JUST over a year ago, it fell to us to evaluate what the future held for Carbery Rangers in the wake of their county SFC semi-final loss to St Finbarr’s.
There was a feeling that the Rosscarbery club may have scaled the peak of the mountain, but we urged caution – they hadn’t become a bad team overnight, there wasn’t exactly a conveyor belt of clubs ready to gatecrash the elite and there were young players coming up who would augment what was there.
This year, Ross again made it to the semis and they will feel they should have beaten the Barrs, losing by three points after leading by four at half-time. Even though they lost that game, the early epitaphs were rash.
Now, having to pass judgement on Castlehaven, the verdict is the same – while it may not grab attention to say hold steady and wait and see, it is no less advisable.
Look at it this way – if they had held on to win the semi-final replay against Duhallow two weeks ago, nobody would be writing them off ahead of the final against St Finbarr’s. Just because they were beaten at the third attempt by the north-western division, it doesn’t mean that their demise is inevitable.
It’s not as if they need a dramatic transition – of what might be termed their linchpin players, the oldest is David Limrick, who will be 32 next year. Seán Dineen will be 30, Mark Collins will be 29, Damien Cahalane and Brian Hurley 26 and Michael Hurley will be 22.
Liam Collins’s second year in charge was better than his first, with the addition of Jerome Stack as a coach said to be of huge benefit. While the Haven may not beat Nemo Rangers in the same fashion as they did this year, there is no reason to think that the city side would have things all their own way.
Over the past six seasons, only six teams have reached the county final – Nemo in 2013, 2015 and 2017; the Haven in 2013 and 2015; Ross and Ballincollig in 2014 and 2016; St Finbarr’s last year and this, and Duhallow on Sunday.
Beyond that sextet, Valley Rovers may perhaps establish themselves as challengers in the coming years and Clonakilty are improving, but as 2019 dawns, it’s the same six that people will look to as being in top tranche.
With a revitalised Brian Hurley in their ranks after a full pre-season behind him, the Haven will be a stronger proposition, while Cathal Maguire, Ronan Walsh and Andrew Whelton will have developed further.
It’s not an inevitability that they will take the next step – it never can be – but they’re not going to drop through a trap-door all of a sudden. Playing Division 2 football in the league may be a slight disadvantage but, with so many players involved with Cork, it can be hard to put out a strong 15 for every game.
Nevertheless, they have always been more of a championship team than a league one and that edge is unlikely to be dulled.