DENIS HURLEY doesn’t sense the end of an era despite Carbery Rangers’ semi-final loss
AFTER a big championship game, the analysis goes deep.
The winners won because they did a number of things right and extra significance is attached to managerial decisions, regardless of how forced they may have been or if they were only belatedly proven right.
The losers, on the other hand, need to look long and hard at themselves, regardless of what they have done in the past or how close they have come.
In the wake of the All-Ireland SFC final, we read one piece that listed a litany of Mayo failings – the same Mayo team which, two years running, drew and twice lost by a point to a Dublin side commonly regarded as one of the best ever.
So it is with Sunday’s SFC semi-final between St Finbarr’s and Carbery Rangers.
There can’t be any denying the superiority of the Togher side, who won by 3-14 to 0-14 as they reached a first final since 2010.
Since August 19th, when they beat Newestown in round 2B, the Barr’s have seen off Bishopstown, CIT, Ballincollig and now Ross, getting better with each game and benefiting from the regularity of the fixtures. If they do beat Nemo to claim the Andy Scannell Cup for the first time since 1985, they will have beaten the last three champions en route to glory.
Just because the Barr’s were good though, does that mean that Ross were terrible and are on an inexorable decline? It wasn’t their day, certainly, but until then they had put up a good defence of their crown, impressive in seeing off Clonakilty, Douglas and then Castlehaven. Often, a club will experience a hangover after a massive win like last year’s was – all the more so given that it was a first ever for Ross – but that wasn’t the case.
Sunday marked a seventh semi-final appearance for Ross in eight years, and in the odd year out, 2013, they still reached the quarter-finals. That’s exceptional consistency given the other perennial contenders in the county and to say that they have underachieved is unfair in the same way that people say Cork under Conor Counihan should have won more, forgetting just how rare it is that success is enjoyed in this county.
There seems to be a widespread expectation that Ross are now on the way back down the other side of the hill, one which wasn’t there on Sunday morning when they went in as favourites. The winners will keep winning forever, according to conventional wisdom (just look at the media reaction after every All-Ireland final, take Clare in 2013 as a prime example) and the losers are finished.
There may be a period of transition, but Nemo Rangers have shown in recent years that such changes can take place without the need for a marked drop in performance.
Ross may not have a crop of ten U21s ready to throw into senior level, but they don’t need to have that – evolution, rather than revolution, is what is required and will suffice.
John Hayes’s scoring power is the big thing Ross need to replace in the next few years but he’s far from finished. Mark Hodnett was a Cork minor this year and will, in time, benefit from the experience of Sunday.
Jerry O’Riordan played U21 for the county in 2017 and John O’Rourke still has rakes of time on his side.
The first time Ross reached the senior semi-finals was in 2010, a six-point loss to the Barrs in Páirc Uí Rinn. It was seen as part of a learning curve, but who’d have ever expected that, when they did get to the top, it would be without Micheál O’Sullivan, for so long their talisman? Players change, but teams need not collapse.
Elsewhere in this supplement, you can read about the exploits of the Ross U16s, who scored the last eight points on Saturday to draw their county Premier 1 U16FC final against – coincidentally – the Barrs. It surely won’t be long before those same players are playing their part as the club continue to challenge at senior level.