CARBERY haven’t won a county senior football title since 2004.
Before the Imokilly game in early June, they hadn’t won a championship match for four years either. That has all changed.
Having beaten the East Cork side, then Beara and Avondhu, Carbery’s reward is a Premier SFC Divisions/Colleges’ semi-final against UCC next Wednesday, 17th, at 7.30pm in Macroom.
Carbery selector Stephen Dineen, who won county senior titles with Bantry in the 90s, is happy with their progress.
‘The challenge this year was to win a game of football. We won a game, gathered a bit of momentum, and now we’re after winning three games,’ he said. Four players that are key to the Carbery cause are the O’Driscoll brothers – Colm, Brian and Kevin – from Tadhg MacCarthaigh and Bantry Blues’ Ruairi Deane. None of the four were selected for the Cork senior football panel in 2022. The silver lining is that it has helped Carbery.
‘We all know that if a guy is tied to his county, it’s only on rare occasions you get a senior. Cork’s loss has been Carbery and their clubs’ benefit. The four of those guys are really committed players. When they’re there, it raises the bar and gets a bit more out of everyone else,’ Dineen said.
‘For Ruairi, it’s a strange one in many ways. Over the last seven or eight years if anybody named five or six players in the Cork set-up, I think most people would have thrown in Ruairi Deane’s name. All of a sudden then last year, for some incredible reason, he was gone off the extended panel, including 50/60 guys. It’s not by accident that he shows up in crucial times with crucial scores.’
Dineen admits, too, that he has been impressed by Brian O’Driscoll’s form.
‘I have watched Brian have incredible performances this year. I saw him scoring 0-11 for Caheragh against Balinascarthy and somebody mentioned afterwards, “ah, that’s only junior football.” Then he turned around and scored 0-5 from play in the first half of the last championship game, marking the best that the opposition had to put on him. I don’t think there are 15 players in Cork county better than Brian O'Driscoll at the moment,’ Dineen said.
An injection of youth and new players has helped Carbery, too, like Sean Daly from Randal Óg who has caught the eye with the division this season.
‘I knew that he was a good lad, he was on the Cork U20 hurling squad and here he is, now playing senior football and holding his own. That’s a guy that turned 19 a couple of weeks ago,’ Dineen explained.
‘Every player inside in this group is probably one of the better players in their own club and then you add the spread of guys who are able to operate at a higher level. We probably have two or three guys there that are definitely senior inter-county standard. They do things that you can’t teach a guy to do, that just takes us a little bit further.’
Attention is now on UCC next Wednesday. Win that and Carbery are a step closer to the Premier SFC proper, and a final against either MTU or Duhallow in Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday, 21st, at 7.45pm.
‘Carbery, on any given day, should be able to mix it with any good, handy senior team in the county,’ Dineen said.
‘There are benefits to playing with Carbery. A guy who may not be involved with a county team at the moment or he never played underage, if he’s playing really well at senior championship football, that won’t go unnoticed. It puts him on the shop window.’
Dineen added: ‘Any looking past UCC would be ridiculous, I think it’s important we don’t lose the run of ourselves.’