BY GER McCARTHY
TIPPERARY inter-county player Robbie Kiely’s decision to transfer to Carbery Rangers could turn out to be the deciding factor in the West Cork club’s bid to win a first county senior football title.
The Rosscarbery club face a Nemo Rangers side desperate to return to the top table of Cork’s senior football ranks in what should be a high-quality semi-final at Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday afternoon (2pm).
‘I was expecting a high standard coming down to play club football here in Cork and I haven’t been let down,’ the Tipperary senior told The Southern Star.
‘Every game I have played with Carbery Rangers has been competitive and of a high standard. Each team we have played in the league and championship has been a big challenge so I’m really enjoying it so far.
‘It has been interesting to encounter the different styles of football that teams use as well but the overall standard of Cork’s club football scene has impressed me.’
Coming in from outside the county bounds and fitting in with an established club was always going to be a challenge.
Kiely credits a welcoming dressing room plus manager Micheál O’Sullivan’s influence as key factors in helping him settle in to his new surroundings after he transferred from his Tipperary club, Arravale Rovers, in February.
Kiely has lived in Courtmacsherry with his family for the past five years, and was commuting up and down to Tipp for his club football before he made the move to Ross.
‘Micheál and the Rosscarbery lads are a great bunch in fairness to them and were very open to the idea of me joining the squad,’ Kiely said.
‘There were no issues with an outsider coming in to the dressing room from day one and that definitely helped me settle. I’m hoping I can continue to perform my best for them and the supporters as well. Hopefully we can improve on last year.
‘Moving down has been seamless enough to be honest although I’ve had to get used to the West Cork banter since transferring. There is a great camaraderie within the squad and I try to give as good as I get!’
A dressing room including experienced inter-county talent such as John Hayes, Thomas O’Rourke and Kevin McMahon not to mention the likes of Brian Shanahan plus Alan Jennings means Robbie Kiely has had to hit the ground running since his arrival.
The step-up in class has been immediate but the Tipp native is relishing the challenge of matching his team-mates in training as well as delivering out on the pitch, as Carbery Rangers look to build on finishing runners-up in last year’s championship.
‘The team I came from in Tipperary was very much a young, up-and-coming one so I am not used to being in a dressing room with such experience and obvious talent,’ commented Kiely.
‘There are a few players in the squad slightly older than myself like John Hayes and Kevin McMahon but they have the experience of winning All-Irelands. The advice they have given me, the way they train and make sure everyone else’s heads are right before a game has been hugely beneficial.
‘If ever a few of the younger lads are a bit giddy before or after a game it is those lads that have the knowledge and experience to get everyone back on track, focussed and concentrating on what’s required. That’s great to see in any dressing room.’
The personal motivation to test himself in a more challenging environment was one of the main reasons for Kiely’s decision to transfer to Ross. Yet, Micheál O’Sullivan’s influence and man-management skills are the real reason the Tipperary man is now donning Rangers’ jersey.
‘Haulie came and had a chat with me a couple of years ago before any other team showed any interest in me,’ Kiely commented.
‘He came back for another chat two years ago and then a year before I signed he stated how much he wanted me to come and play for him. Haulie led the charge from day one and it was good to see that he and Carbery Rangers were willing to wait for me and not put any pressure on me to sign. It feels like I have made the right decision.’
Little doubt that Carbery Rangers have the bit between their teeth this year after falling at the final hurdle to Ballincollig in the 2014 decider. A shaky start to the 2015 campaign, losing to Valley Rovers following the concession of an injury-time goal was followed by a less-than-convincing display to see off Clyda Rovers.
Return to form
The manner in which Rangers blew Ilen Rovers away in the fourth round and confidently ended Duhallow’s interest in the championship following their most recent outing underlines the Rosscarbery club’s timely return to form. Kiely is delighted to be at the business end of the championship with his new team-mates but wary of getting carried away despite their improved displays.
‘The entire squad is aware that there’s no point in getting carried away despite winning our last three championship games,’ stated the Tipperary native.
‘It is a case of taking it game by game at this stage of the championship.
‘We took nothing for granted after beating Ilen (Rovers) or going into the Duhallow game even though they are a divisional side.
‘ Clearly, they fielded the best players in their division and we had to be at our best to get over them.
‘It’s the same for this weekend’s semi-final against Nemo. We cannot look beyond them. It is going to be a huge game for the club as they’re one of the favourites for the county.’
Rangers’ semi-final opponents are well known to Robbie Kiely ahead of this weekend’s Páirc Uí Rinn showdown. The Tipperary senior footballer is aware of their pedigree and has the utmost respect for the Capwell club.
‘Nemo Rangers have always been the best-known club outside of Cork,’ Kiely admitted.
‘My own team in Tipperary would have played them once or twice before so I’m well aware of the quality they have. Personally, I’m really looking forward to Sunday as it is a game where I get to pit myself against one of the best teams in the county and try to come out on top.’