BY KIERAN McCARTHY
MIKE O’Brien admits it was an easy decision to commit another year to Gabriel Rangers.
The man behind the greatest season in Gabriels’ history last year could have walked into other jobs if he wanted to – but he couldn’t walk away from the team that he led to South West and Cork JAFC titles in 2016, as well as a Munster junior football final.
Instead, the Castlehaven man is now planning ahead for Gabriels first season at intermediate grade.
Gabriels held a team meeting last Friday night and were due back in the gym this week ahead of their county league Division 5 opener on February 12th.
‘It would have been very hard to walk away from this bunch of lads,’ O’Brien admitted.
‘Everything I asked for last year, they delivered. They were fantastic. They made five finals in the one year, that’s a phenomenal achievement and I couldn’t leave them because we feel there’s more to achieve here. I’m looking forward to this year.
‘The club is definitely on an upward curve,’ he added.
‘Fellas are on a high still from last year and everyone is looking forward to this season and a new challenge. Playing intermediate football is a new experience to us all – for the players and me as a manager – so it’s a new event for us all and we’re looking forward to that.’
Gabriels have drawn Cill na Martra in the first round of the county intermediate football championship and O’Brien says they’ll approach every game like a cup final – but they’ll have to do so without giant midfielder Stephen O’Mahony, who has left for a year in Australia.
‘The players are walking tall after the season that they had – and so they should be,’ O’Brien said. ‘I saw at the recent victory dinner that the players were still buzzing and they’re looking forward to this year and the chance to play intermediate football.
‘They’ve been playing the same teams in West Cork year in and year out so it will be good for them to go up a level. I think it will suit the lads and I also feel it will give the forwards more room to express themselves.
‘There might be a few players that didn’t play last year who might come back into the fold and there are a few good minors as well so we have a lot of players pushing for places.’
Gabriels will compete in Division 5 of the county league this year in a group that also contains Adrigole, Carrigaline, Clonakilty, Douglas, Glanmire, Grenagh, Millstreet, St Finbarr’s and Youghal.