BY TOM LYONS
NEAR neighbours, Castlehaven and O’Donovan Rossa, will cross swords in the final of the Kelleher Shield, football league, Division 1, on Sunday next in Leap at 2.30 and it will be a repeat of the recent county semi-final which was won by the Haven.
Rossa’s will undoubtedly be on a mission of atonement for that loss which saw them falling behind by 1-6 to 0-1 after only ten minutes, but recovering to outscore their opponents for the remaining fifty minutes, eventually losing by only three points, 1-13 to 1-10.
During the league, Castlehaven played nine games, winning six, while Rossa’s played eleven games, winning seven. The Skibb side actually finished top of the league with fourteen points, but it was the Haven who had by far the best scoring difference, kicking forty points more than they conceded. Rossa’s had a difference of 23 points. ‘We decided at the start of the season that we wanted to win the Kelleher Shield this year as we had lost the semi-final to Nemo last year,’ said O’Donovan Rossa manager, Shane Crowley. ‘The league does bring on guys and as we had a few long-term injuries and absentees, we needed to build up our panel.
‘Ger Minihane, Alan Tanner and Rob McCarthy were all out for the season for various reasons, but it was a good chance for the young players to claim a place. We played seven games before the first round of the championship and we had a good turnout for each game.
‘Unfortunately, we had only about three league games all during the summer and had to look for challenge games, from Kerry teams and so on. The County Board would want to look at how the league is organised. You’re given dates for the opening rounds but then it’s up to clubs to fix their own games.
‘Some clubs like postponing games and that is unsatisfactory during the summer. Then, there’s a rush at the end of the summer to get games played and that clashes with the end of the championship.
‘Maybe we should do something to make the league more glamorous? Last year the top two were rewarded with a home tie for the semi-finals, but this year it was neutral venues. It would be nice for supporters to have the semi-final at home.
‘It’s hard for the players to take the league seriously at this time of the year. The championship intensity definitely is missing and we forget that this is the second most prestigious competition available to the senior clubs in the county.
‘This is a local derby for both clubs and the first time we have met in a final since 2001. It’s a pity it’s so late in the season, with bad weather and soft pitches. Maybe finishing the league before the championship semi-finals might work.
‘We will probably be missing Paddy Nealon, who is injured and Conor McCarthy, who is out of the country. Both of those played in the 2001 final and replay. Don Davis captained the 2001 team and his son, Kevin will line out on Sunday. Played at the right time of the year, this could have been a huge game. Definitely, the league needs over-hauling to make it more important.’
Castlehaven manager, Jim Nolan, told The Southern Star: ‘All clubs take the league seriously at the start of the year. It’s a matter of getting players fit and getting a panel together. The fact that the County Board puts dates on the early games definitely helps and you want to win some early games to be safe from relegation. You need some good league games to sharpen up the team.
‘We always get a good response from our players towards the league. We would be missing a few, of course, with injuries and so on, but it’s a great chance to blood the younger players. You’re investing in the future.
‘The league does get a bit loose later in the year when clubs are asked to fix their own dates. Clubs are involved in lots of things and league games are let slip. Then, if a club is involved in the closing stages of the championship, it’s hard to give the league serious attention.
‘Yes, I would prefer if dates were put on all rounds of the league and maybe if the semi-finals and finals were played a bit sooner in the year. We played Ross last week in the semi-final and they hadn’t played football for four weeks. It’s not easy to get lads interested at that stage but, in fairness, both teams fielded their strongest teams.
‘We played Skibb in the league early in the year and they gave us a good hammering. They were very impressive that day and have made great progress in the last couple of seasons. In the championship we got a great start, but they outscored us well for fifty minutes. They will be very hard to beat on Sunday, we’re expecting a real, hard local derby game. ‘While the championship is always the one you want to win, it would be nice to win this title before the end of the season. I won Kelleher Shield with the Haven in 1993 and 1998 and really appreciated it. Skibb beat us in 2001. ‘We haven’t won it since 2007, so it would be nice for the younger lads to pick up a KS medal. We should be able to field a full side on Sunday and, hopefully, the weather will oblige and it will be a good game.’ Both clubs have won the Shield on three occasions. Castlehaven won in 1993 (beating Nemo in a replayed final), 1998 (beating Ballincollig in a replayed final) and 2007 (beating Nemo in the final). Rossa’s won in 1992 (‘Small’ Mick McCarthy scoring four late goals in the final against Bishopstown), 2000 (beating Ballincollig in the final) and 2001 (beating Castlehaven in a replayed final),
This final will be a repeat of the final of 2001, which actually went to a replay. The first game in Skibbereen saw the home side leading by 0-7 to 0-4 at the break having dominated the first half but when the Haven forged seven points ahead in the second half with Niall Cahalane rampant at midfield, it looked all over.
