WHEN Michéal O’Sullivan was asked to come back on board as Carbery Rangers manager, one of the questions he asked himself was could he motivate the experienced players to go again this season.
He knew motivation was key if Rangers wanted to hit the number one spot in Cork football again.
He also knew the answer to his question.
‘I’d expect that these guys feel that they should have won more,’ O’Sullivan says.
‘They’ve been knocking on the door for the past ten years in quarter-finals and semi-finals and they’ve only been in two county finals where they lost one and won one.
‘They could possibly have done more and I hope they feel themselves that they can do more.
‘They don’t have a huge amount of interest in winning Kelleher Shields anymore, they’d like to go as far as they can in the championship and be as successful as they can here.’
O’Sullivan is back for a second spell, his first was for four years and ended in 2015 and included a county final loss in 2014.
Rangers are back too in another county semi-final, keeping up their remarkable level of consistency, and the experienced men like John Hayes, Seamus Hayes, Declan Hayes and Kevin MacMahon are leading the charge; all four were on the Carbery team that won the 2004 Cork SFC title.
Their experience is crucial so having them in top shape at this stage of the season, for a county semi-final against St Finbarr’s this Sunday, is very important.
‘The important thing is the way the season has gone, whether you are in a county semi-final or a relegation play-off, it’s a nine or ten-month season, and these fellas aren’t going to be able to train hard for nine or ten months of the year,’ O’Sullivan says.
‘It’s important to manage them and have them fresh at the right time of the year so they are ready for championship football in August and September, rather than be hopping off the ground in April.
‘These guys know how to manage themselves at this stage, they know how to manager their bodies, and they know how to be in good shape for when the season hots up.’
But for all that experience, it’s the young guns that have freshened up the team and injected youth and pace into the side.
Corner backs Cian Daly and Robert Hegarty are still U21, and they along with Darragh Hayes, Patrick Hurley and Mark Hodnett all played in the U21 championship for Ross earlier this year and they all played in the county SFC quarter-final win against Clonakilty. Four started, one came on as a sub.
This has freshened up the squad and also deepened the resources available. In the 1-18 to 0-11 win against Clon, they brought on Chris O’Donovan and Padraig Hodnett as subs, two men who started the 2016 county final win, as well as Stephen Milner, Sean O’Neill and Patrick Hurley.
‘When I came back in there were a number of things I felt needed to change if Ross were to progress again,’ O’Sullivan says.
‘We have good balance to our team this year, we have mixed youth and experience well, we have tried to bring as much pace into the team as we can, trying to get fellas playing with confidence too and to move the ball fast. It has gone well so far and hopefully we can build on it.’ In Rangers’ way is the Barrs team that beat them convincingly, 3-14 to 0-14, at the same stage last year. O’Sullivan wasn’t in charge then but hopes lessons were learned.
‘The Barrs ran Nemo very close last year, they’re a coming outfit, but Ross were nowhere near them last year. I think the lads realise themselves that they didn’t work as hard on the day as they should have and the Barrs overran them. We’d hope those memories will be a motivational factor but it’s going to be a very close game regardless.’
O’Sullivan feels they’ve improved with every game, from Ballincollig to Clon, and they need to move it on again on Sunday. He expects them to. They don’t lack for motivation.