JAMES McCarthy insists his Castlehaven troops need to take their game ‘to another level’ to beat St Finbarr’s in Sunday’s huge Cork Premier SFC semi-final.
Both Haven and the Barrs are regulars at the business end of the county championship and they won’t be fazed by the occasion this Sunday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh (3pm). They know there’s a job to do – and it’s all about getting to the county final. The result is everything.
‘You remember teams that make finals, you don’t remember teams that make semi-finals,’ Castlehaven boss McCarthy says. ‘We have been in semi-finals where you could say we won the game in the first 15 minutes. We got two early goals against Rosscarbery in 2012 and even though we didn’t play particularly well for the rest of the game, six points was a lot to come back from. We won the county final that year.
‘We’d a good start against O’Donovan Rossa in the semi-final in 2015 and won the game, but then we went on and were beaten by Nemo in the final which is no good.
‘If you talk to me next Monday morning I don’t care how we play once we win and we get back to the final, but it would make life easier for yourself by doing the right things at the right time. It will be a lot more intense so the pressure will be on both teams and sets of players and that’s when mistakes are made.’
McCarthy knows, too, that his Castlehaven charges need to knit together a more complete performance than they have produced in their four championship games so far. Good in patches is his assessment, but he accepts that won’t be enough against a powerhouse like the Barrs. Still, Castlehaven are winning games and have won all four – beating Newcestown, Éire Óg, Carbery Rangers and Valley Rovers – to reach the semi-finals.
‘Every game has been a different challenge,’ the Haven manager explains.
‘The first game against Newcestown was a mental challenge because it was less than a week after we lost the county final, and we played fairly well to beat Newcestown. Against Éire Óg, the game was very open. The Ross game was completely different, it was a battle.
‘Against Valleys in the quarter-final, it was a bit of the Éire Óg and Ross games combined, but the difference was you can’t make it a battle in Páirc Uí Chaoimh for a full hour because the pitch is too big and you can’t play defensive for a full hour because your legs will go.
‘We played some good football in the second half against Valleys, in trying conditions. We played some good football against Éire Óg, too. We have had patches in different games, I don’t think we have hit top form enough to beat the Barrs and we know we need to take it to another level to beat them on Sunday.’
McCarthy has seen enough in Castlehaven’s improvement and growth throughout this campaign to feel that the ‘more complete performance’ he wants is near.
The development of younger players, like Jack Cahalane, is important; he has started all four championship games and is adding a new dimension to a team that has depended heavily on its big names, Brian Hurley and Mark Collins, for the past number of seasons.
‘We can’t expect Brian and Mark to lead the way all the time. We have new players coming in and playing well, and there are scores coming from all angles now and that’s important,’ McCarthy says.
‘We’re at the business end now and it’s about small margins from here on. The Barrs have big names like Maguire, Sherlock and these fellas, but I think the winning team will be the team who has another player who steps up. It could be a block, it could be making the right decision at the right time, a wing back taking up the field and scoring a point, something like that.’
With an attack boasting Brian Hurley, Michael Hurley, Cathal Maguire, Conor Cahalane, Conor O’Driscoll, Jack Cahalane, as well as Mark Collins’ threat, the Haven have plenty of scoring options – and that could be the difference on Sunday.