CARTHACH Keane has a busier than usual Saturday schedule. He’s captain of the Newcestown football team that begins their Cork Premier SFC campaign against Ilen Rovers in Dunmanway on Saturday evening (7pm), but earlier that afternoon he will be on the sideline as Tadhg MacCarthaigh manager/coach when they take on Kilmeen in their Carbery JAFC opener in Leap (3pm).
There’s another strong link between the Newcestown senior football team and the Tadhg MacCarthaigh juniors, as Caheragh duo Colm and Brian O’Driscoll are involved on the coaching side with Newcestown. It’s a relationship that is working well for both parties.
‘Last year they (Colm and Brian) brought a great enthusiasm, a game-plan and a lot of thinking that we hadn’t been exposed to in a long time. They are young, they are current, they have been there and done that, and they have played at the highest level,’ Keane explained. The O’Driscoll’s input worked last season as Newcestown advanced to the Cork SFC semi-finals for the first time and were the last West Cork team standing. Along the way they beat this Saturday’s opponents, Ilen Rovers, in a quarter-final played in incessant rain in Rosscarbery. It wasn’t a classic. It wasn’t for the faint-hearted either, but that didn’t bother Newcestown. For Ilen, though, they learned lessons that day that they hope they can put into practice when the teams clash again this weekend.
‘We are confident enough this year,’ Ilen forward and captain Sean O’Donovan explained, ‘preparations have gone well enough, we have tried a few things in challenge games, it’s all a learning experience – and we can take the learnings from the league and championship from last year too and put them to use.
‘We can use too what we learned from playing Newcestown last year. They are a good, hard, solid team. They were probably physically stronger than us on the day and we are trying to rectify that by moving the ball fast. Conditions were very tough.’
Given how bad the weather was for last year’s quarter-final, it’s not an accurate barometer to judge either team, but we do know that both Newestown and Ilen were the pick of West Cork senior football clubs in 2019. Newestown, like we said, reached the county semi-finals, while Ilen reached the quarter-finals, beating Carbery Rangers along the way and they also won the Division 3 county league title. It was a season of progression for both, and they’ll both look to continue that upward trajectory.
‘2019 was probably the first (football) run that we got in a good few years, it was the first bit of focus that we placed on football in a while because hurling had taken over for a bit,’ Keane explained.
‘We felt we had a chance of progressing more in the hurling but last year’s run in the football gave us the belief that we can compete when we put our minds to it. It gave us a platform, it gave us games and that meant we were improving. Previous to that we were just maintaining our status whereas last year we achieved something that we hadn’t done before.’
Whereas Newcestown will juggle football and hurling commitments in the weeks ahead, Ilen can focus fully on football. While there are derbies against Castlehaven (Sean O’Donovan shares a house with Haven’s Conor Nolan) and Carbery Rangers to come, getting an early win on the board in the Group of Death is what Ilen are targeting. So too are Newcestown, and given that they have two weekends of senior hurling to come, perhaps they need the victory more than Ilen. If Newcestown lose on Saturday, then they are facing into Castlehaven off the back of a loss and two successive weekends of hurling. There’s a lot on the line in Dunmanway this Saturday.
Check out our Cork PSFC group of death podcast here which includes interviews with all four clubs - Carbery Rangers, Castlehaven, Ilen Rovers and Newcestown