GLEANINGS FROM THE GAELS
ON a day on which we saw the best and worst of Cork football, we were literally left scratching our heads at what had transpired in Dunmanway on Sunday last.
Who could have foreseen that the Clon v Ross game would be over before the second half had hardly begun or, incredibly, that a vaunted Nemo Rangers, champions of Cork and Munster, with three Cork seniors in their forward line, would be scoreless at half time and that it would be 43 minutes before they raised a flag? Who saw that coming?
There were doubts that Carbery Rangers with a number of veterans on their team could repeat the heroics of the past eight seasons when they reached the semi-final every season, making them easily the most consistent team in Cork senior football.
But with Haulie O’Sullivan back in charge they have clearly timed their championship run perfectly to suit those veterans, all of whom were in sparkling form on Sunday and provided the type of leadership Clonakilty could only dream about.
The experience gathered over the past decade is clearly visible and when one considers that over the hour they kicked only one single wide, then one can clearly see just how economical they were with the ball all through.
To me, Ross are playing the best football we have seen since they won the county in 2016 and their display was calm and planned. The young players have fitted in seamlessly with the veterans and there is a lovely balance about their team. They looked by far the best footballing team in Dunmanway on Sunday but, however, a word of caution, their semi-final record is anything but good, just two won out of eight. Their opponents will be the Barr’s who trimmed their sails convincingly last season at the same stage. The city side started like a whirlwind against Douglas on Saturday but were hanging on at the end and didn’t impress. It should be a mighty game.
What can one say of Castlehaven and Nemo? Have we ever seen Nemo as bad, as leaderless and as toothless in attack? And that with three Cork senior forwards in action. People were truly despairing for Cork football on Sunday after watching Nemo crash so spectacularly.
But credit where credit is due. It was the Haven who made the champions look so poor. They got the match-ups spot on and every Haven player won his own private battle. It was tremendous defending without resorting to the lamentable 14 behind the ball.
For a while we thought it was going to be the lowest-scoring championship game for many years with the Haven themselves struggling up front as well but when they clicked after the break, it was a different story. This was a reversion to the battling Haven of old and no doubt the two great games against CIT has moulded them into a formidable unit again. Their clash with Duhallow should be another cracker.
The question many people were asking on Sunday, as they recovered from two such lop-sided encounters, was how many county titles would Nemo have won down the years if the finals weren’t played in their own backyard of Páirc Uí Chaoimh or Páirc Uí Rinn. They certainly don’t relish travelling farther west than Bandon and most of their big defeats have taken place in the heart of West Cork, as on Sunday last. It’s another version of the Dubs and Croke Park.
Also the old theory that if you stop Nemo from scoring a goal, you stand a great chance in beating them. The Haven proved that true again on Sunday.
We had sympathy for the huge crowd who attended on Sunday in brilliant conditions, hoping to see two thrilling games only to be faced with two hammerings. We also had sympathy for Cork manager Ronan McCarthy, as he goes looking for players to rebuild his Cork team.
Ross were the best team on view but their best players are gone beyond the Cork stage, bar, maybe, John O’Rourke, who should still be involved in 2019. As regards Clonakilty, Mark White will figure again as goalkeeper but his brother Seán has been way off form since returning to the Clon team after Cork were beaten. One must question the wisdom of dropping Thomas Clancy from the Cork panel as he has the strength and class to make the team.
Nemo Rangers had only one player, Luke Connolly, who looked anywhere remotely like an inter-county player, sad to say, so we can’t see them backb-oning a Cork revival in the near future.
The best footballer on view in Dunmanway was Damian Cahalane and what a loss he has been to the Cork team. I don’t suppose there is any way to persuade him to swap codes for a couple of years? Mark Collins is a class footballer but has been messed around too much by the Cork selectors. He must be used as the central play-maker to get the best out of him.
Michael Hurley was another who put up his hand for inclusion and must be used as the goal-scorer on the team. He is back to his very best at present but brother Brian, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to yet have recaptured the form that set him apart before his long injury. He seems to have lost the extra yard of pace, but that might return.
Overall, a disappointing day for the neutral spectators, a disappointing day for Ronan McCarthy but a great day for West Cork football, with a strong possibility of an all-west county final. Roll on the semi-finals.
- Slan go Fóill