BY DENIS HURLEY
THE first time that Pat Prendergast kept goal for the Carbery senior football team was as a 20-year-old in 2000, when the divisional team reached the county final.
Unfortunately for them, a Nemo Rangers side, hungry after going seven years without a title, were ten-point winners in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, starting a run that would see them claim the Andy Scannell Cup seven times in nine years.
Sixteen years on, Bandon man Prendergast is still between the posts for the barony – albeit with the occasional hiatus in the interim – and once again Nemo provide the opposition in a pivotal Round 4 clash in Coachford on Sunday (6.45pm).
Prendergast, who was the goalkeeper when Carbery won the championship in 2004, can recall the 2000 final, though without much fondness. Regardless, the pride of playing for Carbery still remains.
‘That was a strong Nemo team, they beat us well,’ he says, ‘they won three in a row after that and then a lot of them won a four in a row after we won the county.
‘If you’d asked me at the time if I thought I’d still be involved 16 years later I’d probably have said no but that’s why you line out for your division, to get the opportunity to play in big games like this against the top teams.
‘There were a few years where I didn’t play but I came back into in 2013 and it’s always an honour to play alongside the best players in West Cork, you’re not going to say no if you’re asked.’
Carbery’s campaign to date has seen them edge O’Donovan Rossa in the first round before losing to St Finbarr’s in Round 2A. Nemo have already seen off two divisional sides in Duhallow and Muskerry, and Prendergast knows that the margin for error is slim.
‘Against the Barr’s, we played well in the first half but in the second half we didn’t create enough and then we let them in for a few scores and they finished stronger,’ he says.
‘Sunday will be tough, Nemo have been the benchmark in Cork for so long, we’ll definitely have to up our game for it.’
For Prendergast and his Bandon colleagues on the Carbery panel, it’s a time with little opportunity to rest. Last week, the Lilywhite beat Ballydesmond in the IFC and they will be in hurling action on Saturday against Kilworth in the PIHC – the Clonakilty-based garda is back in goal there too – before Sunday’s tie. Bantry also play this weekend, making it difficult to combine everything.
‘It was the same the weekend of the Barr’s game, Bantry played 80 minutes on the Friday night and Bandon had a match on the Saturday too,’ he says.
‘It’s a bit unfair if you are caught with two games on the one weekend but you’ll still play.
‘When you have a week like this, you’ll try to get as much rest as you can, but you’re still probably going to be out three nights. In saying that, you’d be hoping that the week of the championship the sessions would be lighter, working more on gameplans.’
Obviously, everyone on the Carbery panel has to work around club training – at least earlier in the year – so it’s not always easy to arrange get-togethers.
‘Generally, we’d aim for once a week, but club commitments can make that hard sometimes,’ Prendergast says.
‘Obviously, it’s difficult to have everyone there at every session, but we try to make as many as we can and when we do train together then we have good sessions.
‘It’s the nature of it with a divisional side, you have to manage as best you can.’
The reward is that the sacrifices and the effort involved can prove to be worth it, when Carbery do go on a run deep into the championship, as Prendergast is all too aware.
‘Every so often, it clicks,’ he says.
‘Any time Carbery enter, there is the potential to do something if things go right. I’ve played in three semi-finals and two finals, they were the years that things did click.
‘There are some very good players there, we know that we are capable of going far.’