THE pendulum of power in this intense local rivalry has swung in Carbery Rangers’ favour in recent times but, not surprisingly, neither team is taking the other for granted ahead of Sunday’s heavyweight Premier SFC derby in Clonakilty (2.30pm throw-in).
This will be the eighth meeting of Carbery Rangers and Castlehaven in the senior football championship. The Haven won the first three encounters (2009, 2011 and 2012), then there was a Round 4 draw in 2014 and since then it’s been all Ross wins (2014 replay, 2017 and 2019).
Bragging rights currently rest in Rosscarbery and they have assumed control of this rivalry.
‘At the start of the decade you would say that Castlehaven were well on top of us but in the last few games we have come out just in front. They have all been battles. It’s on the day, really. All I can remember is that in each of our games they were tough games, there was never anything easy in them,’ Carbery Rangers co-captain John O’Rourke told the Star Sport Podcast.
O’Rourke featured in the first senior championship game between the two clubs in 2009, a Round 3 game that Castlehaven won 0-14 to 0-11. Over a decade on there are plenty of survivors on both teams. Brian Shanahan, Padraig Hodnett, James Fitzpatrick, John Hayes, Seamus Hayes, Stephen Murray, Declan Hayes and John O’Rourke all featured for Ross that day.
On the Castlehaven side in 2009, Paudie Hurley, Damien Cahalane, Chris Hayes, Mark Collins, Stephen Hurley and Brian Hurley all started – and they were all important figures for the Haven in the Cork SFC successes in 2012 and 2013.
‘That was maybe the start of this team,’ Castlehaven captain Mark Collins explained.
‘Castlehaven won the county in 2003 and we had very little success between then and the start of the last decade. That (2009) was our first championship together and the Barrs beat us in Bandon after that. There are a good few players still involved and we were very young back then, Damien and Brian were only 17 I say, those lads are in their late 20s now, and I’m 30. We’ve been around a good while alright.’
While Haven have won two county titles in the past decade, Ross have won the most recent one (2016) and both know what’s needed to figure at the business end of the championship and both know too that Ross v Haven derbies can take on a life all of their own.
‘We are very evenly matched teams and that’s what I have been trying to hammer home in training the last few weeks, that we know there is nothing between us and that it will probably go down to the last five, ten minutes – that’s the way it’s been over the last few years and that’s what we are expecting again this week,’ Collins said.
His Cork team-mate O’Rourke shares a similar opinion. He’s predicting another absorbing battle and the new Premier SFC format adds another layer to Sunday’s tussle. Carbery Rangers and Castlehaven are joined in the West Cork group of death by Ilen Rovers and Newcestown. It’s derby after derby. Each team has three group games, which allows some margin for error, but no-one wants to be chasing wins after losing their opening match.
‘It’s very important (to get off to a winning start) because you see in other competitions with group stages that if you lose your first game then you are immediately on the back foot,’ O’Rourke pointed out.
‘I think it is very important this year that there are group stages when they had the time to get it done because it’s very tough for teams coming in cold after only being back three or four weeks. Now you have a couple of opportunities to rectify things if they don’t go right for you on the first day. We know the importance of the first game, we don’t want to be starting on the back foot – to us it’s a knock-out championship game.’
Collins and Castlehaven, who have James McCarthy back in the managerial hot seat this season, are also targeting an early win in this group to set them up for the clashes to follow with Newcestown and Ilen.
‘It would be a nice start. Carbery Rangers have beaten us the last few times so we know it’s a big game for us. We would like a bit of momentum but that is the beauty of the group stages, if you are beaten in one game that doesn’t mean that you out of the championship. We know it’s a huge game but it’s not make-or-break yet,’ Collins explained.
Always when these two meet, the ground shakes. Look at last season’s Round 2 battle in Skibbereen. It took extra-time before Ross won 2-17 to 1-18. The ever-green John Hayes kicked 1-9 for the winners, Collins chipped in with 0-8 for Castlehaven – it was another epic contest. And now, with the TG4 cameras in Clonakilty this Sunday afternoon to televise the game live, this derby will be shared with the country.
‘It adds massively to the excitement. Let’s say for a young fella coming in, what more would you want than to play in front of TG4 cameras,’ O’Rourke said.
‘This is really exciting for everyone. I do think as well that with it being such a big local match and there being a capacity limit, it’s fantastic that people won’t be excluded from watching the match.’
So, it’s lights, camera, action in Ahamilla, as the two most successful and consistent local teams head into the ring once more. Let the games begin.
- This match is live on TG4, coverage starts at 2.15pm.