Kieran Mccarthy chats to Tim Buckley who will take charge of the Carbery footballers again in 2021
KIERAN McCARTHY: So, Tim, you’re back for another season at the helm. You have three years under your belt at this job, it would have been easy to walk away, so why go again?
TIM BUCKLEY: ‘Well, having been appointed in February 2018, Carbery played UCC six weeks later so it was all about getting a team out that year. The performance the team put on that night endeared me to the group as a thrown-together squad took a star-studded UCC to within one point. We were then able to gather properly for the 2019 season and a very productive winter programme put us in a great position before we lost narrowly to a CIT team decorated with inter-county players. This combined with the strange 2020 season left us feeling that the job is unfinished. Having considered these circumstances and following approaches from the Carbery Board and senior players in the group, I agreed that the groundwork is done and the momentum gained in the last two years would be lost if I were to move on now.’
KIERAN: Last season, at one stage you had 60 players involved in the Carbery set-up – do you feel that’s important to show players what’s needed to compete at this level?
TIM: ‘A player’s raw ability will always get our attention. I firmly believe that once a player possesses determination, the will to win and courage, that regardless of the standard that he competes at with his club, he can firstly challenge for the jersey and, once that is done, that he can then compete with the best in Cork as part of a strong and fortified Carbery team.
‘I believe in spreading the net wide and keeping it wide for as long as possible as players improve and push for places on our panel. This practice augurs well for the clubs as well because the individual player is exposed to higher expectations and standards, and any flaws or weakness in a player will be magnified. This inadvertently spreads back to the club as we encourage our players to use our drills and programmes as part of club training.’
KIERAN: Do you feel that the effort that you and your management team put in last season – in terms of preparation, training, keeping in touch through the first lockdown – has built a camaraderie in the team?
TIM: ‘During the lockdown we became more of a social club in the absence of opportunities to get together as a group. The senior players in the group initiated cross-communication throughout the group and in fairness to the younger lads they bought into it readily, things like purchasing their own gear, solving crosswords, challenges and quizzes became the order of the day on those long evenings during lockdown.
‘This had the fortuitous effect of players (and management) from different backgrounds and areas becoming solid friends through the carnage caused by things like solving The Southern Star crossword! By getting the group together early and working together throughout the winter months, setting little mini targets along the way, the players worked hard together. As a consequence, they became friends and there was none of the usual barriers present that you would normally associate with divisional sides.’
KIERAN: Talk to me about the potential of this Carbery team. If, and it’s a big if, you get all the players you want and they’re fit and healthy, what can this team achieve?
TIM: ‘The potential in this group is untapped. However, we and the other divisions in Cork face different challenges to those faced by the club teams involved in senior football – and one of them is player availability.
‘It fails me to understand why a fella would not wish to represent a proud Gaelic football division like Carbery with all its history and what Carbery stands for. However, I don’t dwell on that too much as I believe that our current group – who are fully committed to Carbery football – are plenty good enough to both compete and be successful in the Cork senior football championship.
‘I took great pride in the way our players organised their schedules last year and bought into our plans by putting Carbery senior footballers as part of their programme. These lads deserve tremendous respect.’
KIERAN: Looking back on the 2020 club championships, the defined club-only window was a huge success so how important is it that the GAA learns from this and keeps a club-only window?
TIM: ‘The white heat of championship has returned. This along with freeing up our representative players combined for the best season I have experienced since Dohenys won the intermediate county in 1995 and it’s no coincidence that three of those five games were played in a month!
‘Everyone – players, supporters, officials and management – love the momentum of being out every week. The standards rise from game to game. The public interest is intense. If this format can be continued with I can see the crowds flocking back to matches as they did years ago. But more importantly it has seen a return to players getting adequate time off in the off-season, which increases the desire to play our Gaelic Games when the season starts.’
KIERAN: As positive as the club-only window is, surely it makes it harder from a divisional team’s perspective, as all the clubs want their players so Carbery is down the pecking order.
TIM: ‘The type of player that Carbery seeks are honest, reliable men of character. People like this find combining club, county, college and division easy to do. As my old French teacher used to say, when there’s a will there’s a way. The players know now that there is a system in place to cater for combining all commitments and that rehab, recovery and planning are foremost when it comes to catering for the modern-day footballer. An example of this point are Alan O’Connor and Graham Canty, two of West Cork’s finest who combined club, county and division successfully, and these two men will forever be a part of Carbery folklore.’
KIERAN: If there are players in Carbery reading this who were not involved last season but are good enough to be selected, here’s your platform to tell them why they should throw their lot in with the division.
TIM: ‘Carbery will offer them the opportunity to play senior football, to train and prepare in a senior football environment, to test themselves against and with the best, and to follow in the footsteps of great Carbery men like Canty, Barron, Kehily and Alan O’Connor. I believe that our current group are capable of competing with a lot of teams and that we are more than capable of putting ourselves in a position to compete for ultimate honours and bring Andy Scannell home to West Cork. Any player with any ambition would want to be part of that.’
KIERAN: Carbery have fallen at the first hurdle in the last few seasons, so how important is it heading into 2021 that you get a win under your belt?
TIM: ‘One of the challenges facing all divisional sides is beginning. Once the first win is achieved and you get to play again, momentum grows and performance levels are enhanced. Carbery will prepare diligently for the 2021 season but many factors like fixture congestion, injuries and timing will play a major part in whether or not the team can advance.’
KIERAN: In 2021, hopefully we will see divisions take part in a group series first, guaranteeing Carbery footballers a set number of games. Knowing you will have a run of matches is something you will all look forward to.
TIM: ‘Hopefully the group series pits us against teams that have had the same level of preparation, time together and player availability as Carbery, and that we will compete on a more even keel at the outset. This will give the group a more realistic and manageable target as we face into a brand new season.’
KIERAN: Finally, what’s your one wish for the Carbery senior football team in 2021?
TIM: ‘To have the same team spirit as 2020 and be as good as we can be.’