Mark of a captain is stepping up to take two penalties with a final on the line

Mark of a captain is stepping up to take two penalties with a final on the line

Castlehaven's Mark Collins scored the dramatic penalty shoot-out winner versus St Finbarr's last weekend, to seal a final spot against Nemo. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

SURE what else would you be doing at nine o’clock on a Sunday night in October other than taking penalties down the Lodge?

Around the same time news started filtering out that our knowledgeable science experts were recommending a return to the bunkers or attics for the rest of the month.

In a way, I suppose, those unrelated events summed up the crazy world we inhabit at the moment.

Seven months on from the pandemic and there seems to be no end to the stuff that’s driving most to the fringes of their tether.

Of course, there was no craic for the penalty takers from Castlehaven and St Finbarr’s to determine the outcome of their premier senior football semi-final at Páirc Uí Rinn.

Far from it, indeed. Inevitably, the new form of deciding games would surface in a big football game in Cork, having been tested in the recent hurling tie between Éire Óg and Sarsfields’ second string.

It’s a well-used formula in soccer at all levels, from your Sunday morning amateur game right through the professional ranks to World Cup finals.

But, it’s definitely strange for GAA players to take the long and lonely walk from the half-way line to placing the ball and then deciding, left, right, high, low or just blasting the bloody thing!

Anthony Seymour saves a penalty. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Anthony Seymour saves a penalty. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

And what’s more some of them had to do it twice because, unlike soccer, only those brave five volunteers must remain in place in the case of sudden-death.

So it proved as the Haven and ’Barr’s couldn’t be separated at 3-3 before the west Cork club’s skipper Mark Collins stepped up to slot the winner.

Both his kicks were copy-book examples. With his first, Collins drove through the ball, going low to his left.

For his winner, Collins opened his body to stroke the ball with the inside of his boot in the other direction, again giving the keeper, Patrick O’Neill, no chance of saving.

He explained his strategy to journalist Denis Hurley of this parish and others.

“I changed. I went to the keeper’s right the first time.

“I was asking the lads if I should go different. They said to make up my mind and go for it. Walking up I just decided to go the opposite way,” Collins said.

How many clubs’ preparations for knock-out games included practicing penalties? The Haven did.

“We were out early in training last week one night, when Bernie Collins, who’s doing a bit of the coaching with us, came up to us while we were waiting around before training.

“He said to take a few penalties and we started laughing at him. Honest to God. We couldn’t believe it happened,” Collins told Fintan O’Toole of The 42.

“It’s absolutely crazy, it was amazing. I think I only took one in championship ever. Just as captain of the team, I felt I had to stand up and thank God they went in.

“Anthony Seymour has bided his time in goal. He’s waited and waited and to be fair to him he stood up when we really needed him and made three fantastic saves for us.”

Collins also outlined how they had a chat about it before the game with Brian Hurley the designated penalty-taker, but he went off injured before the drama and couldn’t be involved.

“With him going off, as captain and everything, I wanted to take responsibility and step up.

“That was my thinking behind it, when we went to penalties.

“We had three or four who were definite and others putting up their hands, too.

“Rory Maguire, in his first year starting with us, had no bother in taking the clutch penalty because if he missed we were out. He showed unbelievable nerve to stick that one,” Collins added.

Naturally, the Haven’s joy at setting up a meeting with the holders Nemo Rangers in the final was tempered by the postponement of all club games for the foreseeable future.

Croke Park deserve credit for showing leadership and acting in the best interests of the general public.

Of course, clubs are disappointed but can anyone really control people’s behaviour after winning a county?

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