RUAIRI Hourihane has been there and done that. At 34, he’s one of the older members of the Carbery football team. His time in the purple and gold stretches back to the 2009 Cork SFC semi-final the division lost to the Barrs. That defeat hurt. An opportunity lost. That’s why he is so keen to make the most of Carbery’s current championship run.
After grinding out the divisional/colleges final win against Duhallow, Hourihane was chatting to one of the team’s young guns, Paddy O’Driscoll of Gabriel Rangers, telling him that days like this don’t happen all the time, so enjoy it.
When Kilmacabea footballer Hourihane turned up to his first Carbery training session in Ballinacarriga, O’Driscoll had just finished his Leaving Cert exams – but despite the age gap, football and Carbery have brought this group together.
‘There is something different this year,’ Hourihane told the Star Sport Podcast, ‘Everyone was shaking hands, everyone was having a bit of a joke and a laugh, and that’s been the difference.
‘When you look at Sunday night’s game, Duhallow had played one game beforehand whereas we had played four, and you could see when it came down to the stretch that the camaraderie was there. I’m not sure if any other divisional side has that togetherness.’
It’s been a journey for Carbery to reach the quarter-finals of the Cork Premier SFC. Five games, five wins, the train that manager Tim Buckley is driving has left the station, picked up speed and collected a lot of fans along the way. It’s no secret that Carbery has struggled in previous seasons, but this year it has clicked. Success does that. They’re winning games and the group is developing and growing. Hourihane didn’t need to be asked twice to hop aboard Project Carbery.
‘For me it was a no-brainer, to be honest,’ he says.
‘I was involved last in 2009. We lost to the Barrs in the county semi-final in Páirc Uí Rinn. That game was there for the taking, but we never showed up on the night and 13 years later I am still trying to get over that game. When Tim (Buckley) rang me, it was an easy decision.
‘I know that Carbery have had a few years where the team hasn’t won matches, but it was a no-brainer for me. There is something different about this division. We go out every weekend into the white heat of battle but when it comes to Carbery we park that and we are one division striving for the same goal.’
Hourihane joined the panel after the opening win against Imokilly, but went off injured on June 30th in the derby against Beara. Hamstring trouble. Bad news for his club ahead of the Carbery Junior A Football Championship and Carbery.
‘It was a tough few weeks. I came back (for Kilmacabea) against Ballinascarthy in the championship and I did the hamstring again after 25 minutes. You feel you have left everyone down, that I came back too soon,’ he says.
‘I’ve been in the gym every day, doing stretches, physio, runs, and it’s a lot easier when there is a carrot at the end of the stick. The championship with Kilmacabea is the number one priority.
‘I texted Tim (Buckley) on Sunday around two o’clock to tell him I had trained that morning and was ready to go. He said “brilliant”. He could very easily have said “not today, Ruairi”, and sent me over to the other side doing water. It’s amazing to be part of it.
‘It has been a tough couple of weeks but when it was 0-15 apiece on Sunday night with a few minutes to go, there was nowhere else I wanted to be.’
Hourihane came on for the last quarter against Duhallow with the game up for grabs. But while the storm raged around him, what struck him was how calm Carbery were with so much on the line.
‘The first half was key, we went in two points down having not played well. Yes, there was a lot of shouting at half time but there was a sense that we had so much more to give,’ he explains.
‘From the sideline and watching it, it must have felt pure helter-skelter, but there was a calmness on the pitch. You’d look around to Brian (O’Driscoll) and Colm (O’Driscoll) and Sean (Ryan), those big players, and it was completely calm, even though it was one of the biggest games Carbery have played in a long time. Seeing the fella next to you that calm, it fills you with confidence. We believed we could do this.’
Carbery delivered. James O’Regan struck the winner. 0-16 to 0-15. And Carbery marched on. Hourihane is now back with Kilmacabea ahead of their huge Carbery JAFC quarter-final against St Mary’s this Sunday. In opposition will be Mary’s men he soldiers alongside with Carbery. Brian Everard, Rory O’Connor, Dylan Scannell, Olan Corcoran and Niall Kelleher. Carbery will be parked to one side as club loyalties take centre stage, but they’ll know too they have another huge senior battle looming. Another opportunity to do something special in the purple and gold.