By Ger McCarthy
A DEVELOPING Éire Óg squad enter their Cork senior football semi-final as rank outsiders but that doesn’t bother manager John Cleary.
The former Castlehaven and Cork forward has overseen the transition to a new-look and more youthful Éire Óg squad over the past two years.
Having already faced and lost to West Cork by four points earlier in the championship, the Ovens club has nothing to lose heading into next week’s last-four encounter. Granted, there were mitigating circumstances the last time the two sides met but plenty of positives for the Éire Óg and Cork minor manager to take from the game.
‘We played reasonably well on the night but well aware that West Cork were missing at least four inter-county players,’ Cleary pointed out.
‘We know they are going to be much stronger the next night but our previous performance gives us hope that we can compete. No one is getting carried away by the fact we got within four points of West Cork as it was the day after the All-Ireland final loss to Dublin so, look, that has to be taken into consideration as well.’
In terms of development, the current Éire Óg senior squad possess plenty of experience with the likes of Eimear Scally plus a conveyor belt of emerging talent from the club’s underage setup.
This year’s senior semi-final against a star-studded West Cork division may be too tough an ask for Éire Óg, but what is undeniable is the fact the Ovens club are improving with each passing year and on the road to becoming Cork senior football contenders once again.
‘We are still a bit away yet,’ Cleary admitted.
‘Being realistic about it, Mourneabbey and West Cork are still well ahead of the pack. It is a work in progress here in Éire Óg and we have a very young team. The girls are working exceptionally hard and we will see where that takes us in the coming years.
‘It is a massive challenge we are facing in to when you look at the players that West Cork currently have and 11 on the senior panel for this year’s All-Ireland final. The semi-final will be a good indicator as to where we are as a team and hopefully, when the door eventually opens we will be ready for it.
‘Challenging the top senior teams is going to take another small bit of time but for now, Éire Óg will give it everything we have got and just see what happens on the night.’