BY KIERAN McCARTHY
ROBBIE Kiely doesn’t like to lose.
He’s a competitive sort, by his own admission, so any defeat rankles with him, like Carbery Rangers’ loss to Nemo Rangers in last year’s Cork SFC semi-final at Páirc Uí Rinn.
That was one that got away. Kiely agrees, to an extent, but admits Ross didn’t play well enough in the first half of that 1-11 to 0-13 defeat, having trailed 1-7 to 0-3 at the break after a first half that saw John Hayes isolated in attack, with Seamus Hayes and John O’Rourke deployed too deep.
Ultimately, it left Ross with too much to do in the second half.
That defeat annoyed Tipperary senior Kiely and he’s working hard towards making sure Ross don’t slip up at the semi-final stage again this season, with Avondhu waiting for them in Sunday’s SFC semi-final at Páirc Uí Rinn (2.15pm).
‘Everyone reacts differently to losing. Myself, I’d be fairly hurt after any type of loss. I’m the sort of guy who has to win anything I’m at. I’m very competitive like that,’ the 25-year-old explained.
‘You feel like you’ve let the lads down if you don’t play to the best of your ability because it’s those lads beside you that you want to do it for more than yourself.
‘It does hurt, losing. You’re codding yourself if it doesn’t hurt. It would be in the back of your mind for a few weeks after, if only I did this differently, but you need to realise too that there are more important things in life than football.’
For the sixth time in seven seasons Ross are in the last four of the Cork SFC – but their record from this juncture on doesn’t make for great reading: played five semi-finals, won one (2014 v Bishopstown).
And, still, the wait for a first county senior football title drags on.
Former Arravale Rovers clubman Kiely only joined up with Carbery Rangers in early 2015, having been living in Courtmacsherry – his parents own The Golden Pheasant café in Courtmac.
But even though he hasn’t experienced the hurt and disappointment that several Ross players have over these past few seasons, Kiely can relate to what his teammates have and are going through, seeing as the Tipp senior team struggled to make an impact for years, but that’s changed this season.
‘There’s a serious hunger there in Ross right now,’ said Kiely, who is working in EMC in Cork city.
‘If you talk to any sports man after he’s after been on the end of those losses down the years and has missed out on the ultimate prize of the county championship, then he’d be rearing to go again – and that’s what it’s like in Ross now, everyone is going for this again.
‘The way we’re approaching it this year, and the way Ronan McCarthy is talking to us, we are going game by game. Every game is a must-win. That’s what we’re doing and the concentration for every game is incredible.’
Former Cork minor boss McCarthy is in his first season in charge of Ross, taking over from Micheál O’Sullivan, and Kiely feels the fresh voice has played its role in getting Ross back to the last four again this season.
‘Ronan’s a new type of manager for myself,’ he said.
‘He brings great tactical awareness to the team, he has brought a lot more organisation to the backs and more freedom to the forwards.
‘It’s a different style of football to Tipp’s, and at the same time it’s great to get a different view of the game, how he sees the team playing and how he places players – a fella playing wing forward could end up in the half-back line.’
One of the many reasons he decided to sign on the dotted line for Carbery Rangers was that Kiely felt playing club football with Cork would improve his game – so has it?
‘Ya, definitely, 100 per cent,’ said the Tipp centre back, who impressed for the Premier County as they went all the way to the last four of the All-Ireland series before losing to Mayo.
‘I didn’t know too many of the lads before I joined but once I did I knew it was the place where I wanted to be.
‘It was easy to adapt to Ross, they’re all intelligent footballers, they know what they’re at. It was easy to slot in and try to help them out.’
He came on as a sub in the first round win against Clyda Rovers, started the win against Douglas, and was brought on as a sub in the quarter-final against Valleys.
‘I needed a break for a little bit after Tipperary but I got the itch after a while. I was mad for road again,’ Kiely said, ‘and with the quality we have in Ross it’s not much of a step down from Tipperary.’
On Sunday, Ross clash with divisional outfit Avondhu for a place in the county final – and it’s a novel match-up for the Tipp man.
‘The divisional sides are dark horses, you don’t know what to expect off them half the time,’ Kiely said.
‘It’s a new thing for myself, coming down to Cork and playing divisional sides because we don’t have that in Tipp at all. Well, you have north Tipp, but it wouldn’t be an entire division, it might be two or three clubs.
‘I got my first taste of a divisional side last year against Duhallow (in a quarter-final).
‘You can see that divisional sides in Cork have good players and it’s about getting it together, and you can see that Avondhu have done that this season. When you have quality players like Colm O’Neill you’re not going to be too far off the mark.’
After a breakthrough season with Tipperary, Kiely is determined to continue his stellar season with Ross, and, one game at a time, first help them buck their recent Cork SFC semi-final trend. The prospect of losing, as you can imagine, doesn’t rest easily on Ross’s Premier import.