BY KIERAN McCARTHY
SEAN Powter likes the fresh West Cork air.
The Christmas gone, just like all the ones before, saw Sean and his family pile into their car in Douglas, point it west and head to Skibbereen, where his mother, Marita, is from.
Skibb is also home to Sean’s grandparents, Liam and Joan O’Donovan, and that’s where every Christmas is spent, with them in Lurriga House on the Mill Road.
It was just the break the Cork footballer needed ahead of a busy year.
‘We were down again for Christmas,’ the Douglas man explained.
‘It’s nice to get the whole family together, there’d be us, my grandparents, aunts and uncles, all the people from Skibbereen.
‘I’d get down a couple of times a year, always at Christmas, and we’d have Christmas in Lurriga House; that’s always good fun.
‘We’re always back and forth to the grandparents, we all see each other regularly.’
His grandfather Liam was a teacher in St Fachtna’s de la Salle for many decades and also played football with O’Donovan Rossa, as did his granduncle, Dermot, the footballer of the family.
Powter is ready to give them a run for their money on the football field.
Last season saw the 20-year-old burst onto the inter-county scene with his power and speed, to such an extent that he was nominated for the 2017 Young Footballer of the Year Award. He was a rare bright spot in an otherwise bleak year for Cork football.
‘I didn’t expect it to go so well,’ he admitted, with his performance against Mayo in the All-Ireland qualifiers earning him rave reviews.
‘I thought I might get a few games here and there. But it took off after the second half of the Tipperary game, I got my first start against Kerry in the Munster final and then the Mayo game was my best performance of the season. I’m just grateful to Peadar (Healy) for giving me that chance.’
Powter took his chance last year and he is hoping for many more opportunities to shine under new manager Ronan McCarthy this season.
He is optimistic about the season ahead. Promotion from Division 2 of the league is a must, he says, while he also wants to win the Munster championship. He is setting realistic targets.
‘The aim is to get out of Division 2,’ the second year UCC biochemistry student explained.
‘Last year we drew games we should have won and lost games we could have drew and we came up short – but we know we need to get up to Division 1, to play Dublin and Kerry and those teams every week, that will make us better.
‘Division 2 is a hard division to get out of so we have a lot of work to do to win promotion. We are optimistic this year, we have Tipperary at home in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh in our first game so we can’t wait.’
Powter symbolises a new wave of Cork footballer on the way through, free from the baggage and scars of past teams and powered by youthful confidence. He acknowledges that there’s a long road ahead but he’s not shirking the challenge.
‘Last year was disappointing considering we only performed in one game, against Mayo,’ he said.
‘We have a lot of work to do but we can get to the level to compete with the likes of Kerry, Dublin and Mayo on a consistent basis.
‘It comes down to the mind-set. We perform well against the big teams but poorly against the so-called weaker teams, like Waterford in the championship and Clare in the league last year. That comes down to the mind-set, to find that consistency and to approach every game like it’s a big game, irrespective of the opposition.
‘The talent is there, I don’t know why it’s gone wrong over the last few years but we’re working hard this year.’
Rule changes mean that Powter misses out on his final year as an U21 but the upside to that is that he can concentrate on life as a senior footballer and his first full national league campaign, with plenty of family and supporters in Skibbereen ready to cheer him on.