BY KIERAN McCARTHY
PAUL Holland won’t lose any sleep over the challenge of Carbery Rangers this Sunday – he’s focusing all his energy on his Clonakilty charges.
The Clon manager admits that Carbery Rangers present ‘the ultimate test’ right now in Cork club football and that his team are up against it this weekend, but he’s concentrating on squeezing every last drop out of his young team that because of its age profile can struggle to put a run of performances together.
‘This is still a very young team and what’s key for us is finding a level of consistency because the team is so young,’ explained Holland who is in his second season in charge.
‘You can see it in the league this year, we’ve won three games and lost two – it’s been win, loss, win, loss, win – so we’re still looking for consistency, but we can’t rush that.
‘The majority of the team is U21, they have to learn to play senior football and bring some consistency to their game.’
When Clon lost to Castlehaven in the opening round last year, Holland highlights that six Leaving Cert students started for them that day, so while he acknowledges how important results are, he stresses that these young guns need time to find their feet at senior level.
‘You have to be patient with them because they are so young,’ Holland said.
‘Their ability to cope with the physicality of the game was a major issue last year. They are all very good footballers in their own right but they’re still only 18, 19 years old playing against guys in their mid-20s upwards who have eight or nine years of senior football behind them, so you have to be cognisant of that fact.
‘But they are talented, they have other attributes that make them senior footballers, and you use them to the best of your ability while they develop physically and mentally.’
Among the younger generation likely to feature this Sunday include current Clon U21s’ David Lowney, Sean McEvoy, Cian O’Donovan, Mark White, while from the club’s U21 class of 2015, Zach Harrington, Colm Sheehy, Jack O’Mahony and Josh Henry all played senior championship last season, as well as injured duo Sean White and Ross Mannix.
Youth aside, Clon’s target in this year’s Cork SFC is straightforward: improve on last year. In 2016, they were knocked out by CIT in round three but that was still an improvement from the relegation struggles the season before.
‘There’s an appetite there now to wear the jersey, we’ve come a long way from a few years ago,’ Holland said.
‘Last season was our first year with them, we learned a lot from each other both ways and we’re looking for a performance this Sunday against Ross.
‘It’s a massive test, really. If you look at this in black and white we were a long way off winning the county last year while Ross won – they’re the facts. We know where we are, we know what we’re about and we know where we want to go. The reality is it’s a massive challenge.
‘Ross are the ultimate test at the moment.’