Sport

Odds are stacked against Urhan’s footballers

November 5th, 2021 12:45 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Passage West's Mark Guinane putting pressure on Urhan's defender Cillian Shea during their 2020 Cork JAFC tie played in June 2021.

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URHAN footballers are intent on ending their long wait for a win in the county junior A football championship – but the odds are heavily stacked against them.

Their last victory in the county JAFC series was against Bandon in September 2007, but since then Urhan has fallen short when they venture outside the Beara division.

Their recent record rankles with them and they have a chance to end that losing streak when they take on East Cork champions Bride Rovers in a county quarter-final in Ahiohill this Saturday, 6th (2pm), but Urhan are at a serious disadvantage before a ball is kicked.

As the only junior A football team in Beara, they have no opposition to play against or competition to play in. They automatically go forward to the county series having played no championship games, whereas the other battle-hardened title contenders have all come through their respective divisions and high-intensity challenges.

‘It is quite difficult to go into a county championship quarter-final without playing a championship game,’ Urhan player/selector Martin McCarthy agrees.

‘It’s difficult to get up to the pace of the game from the very start, but we have worked hard in the last couple of months to make sure we’re as ready as we can be. We knew we would be going into the county quarter-final on the back of no game but we have brought a lot of pressure on ourselves – in training and in challenge games – to get to a championship standard. By putting that pressure on us, we are hoping that will pay off.’

Urhan played their delayed 2020 Cork JAFC quarter-final against Passage West on June 26th last – they lost 2-10 to 2-5. Since then they have played one Carbery-Beara Football League Division 1A game – a 3-25 to 1-5 hammering of Muintir Bháire on August 21st – and a few challenge games to prepare for the 2021 Cork JAFC. It’s not ideal. Saturday’s opposition, Bride Rovers, are on a high after winning just their third-ever East Cork JAFC title. Momentum is firmly with Rovers.

There is no quick-fox solution either. When Garnish re-graded to junior B in early 2020, it left Urhan as the only junior A club in the division. Unless a Beara team wins promotion to the junior A ranks or Urhan join the competitive Carbery JAFC next door (they already play in the Carbery-Beara League), it looks like they’ll face a similar scenario in the years ahead. The lack of regular competitive games is holding Urhan back on the field, but away from it the club is in a good place.

‘There is a lot of good work going on in Urhan,’ Martin McCarthy explains. ‘We had a recent development with the pitch in Eyeries, there is a massive work being done at underage level, the U21s were a kick of a ball away from winning the Carbery U21B football final in the summer, the junior Bs have had a great year already and won the Beara junior B championship lately, so there are a lot of positives.’

Now, the junior A team wants to keep that feel-good factor going when they meet Bride Rovers this weekend. McCarthy is a player/selector on a management team that also includes James Healy (player/selector), club chairman Seamus O’Sullivan, Joe O’Shea and Paul Nee. The response from the players has been encouraging. The group is working hard, all united by the same goal: to win in the county championship.

‘This is a player-led approach because we have been disappointed with how we’ve done in the county in recent years. The players are driving this, they want to improve and we can’t have asked for any more off them,’ McCarthy says.

Urhan have a good crop of young players like Conor Lowney, Philip O’Shea, Cillian O’Shea and Ciarán O’Sullivan, as well as Joe O’Shea who won an All-Ireland MFC title with Cork in 2019. The target is a victory this Saturday, and while they know that the odds don’t favour them, they’re doing everything they can to cause a shock.

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