AS a maths teacher at Bandon Grammar School, Brian Shanahan is used to crunching numbers.
He also knows when the numbers don’t add up like they should.
Take his own Carbery Rangers. This Sunday, they face into their eighth Cork SFC semi-final in nine seasons; that’s remarkable consistency.
But out of those seven previous semis, they’ve only won two (2014 when the lost the county final and 2016 when they broke their duck). That means they’ve lost five. That’s not a great return.
So, while they’re consistently involved at the business end of the season, they’ve – and too much for their own liking – consistently come up short.
‘There’s a level of consistency to it alright but if you looked at the consistency where the seasons have ended, that’s not a consistency that sits well with us,’ Shanahan admits.
‘We won in 2016, we had another chance in 2014, we have been up around there other than that but not where we want to be.’
When you get to the last four, the best teams are left standing and this is where inches can make the difference. But inches didn’t separate Ross and St Finbarr’s when they met in last year’s county semi-final at Páirc Úi Rinn, there was a gulf between the sides that day.
The Barrs won 3-14 to 0-14. They built an early lead. Stephen Sherlock was on fire. Ross never recovered. Their first score from play came in first-half injury time. The gap was never closer than four. It was nine by the end. They relinquished their county title rather tamely in the finish.
That will stick in the memory ahead of Sunday.
‘You have days when things don’t go right and they didn’t go right that day,’ the 30-year-old Rangers captain admits.
‘We know now the power and the capacity that the Barrs have. We saw that first hand. We didn’t cover ourselves in glory that day and they were far better than us.
‘They showed in the county final games against Nemo that they are one of the best teams in the county. If we are to make the final we have to rise to that.
‘Still, we came away from Páirc Uí Rinn that day impressed by the Barrs but also with the knowledge that we didn’t perform to the level that we can.’
Given what happened last year, there’s no chance Ross will lose focus this week ahead of the game. They’re one of the most experienced teams in the county buoyed by the injection of youth and coming off the back of solid displays against Ballincollig and Clonakilty.
‘We are better equipped this year, I think,’ Shanahan says.
‘Nothing major has changed in terms of the personnel, we have some young fellas pushing up from underneath, but it’s more of a mindset really.’
The return of Michéal O’Sullivan for a second stint as manager has also had the desired effect. He had four years before, stepped away for two seasons (and they won a county title in 2016) and is back again now.
‘We’ve had him before so we had a good idea of what he offers,’ Ross defender Shanahan says.
‘He’s a big football man so he’s kept up-to-date with everything. He moves with the times, he knows what’s going on.
‘He freshened things up but he’s not a man to over complicate things either. He keeps the game simple.’
Shanahan, similar to O’Sullivan, knows that more is needed against the Barrs on Sunday if they want to get back to a third county final in 2016.
‘We were close to five months off before we played Ballincollig so it was hard to know where we were. The first half went well, it was great to get out there and put in some hard work,’ he says.’
‘After that, we spoke about how we have to improve in every game if we want to move on to the next stage. That did happen against Clon.
‘If we are to beat the Barrs we have to bring it up another few gears.’
Those extra few gears are in there, Shanahan maintains, and it’s about producing a big performance at the right time. Hopefully, the numbers will look a little bit better after Sunday.