John Hayes expects a huge battle against Haven in Skibb
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
JOHN Hayes didn’t engage in crystal-ball gazing ahead of the Round 2 draw in late May. He didn’t see the point. The draw is the draw, he says. As it turns out, Carbery Rangers were paired with rivals Castlehaven. That’s a tasty tie to focus the mind.
‘Castlehaven are the toughest opponents we could have drawn in the second round for a variety of reasons, given the quality they have and the local rivalry between the two teams,’ the Ross forward says.
‘But it doesn’t matter who we got, we put ourselves in this position by losing in the first round, in the same way that Castlehaven did. Both clubs are in the position they are because they deserve to be. It’s do or die for both of us.’
Hayes knows Castlehaven well. He’s enjoyed good times against them and suffered bad times. The former Cork forward also knows what to expect from Mike O’Brien’s men and that Ross need to meet match the intensity that Castlehaven will bring to Skibbereen on Saturday night.
‘We have to match their work-rate, endeavour, effort and attitude,’ he says.
‘Once we can bring a similar level of enthusiasm like Castlehaven bring, I am sure this will go down to the wire and will be a 50-50 game.’
Ross also need to move up through the gears and bring their A-game. Anything less and their season is over. Against Ilen Rovers in Round 1 in April, they didn’t play well and suffered a surprise 2-9 to 1-9 loss, though to be fair Ilen have momentum this season and have got their house in order. The Thursday night before, Hayes picked up an injury that limited him to 15 minutes at the end of the second half. Seamus Hayes and Robbie Kiely were two more regulars who didn’t start but were sprung from the bench.
Form improved after that defeat. They picked up four wins from five in the Kelleher Shield. The mood in the camp is positive ahead of Saturday night’s must-win derby.
‘We pulled it together in the league afterwards, we had a few injuries and with the age-profile of the team we know that we have to manage it so that guys are coming back on board into full training now and numbers are up at training. The quality is picking up all the time,’ Hayes says, as derby day approaches.
‘This is as close as you can get to an old-school championship game – it’s a big draw, big name opponent and it will be an interesting evening in Skibb on Saturday.
‘In the last few years, we might have got a bye into the quarter-finals or a draw in a Round 4 game where we knew we were strong favourites to win, so sometimes maybe you weren’t at full tilt until later in the championship, but this is a huge game to focus the minds of both teams.
‘Both teams will be at full tilt for this game, knowing that the winners have a big job in hand in the following round.’
County champions St Finbarr’s are waiting for the winners in Bandon the weekend after, but Hayes doesn’t even know what day that game is. It’s all about Castlehaven and survival in this year’s championship.
‘Everyone knows the spirit in Castlehaven is strong and they will have raucous support. They are two things that we have in Ross as well – we have a very strong spirit in the squad and we have had brilliant support over the last 10, 15 years, as well. This is the type of game that will bring both sets of supporters to Skibb.’