MAURICE Moore describes it as an ‘impasse’. He had his opinion while the management team had theirs – and neither party was in agreement.
It was after the summer of 2003 and Moore had started studying for his higher diploma in education at University College Dublin. The Carbery junior A football championship was speeding towards the business end, too, and Carbery Rangers were well in the hunt.
But Moore, who was part of the Ross team that won this competition in 1998, missed midweek sessions and found it difficult to get down for Friday night sessions.
The management team of Michael Paul Hicks and Casey O’Donovan, the coach, had a call to make.
‘At the time it was frustrating being left on the sideline, but such moments when managed correctly can get a reaction from players and ultimately get the most from a team,’ Moore says.
He gave his reaction in the closing stages of the 2003 drawn Carbery JAFC semi-final against Bandon in Clonakilty.
Moore was brought on very late in the second half. Ross were down to 13 men after Mícheál O'Sullivan and Johnny Murphy were both sent off after picking up second yellows. The game was level, but Bandon had the momentum and numerical advantage.
Moore had a point to make. With his first touch he raced up the wing and he kicked the best point of the game from near the sideline to edge Ross in front.
‘I felt aggrieved at being left to sit it out as I’m sure most players in the same situation would,’ he explains.
‘I was brought on in the dying moments and, with anger and contempt, I scored a difficult point, which led to my frustration erupting with a litany of profanities aimed towards the side-line.
‘It’s not my proudest moment and whether it was aimed at Haulie and Johnny for putting us in that situation or at the management team for putting me in that situation, the years have made the moment become hazy. However, it was an important moment with regards to creating an awareness in my own coaching of how players can think and react under emotional stress.’
Bandon levelled (1-8 to 0-11) with a late John O’Regan free and it was on to the replay a few weeks later, again in Clonakilty. Again Moore was a sub, again he came on, and Ross won 1-12 to 1-9. They were back in the Carbery final.
In 2003, this was a formidable Carbery Rangers junior football team that would, in three seasons, rise from junior to senior – and that’s why the ’03 Carbery JAFC triumph is so important. Emerging from Carbery was the first step on this adventure.
After winning the title in 1998, they lost the divisional final in the following two seasons – but they were always contenders.
The management team of Michael Paul Hicks, Casey O’Donovan, Geoff Murphy and the late Tony Murphy was the right combination.
‘Michael Paul was an important figure during the team’s success in going from junior to senior in the space of three years and put in a huge amount of time and thought into each player. Casey was also an important ingredient in getting the team to play with flow and pace during our county run in 2003,’ Moore says.
On the field, this Ross team ticked all the boxes. The Hayes brothers, John and Seamus, were up-and-coming talents, John was a Cork minor that year and caused wreck at centre forward. The midfield combination of Cork senior Micheál O’Sullivan (the heartbeat of the team) and Kevin MacMahon was better than any other pairing in the division.
The Murphy brothers, Jeremy and Johnny, were tenacious in defence. They helped lead younger players like Stephen Murray, Anthony Roche and Gearoid Ryan. Another set of brothers, Niall and Declan Hayes, were dangerous in attack, with Niall’s range of passing and Declan’s elusiveness.
It was a deep squad. It had experience, dynamic energy and pace. They knew they’d a good chance to win the club’s tenth Carbery JAFC crown in 2003.
‘The West Cork division was very competitive in those days with Caheragh and Ilen Rovers to the forefront but when you add in Bandon and Kilmacabea it made every game a potential landmine,’ Moore explains.
‘In previous years we had gone to replays with Ilen Rovers along with defeat to Caheragh and even though we were without success the experience of competing in the division created a steel and resilience that helped the team succeed further up the ranks.
‘The team was also very hungry for success since the 1998 victory. When we set out in 2003, we knew our first and main target was the West Cork, because it was so difficult to win. Realistically there was no thoughts of a county title at this early stage.’
Onto the Carbery final against an inexperienced Barryroe in Ballineen.
Moore started on the bench, again. But he came on after quarter of an hour and went on to kick three points. There were Ross heroes all over the pitch. Teenage star John Hayes kicked six points and was named man of the match. Seamus Hayes had his best game of the campaign.
The Southern Star report of the final opined, ‘What can one say of the Rangers’ forwards? Man for man they are probably the most talented footballers ever to represent the club and some of their point-taking was breath-taking. They made it look so easy with their combined play.’
Ross led Barryroe 0-6 to 0-4 at the break, and the Rosscarbery men made the match-winning move early in the second half with four points in four minutes. Declan Hayes, Seamus Hayes, Geoffrey Wycherley and Maurice Moore all kicked points. Moore added his second point, and then his third, sandwiching a score from captain and wing back Johnny Murphy, who scored in every game in the Carbery campaign. Rangers stormed 0-13 to 0-4 ahead by the 40th minute. Game over.
‘The final was far less dramatic then the semi-final against Bandon and we won comfortably in the end,’ Moore recalls.
‘John Hayes put in a powerful performance that day which gave us a strong guide as to what was to come from him in the future and the level he would go on to reach.
‘It was also satisfying and a relief for me to regain my footing in the starting line-up from this day on.’
Ross won 0-15 to 0-6. They were Carbery champions again, and this kickstarted a roller-coaster that delivered the club to the senior ranks. Between 2003 and ’05, they won the club’s first county title (2003 Cork JAFC final), lost the All-Ireland junior final in 2004, then won county, Munster and All-Ireland intermediate titles in 2005, and that led them to the Promised Land of senior football.
‘During those three years we played close to 40 championship matches as one season ran straight into the next,’ Moore says, and his work wasn’t done yet. He was the on the management team when the club won their first Cork SFC crown in 2016, one of several links to that 2003 team that emerged from Carbery and never looked back.
‘The echo of those three years can still be heard within the club with several of the players from that time coaching at different age groups within the club and others heavily involved in the administration side,’ Moore explains.
A lot of what the club has achieved since 2003 can be traced back to that year’s Carbery JAFC run and winning that final against Barryroe. That opened the door and they never looked back.