O’Rourke knows Ross title defence is facing its toughest test
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
COUNTY champions Carbery Rangers must raise their game to keep the defence of their title alive, insists John O’Rourke.
Fresh from a testing three-point quarter-final win against Castlehaven last weekend, Ross are straight into a Cork SFC semi-final against the flying St Finbarr’s this Sunday afternoon in Páirc Uí Rinn, at 4pm.
Ross forward O’Rourke admits that the West Cork team are in third gear at the moment but that they need to hit top speed fast, as the Barr’s have momentum behind them.
Pardon the pun, but Ross need to raise the Barr.
‘If we don’t up our levels there’s not a hope we will get past the Barr’s,’ Cork forward O’Rourke said.
‘In a semi-final, if you’re not in fourth or fifth gear you’re not going to get over the line.
‘That’s the challenge or us, to get up to the level that the Barr’s are at already, to match them, beat them and get into another county final.
‘We know from the last few years that you need to build and build, and we’re doing that, we’re getting closer to where we need to be at.
‘We haven’t even hit fourth gear yet so we know we have room to improve and hopefully we can go through the gears.’
If you walked into the Carbery Rangers’ dressing-room in Dunmanway after Saturday night’s derby win against Castlehaven, you’d have been struck by the disappointment of the players.
Yes, they’d won, survived a battle. But they weren’t happy with the performance.
Ross have high standards, and they didn’t reach those against the Haven. O’Rourke knows a repeat performance won’t end well against the Barr’s.
‘We had a lot of wides, too many,’ he admitted.
‘We were talking afterwards, we left five short into the goalkeeper’s hands and there were a lot that tailed wide at the end, so we need to sharpen up and get more ruthless.
‘Coming into a semi-final we need to be converting a far higher percentage of chances, especially against a team like the Barr’s who will be very tight at the back.
‘The big positive that we can take is that we had a good first 20 minutes and we played some good football. For a team that had a gap (Ross played Douglas on July 25th in the previous round) we seemed fairly sharp.
‘There were a couple of weird goals in the game and we gave ourselves a cushion after the good start but we’d be looking for way more on Sunday, a lot better performance.
‘There was a lot of disappointment in the dressing room with the performance but the day after we realised that we are in another county semi-final, at the business end of the championship. That’s where we want to be.’
This is also where Carbery Rangers and O’Rourke will hope their experience kicks in. Sunday will be their seventh Cork SFC semi-final since 2010 (won two, lost four), they’ve contested two finals (2014 and ’16) and won one (2016). They’ve banked more than their share of experience and that has to count for something.
‘A lot of these semi-finals go down to the last five, ten minutes,’ O’Rourke said.
‘Hopefully we can bring our experience to the fore when we need to but the main thing is that we brush up on our weak spots from last weekend – we couldn’t get possession for ten minutes of the second half and our finishing wasn’t where we need it to be.
‘Hopefully we can start to build up some momentum. We were starting from a flat last weekend against Castlehaven, a tough local derby and it was always going to be a hard match.
‘We’ll build on that game and rectify what went wrong because the Barr’s will be flying it, they have had a lovely run in and have built up a head of steam. They are where they want to be.’
The Barr’s were impressive in their win against Ballincollig last Friday and they’re back in a Cork SFC semi-final for the first time since 2010 when, ironically, they beat Carbery Rangers 1-11 to 0-8 to advance to the final.
O’Rourke has been clocking their progress through the various rounds and is wary of the city slickers’ challenge.
‘Them beating Ballincollig and the manner of their performance shows what we’re dealing with because Ballincollig have been a serious team for the last few years,’ he said.
‘We’re looking after ourselves though, it was good to get the game last Saturday, it gets us up to the pitch of a championship game and hopefully the eight-day turnaround will mean we’re that much sharper on Sunday and take the chances that we missed last weekend.’