WITH the way the county championship schedules now operate, teams expect long lay-offs after their opening games in the ‘club month’ of April.
However, such is the stretched-out nature of the fixture-list that, despite having played more recently than a lot of the other sides in SFC round 3 action this weekend, Clonakilty don’t necessarily benefit from a momentum-boost.
Having lost to Carbery Rangers in the first round on April 15, Clon didn’t play their round 2 clash with Newcestown until four weeks ago.
An extra-time win has earned them a joust with Bishopstown in Bandon on Sunday (2pm), though manager Colm Aherne would have liked for it to have come slightly sooner.
Bishopstown’s hurling commitments necessitated a delay and, while they lost to Imokilly last week, he feels they will still benefit from the outing.
‘It was good to get the win, obviously,’ he says, ‘but four weeks is still a long time, anything you’ve built up is gone after two, really.
‘I know from being involved with Bandon, in a dual club the games in one code will bring you on in the other, Bishopstown lost but you can’t beat the intensity of championship games.
‘The way it’s gone now, it’s two separate seasons. We gave lads a full month off after the Ross game but if we’d know we’d be waiting so long, we’d have given them two months.’
Nevertheless, the Newcestown win was a huge boost.
‘The football wasn’t pretty,’ Aherne says, ‘but it was great to get the result.
‘You’ll never beat Newcestown easy but there were a lot of young lads playing that night and when the questions were asked they were able to answer them.
It was a tough Division 2 league campaign for Clon, though they finished just above the relegation spots with three wins and seven defeats. Absences of key players affected them, but availability is at an unprecedented high for Sunday. ‘For the first time since I’ve come in, barring injuries in training, we’ll have a full panel,’ Aherne says.
‘Since January, we haven’t had that. After the Ross game, we had five fellas on various Cork panels who we didn’t see again until just before the Newcestown match and then we had four in the US for the summer.
‘You’d be hopeful, for the lads who were around all the time and who were on the end of some hidings in the league, that we’ll be put in a performance and that there’ll be some reward.’
If they go the victory against the city side, that reward will be a quarter-final joust with either Carbery Rangers of Ballincollig, who clash in the second game in Bandon at 3.30pm.
As semi-finalists last year, Ross were seeded in the draw, meaning they avoided Nemo Rangers, St Finbarr’s and Duhallow, so they are rather unfortunate to have been paired with such strong opposition. The game is of course a repeat of the county finals of 2014 and 2016, with each club claiming a maiden title against the other.
Ross manager Micheál ‘Haulie’ O’Sullivan admits that there is a large element of going into the unknown.
‘It’s a considerable time out of action,’ he says, ‘so we don’t really know where we are right now.
‘It’s definitely a tough draw, one of the toughest we could have had, but in terms of motivation and focus it’s a great one.’
Long-term injuries will deny Ross the services of Thomas O’Rourke and Micheál Kelly while Michael Mennis is also a doubt. They finished in fifth place in the league, though their final game was at the end of July, adding to the sense of going of this being a new start.
‘Without doubt, you’re going in cold, it’s like starting off back in April,’ O’Sullivan says.
‘We’ve prepared as best we can, you know that there’s only going to be a kick of a ball or a toss of a coin in it, like there usually is against Ballincollig. Hopefully, we can come out on top.’