However, in an amazing finish a Joe O’Driscoll goal inspired a Rossa comeback and it finished all square, 2-10 to 1-13. Present selector Brendan Deasy kicked the Haven goals and Rossa’s missed a penalty.
The replay in Castlehaven was spoiled by too much petty fouling, referee, Michael Collins, issuing twelve yellow cards. Subdued Haven managed only one point in the first half as Rossa’s led by 0-6 to 0-1, with Jurgen Werner in fine kicking form. The introduction of subs, Fra Cahalane and David Burns, turned the game in the second half but, despite a Burns goal, Rossa’s hung on to win by a single point, 0-9 to 1-5.
Teams: O’Donovan Rossa – Kevin O’Dwyer, Michael McCarthy, Niall McCarthy, Eddie Nealon, Paddy Nealon, Pat Murphy, Shane Crowley, Donal O’Sullivan, Donal McCarthy, Rory O’Donovan, Don Davis, Barry Casey, Jurgen Werner, Conor McCarthy, Joe O’Driscoll. Cathal Keohane played in the drawn game and subs involved were Shane Breen, Dermot O’Sullivan, and Rob Long.
Castlehaven – Mike Maguire, Liam Collins, Ray Cahalane, Diarmuid Shanahan, Alan Sheehy, Denny Cahalane, Liam O’Connell, Dermot Hurley, Bernie Collins, Fergus Shanahan, Niall Cahalane, Paudie Hurley, Shane Hurley, Kieran Collins, Colin Crowley, Brendan Deasy. Donal McCarthy played in the drawn game, while subs used were Brian Collins, Fra Cahalane and David Burns.
Of those two teams, Paddy Nealon, Conor McCarthy and Rob Long played championship with Rossa’s this season, while Paudie Hurley, Liam Collins and Dermot Hurley saw action with the Haven.
The huge Kelleher Shield was first presented in 1913 and the first winners were Bantry Blues. Unfortunately, records are only available from 1960 to 2014. During those 55 years Nemo Rangers are way ahead of all other clubs as regards titles won, 18 in all. St Finbarr’s are a distant second with seven.
During the period 1979 to 1991, in which they also dominated the championship, Nemo and the Barrs shared twelve titles evenly between them, no other club getting a look-in. O’Donovan Rossa halted that sequence in winning the 1992 title, giving them a clean sweep of county championship and league, Munster and All-Ireland titles. St Nick’s had the honour of the only four-in-a-row from 1963 to 1966.
West Cork clubs to win the title since 1960 were – Clonakilty (5) 1962, 1968, 1976, 1999 and 2006; Castlehaven (3) 1993, 1998 and 2007; O’Donovan Rossa (3) 1992, 2000 and 2001; Carbery Rangers (3) 2009, 2011 and 2014; Bantry (1) 2002; Beara (1) 1960.
Castlehaven’s record in 2015 Kelleher Shield – beat Clonakilty 0-13 to 0-8, Douglas 3-14 to 1-9, Valley Rovers 0-11 to 0-5, St. Finbarr’s 2-9 to 0-8, Clyda Rovers 2-12 to 0-9, Ilen Rovers 3-19 to 2-11; and lost to O’Donovan Rossa 0-12 to 2-11, Bishopstown 2-12 to 2-13, Carbery Rangers 1-12 to 1-15. Semi-final, beat Carbery Rangers, outgoing champions, by 4-12 to 1-11.
O’Donovan Rossas’ record in 2015 Kelleher Shield – beat Carbery Rangers 3-6 to 0-9, Douglas 1-11 to 2-6, Ilen Rovers 1-10 to 1-7, Castlehaven 2-11 to 0-12, Newcestown 2-13 to 2-11, Nemo Rangers 2-14 to 0-15, St. Finbarr’s 3-16 to 2-8; and lost to Clyda Rovers 0-5 to 0-10, Valley Rovers 0-9 to 1-8, Clonakilty 0-13 to 1-9, Bishopstown 2-11 to 2-14. Semi-final, beat Nemo Rangers by 0-16 to 0-7.
Prediction – Rossa’s will have great motivation for this game, to avenge the championship defeat and continue their upward push, while the Haven will be determined not to finish the year empty-handed. The weather may play a big part in the outcome as poor weather and pitch conditions might suit the stronger Haven side, for whom Brian Hurley was back in scoring form in the semi-final win and young Conor Cahalane did very well at corner forward.
With Michael Hurley in the other corner and Mark Collins pulling the strings at wing forward, the Haven have plenty power up front. But Rossa’s looked very good in the semi-final, albeit against a second-string Nemo side. Kevin Davis was in rampant form on the forty and he will be keen to show he was a big loss when injured in the county semi-final. Donal Óg Hodnett has had a great season in the middle of the field, but Conor McCarthy’s guidance from the back will be missed.
Rossa’s are well-balanced and enthusiastic and I might fancy them on a dry sod in the middle of summer, but it’s November now and the power of the Haven could be crucial. Don’t be surprised by another drawn final.