Reflecting on Carbery Rangers’ heroics, DENIS HURLEY picked the brains of Robbie Ahern
IT’S only now, as 2016 draws to a close, that Carbery Rangers are able to properly embrace the feeling of being county senior football champions.
At times, it must have felt like the Andy Scannell Cup was something of a mirage to the Rosscarbery club. Having been promoted to senior after winning the 2005 IFC (with Munster and All-Ireland titles following), they reached the semi-finals in 2010. And 2011. And 2012. They didn’t in 2013 but came back to reach the final in 2014, only to lose to Ballincollig.
In 2015, they again made it to the last four and were unlucky to fall to Nemo Rangers, who would go on to defeat Castlehaven in the decider. Thankfully, failure was only the fuel for eventual success, as October’s final saw Ballincollig defeated.
While Ross wouldn’t be able to go on to Munster glory, losing to The Nire of Waterford, selector Robbie Ahern is more than happy with the historic year as he reflects on it.
‘It did take a while, there’s no doubt about it, it didn’t sink in straightaway,’ he says.
‘Obviously, we were very happy with the year. What happened in Munster, that was a bit of a downer when we look back at it but, at the start of the year, if we had been told that we’d win the county and reach the Munster semi-final, we’d have been very happy.
‘Our goal was to win the championship and we got there. We’ve been striving to do that since 2006, when we got up there and thankfully the effort paid off.’
It’s a common theme among top competitors – the likes of Roy Keane, Johnny Giles or Brian Cody spring to mind – that the wins will never please them as much as the defeats will hurt. It’s the kind of mindset which drives them on.
Ahern is also up front about the fact that this year’s win could never be seen to have overshadowed every other campaign, but it does go quite a way towards it.
‘To be perfectly honest, you’ll never fully eradicate it, but winning definitely does go a long way towards that,’ he says.
‘Losing the 2014 final was obviously disappointing, but it was still a good year, at least we got to the final. There had been other years where we didn’t manage that and all the semi-final defeats would almost stick in your mind more.
‘We would definitely have felt that we were better than that. This year has taken away a lot of the pain but there’ll always be ifs, buts and maybes.’
One way that they were able to learn from past mistakes was the fact that the final paired them against Ballincollig, as it had in 2014.
‘It was only a second county final for both,’ Ahern says.
‘I don’t think 2014 was mentioned that much, but we knew how they played and they knew how we played, we just felt that we had the stronger squad when it came down to it.
‘If we played to our ability, we would win.’
That was the case, a 1-15 to 1-12 win achieved. A late Ballincollig penalty did threaten to make things nervy, but on the line Ahern was calm.
‘To be honest, I felt that we’d hold out,’ he says.
‘The penalty alright, in the crowd it got them riled up but I think that, deep down, we knew that we’d do it. There was a lot of experience out there and they really stood up in those last few minutes.’
Now, the paradigm is different and new. In 2017, Ross are the team up there for everybody else to try to take down. Having been the hunters for so long, becoming the hunted will require some adaptation on their part but Ahern is confident that the team have the requisite qualities to deal with what is thrown at them.
‘It’s a new challenge but you have to embrace it,’ he says.
‘We are the best team in the county at the moment and that’s what we’ve always wanted to so we have to stay up there now. I think that the lads are more than capable of doing it again.
‘The workrate that they put in is absolutely unbelievable, they really are a committed bunch. Next year brings challenges, but I’m sure that they’ll meet them head-on, in fairness.’