbours who’d love nothing more to get one over on ye.
JH: Ross and Clon, we have played each other a few times. One of our first games up senior was a not-too-pleasant experience against Clon over in Enniskeane. Luckily we managed to address that in the last two outings but they were both tough games. Clon will want to get back up and knock us down so it’s an exciting challenge for both teams. We’ll see what Clon bring and we have to find the answers then.