BY KIERAN McCARTHY
CLONAKILTY U21 footballers are not weighed down by three-in-a-row expectations ahead of this season’s South West U21 A championship, insists their manager Neil Deasy.
The reigning champions begin the defence of their Carbery crown against neighbours Carbery Rangers in Castlehaven this Saturday night, at 7.30pm.
This is a repeat of last year’s quarter-final meeting that Clon won 2-10 to 2-3, while Clonakilty defeated Ross (1-10 to 0-5) at the semi-final stage the previous year before beating Castlehaven in the final.
With back-to-back titles in the bag, Neil Deasy’s young charges are, and rightly so, frontrunners again this season, but there is no talk of three-in-a-row in the Clon camp.
‘There is no extra pressure. We are genuinely going to take it one game at a time. I know that’s a cliché but it’s our approach,’ Deasy said.
‘All we are focussed on is the first round against Ross on Saturday. If we get over that then we look to the next hurdle. And so on.’
Clonakilty will go into this championship opener against Ross without the suspended Colm Sheehy and Jack Cowhig, while Jack O’Mahony is set to miss out through a hamstring injury he picked up three weeks ago.
‘This will probably be too soon for Jack. In fairness to him there is a lot of football to be played and he has a long year ahead so it will be too soon,’ Deasy explained.
As customary with the U21 grade there have been changes to the Clonakilty panel since last season’s success, with Aidan Collins, Jack Barrett, Kevin Cormican, Gearoid Barry and Johnny Leahy all overage now, but there is a steady stream of talent coming through.
The club had a strong representation on the Clonakilty Community College team that went all the way to the Corn Uí Mhuiri semi-final last month, and Mark White, David Lowney, Liam O’Donovan, Liam O’Connor and Sean O’Donoghue are all in with the Clon U21s this campaign.
Cork U21 Sean White will be a go-to man and he, along with Sean McEvoy, David Lowney, Josh Henry and suspended duo Colm Sheehy and Jack Cowhig have all played with the Clonakilty seniors.
‘Preparations haven’t been too bad. We set up our own U21 tournament in Clonakilty, the Cuisine Tournament, and we’ve had three wins from the three games, but we’ve haven’t had our full 15 out at any stage,’ Deasy said.
‘We are happy enough with the way the games have gone but we are a bit unsure about where we are right now.’
He added: ‘I don’t think there has ever been so many players involved with Cork teams at different levels and it’s great compliment to the underage work ongoing in the club, but on the other side it has meant that we haven’t all been together properly yet, which isn’t ideal ahead of the championship.’
With that in mind Clonakilty will certainly be tested on Saturday night against a Ross team that Deasy is taking very seriously.
‘We are just focussed on getting over Carbery Rangers this weekend. We beat them last year but we are very wary of them,’ the Clon manager said.
‘They are very competitive at senior and those young lads are out training with senior players who got to a county final last year.
‘You can’t gauge Ross on last year because they will be after coming on a lot in the last 12 months, both physically and in terms of the experience from training with seniors who got to a county final.’
Deasy has taken over from Sean Cowhig as Clonakilty U21 manager and is joined by Timmy Anglin, Pa O’Connor and Eugene Scally to form the management team that is plotting the club’s path to success over the next few weeks.
But, as Deasy knows, winning the South West U21 A football championship is a tall ask any season, and this year will be no different.
‘Castlehaven will be there or thereabouts. I know we beat them last year but that was a very young team and they will be a year older now. Bantry have a good team and will be looking to make an impact,’ Deasy said.
‘We played Newcestown in Ballineen two years ago. We pulled away from them in the last ten minutes but those fellas will all be on the age, I say, this year. It’s going to be very competitive and you can’t write off any team.’