THREE West Cork derbies plus a return to the top tier of the Rochestown Park Hotel county leagues has Cork and Castlehaven’s Damien Cahalane looking forward to 2020.
The Cork inter-county hurler was part of the Castlehaven squad that exited last year’s senior football championship following a thrilling second round tie in Skibbereen. Carbery Rangers edged the Union Hall-Castletownshend club 2-17 to 1-18 after extra-time in front of a bumper attendance.
This year’s Cork Premier Senior shake-up sees Castlehaven and Rangers renewing rivalries once again along with fellow Carbery divisional opponents Ilen Rovers and Newcestown.
An all-West Cork group should add plenty of spice to the championship. A new group format detailing when and against whom Castlehaven will be playing is a welcome development from a player’s perspective, according to Cahalane.
“It is a massive change and from an inter-county player’s point of view it is great because you get time to see and prepare for whoever you are playing,” Cahalane told The Echo.
“The changes are even more important for club players. It can be hard for them to be waiting around for the small percentage of inter-county players to finish their season. It is important for club players to know so they can prepare properly and be ready when the time comes.
“It is an added motivation to know when you are going to be playing and more importantly, who you are going to be facing when championship comes around.”
Motivation is never an issue for an experienced Castlehaven squad that will include Cork seniors Cahalane, Brian and Michael Hurley plus Mark Collins once again this year.
Three West Cork derbies means there will be little room for error in the Premier Senior grade but that should bring the best out of a Haven set-up eager to improve on last year’s second round exit following disappointing losses to Fermoy and Carbery Rangers.
Gaining promotion back to Division 1 of the Rochestown Park Hotel county league was an important step for Castlehaven. Returning to the top tier will expose their senior panel’s younger members to tougher opposition and provide the best preparation for the opening games of the Premier Senior championship.
“The level of competition is greater in Division 1 and having more regular league games definitely benefits players at this time of the year,” the Castlehaven stalwart noted.
“You want to put yourself up against the best opponent whether that is every night at training or in league and championship games. That’s where Castlehaven is at the moment. We want to improve on the last few years and hopefully things will go better for us this year.”
Developing Castlehaven’s squad and nurturing emerging talent from the U21 and minor ranks will be the responsibility of a new management team in 2020. James McCarthy, John Cleary, Bernie Collins and Brendan Deasy are tasked with returning Castlehaven to the top echelons of Cork senior football, an experienced quartet that Cahalane is pleased to see at the helm.
“We are lucky in Castlehaven in that there are always guys willing to put themselves forward to train the senior (and other) teams,” Cahalane noted.
“No different to the people involved over the last couple of years, these lads coming in will do their best and add a fresh eye on things. They have all been involved before and know how fellas work so it is a challenge for them and a challenge for us as players to meet their expectations.”
Taking on Carbery Rangers, Ilen Rovers and Newcestown in the group phase is an intriguing start to Castlehaven’s county championship campaign.
“There was a lot of eyes drawn towards our group when the draw was made,” Cahalane stated. “The lads are looking forward to it. Every West Cork derby, no matter who you are playing against, is always going to be a tough game.
“As I said earlier, you want to play on the biggest stage and in the biggest games so this group should provide three big occasions for our players and supporters too. We know we will have to bring our A game against each of those opponents.”