DYLAN Scannell proved to be a cut above the rest this season, on and off the pitch.
The 24-year-old Ballineen man impressed with the Carbery senior footballers this season, but injury has ruled him out of their biggest game of the campaign this Sunday. Still, he has played his role in a stubborn Carbery defence.
Scannell is also flexing his stubborn streak in a bet with two college friends, which also explains why he has one of the finest heads of hair in West Cork sport right now.
Not yet at Paul O’Donovan’s level, but the Mary’s man is closing the gap.
‘The hair is long because there’s a bet going on with a lad from Ross and a fella in Kerry. The first man to cut their hair must give the other two €50 each so there’s €100 at stake,’ laughs Scannell, dispelling the theory that he won’t cut his hair until Carbery lose in this year’s county football championship.
Stubbornness by all three – Micheál O’Mahony (Rosscarbery) and Eoghan O’Brien (Glenflesk) are also sporting magnificent manes – means this bet is 18 months old, and there’s no trip planned to the barbers just yet, but, much like Samson’s hair gave him biblical strength, Scannell’s flowing locks haven’t slowed him down on the pitch this season.
He was an ever-present on Tim Buckley’s Carbery team that has qualified for the quarter-finals of the Bon Secours Premier SFC against Ballincollig. Páirc Uí Chaoimh hosts the division versus club showdown on Sunday evening (5pm).
After winning five games in the divisional/colleges’ section to earn their place in the knock-out stages, now Carbery are in with the top clubs in the county – and this is where Scannell feels Carbery should be. The injury he picked up in St Mary’s loss to St James in a Carbery JAFC semi-final rules him out this weekend, denying him the chance to show what he can do on the big stage.
‘This is where you want to be. These are the big games,’ says Scannell, and this is the reason he puts his hand up to play for his division.
‘It was an instant yes when I was asked. I want to play at the highest standard of football possible. All players should want to play at the top level and see where they are at and how they do. It was a no-brainer for me.’
Scannell has been a rock in the Carbery defence this season, even bombing forward to score a goal against Avondhu. It’s been a fun campaign for Carbery, a marked difference from the previous four seasons when the division lost all their games.
‘When you’re winning, it always feels good, but it’s a different story when you lose,’ Scannell says.
‘We have picked up momentum because there have been good wins, like in our last two games. We struggled for periods against UCC and Duhallow but we pulled both games out of the fire, and that has helped us grow as a group.’
Beating UCC 2-18 to 2-13 on August 18th was a turning point for this group, Scannell feels. By then Carbery had already beaten Imokilly, Beara and Avondhu, but this was another step up. They struggled against the college students in the first half, but regrouped and passed the test in the second period. That set up a final against Duhallow, the standard bearers for divisional teams, and Carbery won again, 0-16 to 0-15, to advance to the county quarter-finals.
‘If we played Duhallow last year we could have lost that game, but it’s a lot better this year,’ he says,’ but we know there is a long way to go yet.
‘To beat Duhallow, and considering how good they have been and how poor we have been in recent years, that shows how far we have come this season. It shows now what Carbery can do, but you need to put the work in to get back here year after year.’
‘Here’ is the county quarter-finals. The business end. Knock-out football with the big boys. On Sunday evening Carbery take on a Ballincollig team that finished as runners-up in Group B, behind Mallow but ahead of 2021 semi-finalists Douglas, and Valley Rovers.
‘That’s the difference now, we are playing club teams that are very organised and are used to playing and training together. It’s a different challenge, plus it’s a step up,’ Scannell says, knowing that Carbery can draw on the experience this group has gained in their five wins so far; each a building block.
Carbery footballers, and Scannell, have been a breath of fresh hair in this year’s championship and they’re working hard now to make sure their season doesn’t get cut short on Sunday. Another hair-raising performance is needed for their toughest test yet, and a ticket to a county semi-final.
Scannell has played his part in Carbery’s run to the quarter-finals and he’ll be cheering on his team-mates this Sunday too.