Captain Shane O’Driscoll hails the influence of club’s younger generation
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
The injection of youth into the Tadhg MacCarthaigh junior set-up has energised the team, says captain Shane O’Driscoll.
The experienced Caheragh man (30) has already won three Carbery JAFC titles (2004, 2006 and 2012) and his chances of landing a fourth have been boosted by the addition of youth to the ranks.
As a selector on the U21 team that went all the way to the county U21C final earlier this summer, O’Driscoll knows better than most the strength of the conveyor belt.
‘The young lads have no fear and they are full of confidence, no matter what they’re up against,’ the Caheragh captain says.
‘When you see that attitude in the dressing-room and on the pitch, it’s refreshing. They bring that enjoyment to football, and that’s contagious. It makes a difference.
‘There are four or five of them on the team and another two or three pushing. It’s been a long time since we had young fellas pushing hard for places and being on the team. It’s definitely a kick up the hole to myself and all the older fellas because we know that we’re not safe on this team.
‘They are after a savage year and were unlucky to lose by a free in injury time of the county final against Donoughmore.
‘Their success is good for the club, to see Caheragh in a county final again and competing for county titles.’
From this year’s U21 team, Killian Murray, Sean McCarthy, David O’Connor, Charlie McCarthy, Gavin Dineen and Eoin O’Donovan are all involved, as was Tom Daly before he injured his cruciate. Go back to the U21 team of two years ago, and Daniel Kingston is now full back for the juniors, Micheál O’Donovan is wing back and Gavin O’Neill is the free-taker.
‘When you have so many young fellas on a team you want to be cautious – but the way they’ve performed, there is no fear. They’ve blossomed,’ O’Driscoll says.
‘We might be a bit ahead of schedule but you take every final you get. It’s great to be there. When you have young lads experience this in their first or second year, this will stand to them. They will have an appetite for this now.
‘They have zero baggage when you compare them to some of the older fellas who won a final in 2012 and lost in 2013. These young fellas come in, they are fresh and they have no fear.
‘This is the first year where we have had them come through in such a big number. We’d always have one or two maybe but this year we have six or seven. When you have that many young fellas coming on, it pushes everyone else on and livens it all up.
‘Caheragh football was probably on a bit of a low over the last few years but between the U21s getting to the county final and the juniors now in the West Cork final, it has been a great lift for the club and the parish, from U6 up to juniors, because great work goes in.’
Another reason why Caheragh are back in the South West final, O’Driscoll feels, is their fitness and work-rate.
‘We started off the league and lost the first three games so we had to knuckle down. We put in a couple of hard months of training – that training has shown in the last two games especially when we have been under pressure in the last quarter, but our fitness levels have trumped the other teams and we have had strong finishes.’
O’Driscoll was involved in the Caheragh team that came up short in 2013, their last time involved in the final.
‘We didn’t think it would take five years to get back here again,’ he admits.
‘When you get there, you think you can get back the next season but it doesn’t work that way. Junior football has levelled out over the past few years, any team can beat another, no one has a God-given right to win.
‘The fact we are in a bit of transition is probably why we haven’t been back since but we’re there now – and we’re ready to make it count.’
Standing in O’Driscoll’s way are reigning champions Kilmacabea, but Caheragh love a challenge.
‘Leap have raised the Bar in junior football over the last few years. They are one the top teams in the division, they’ve some savage players but we’d be hopeful we can match them,’ he says.
If it all works out for O’Driscoll this weekend, he’ll have an extra guest at his wedding to Castlehaven’s Orla O’Sullivan in December – the Mick McCarthy Cup. For that to happen, everything needs to go right on Sunday evening.