THIS is unchartered territory for a Kilmacabea football team – but captain Niall Hayes insists they’ll keep their feet on the ground and their eyes on the big prize.
For the first time, Kilmacabea will contest a county JAFC final this Saturday night against Dromtarriffe, with the prize of intermediate football awaiting the winner.
But Hayes insists the South West champs won’t get distracted by the occasion. They have a job to finish.
‘After the semi-final against Delanys last weekend, we spoke in the dressing-room. We said well done for getting this far, we’ll enjoy the moment, savour where we are and take this in our stride. But we’re not getting carried away either,’ Hayes says.
‘There is still a job to do. The biggest one. So we’re not getting carried away. Our feet are on the ground.’
You can trace this maturity back to past experiences. Last season Kilmacabea won the South West JAFC title for the first time but their run in the county was halted at the semi-final stage by Erin’s Own. Perhaps, Kilmacabea took their eye off the ball a small bit, up against a hurling club. They paid the price. But a lesson was learned.
Already this season, between the Carbery and county championships, they have played nine games. They played nine games too between both competitions in 2017. That’s 18 championship games in two seasons, so that’s been a learning curve.
‘We’re learning all the time,’ Hayes agrees.‘That’s going to stand to us. Each game presents its own challenge that we have to get around.
‘Every experience last year was new to us. We hadn’t won a West Cork before or been in the county before, so we learned a lot from it.
‘We’ve more confidence too this year after winning back-to-back West Cork titles. Saturday’s final will be our third game on the trot, our fourth game in five weeks, we’re getting better at playing in bigger games.’
The semi-final win against Delanys is an example. Kilmacabea fell at the semi-final hurdle last season. They learned from it. And they won on Saturday.
Hayes also feels that the team is evolving and improving.
‘Over the last few games we finished very strong – that shows that there’s good character there and that our experience is starting to show. When it comes to the later stages of a game, we can push on and bring it home,’ the Kilmac defender explains.
They’ll need all that experience against Dromtarriffe on Saturday and Hayes knows that. But Kilmacabea, like all season long, will focus on themselves and making sure they are in the best possible shape to deliver the result they want this weekend.
‘It’s all about the result,’ Hayes points out. ‘It’s all well and good to play amazing football but if you lose, it doesn’t mean a bit. It’s all about the result now. This is a final. Whether it’s one point or 20 points, whether we win after extra-time, however we win, it’s about winning on Saturday.’
Hayes feels this Kilmacabea team has, over the last few years, been building towards a moment like this Saturday’s final. And he feels they’re ready to take the next step.