CHAMPIONS two years ago, semi-finalists last season, Carbery Rangers remain one of those sides that are strongly fancied to be involved again at the business end of the Cork County SFC campaign.
Former star player, Miceal O’Sullivan is at the managerial helm in Rosscarbery and he is hoping to take the club back to the heights that it reached in 2016 when the Andy Scannell Cup found a home for the first time in that picturesque part of West Cork.
And the new season starts with a game against another celebrated West Cork club, Clonakilty who have been successful on nine occasions in this championship.
Firstly, though, he reflects on last season when St Finbarr’s proved worthy winners against them in the semi-final.
“Last year they ran up against a very good Barrs team in the semi-final and they were fitter and more enthusiastic on the day.
“Ross didn’t play to the level that was needed to beat them and the Barrs are a very strong team and a coming outfit, no doubt about that.
“Maybe after winning the title a season earlier it might have been a bit harder to keep up that momentum but considering how close the players had been for four or five years before that there shouldn’t have been any element of relaxation because the window is small when you have a good team.
“If you win one, great but if you have a chance of winning a second or third that’s even better."
Now it’s Clon on the opening day and O’Sullivan is well aware of the dangers involved when you face a very near neighbour.
“It’s going to be a toss of a coin, no doubt I believe. Ross beat them well in Castlehaven last year but they just didn’t perform on the day and they are going to want retribution obviously for that like any other team would and we are expecting a very tough battle against them.
“It’s a West Cork derby and it will probably end up being a point or two either way."
The hand will be strong again and O’Sullivan will have all the personnel that have been involved in recent years.
“In fairness, all the fellows that are there with a while are still involved and they are training well and showing great enthusiasm.
“There’s good, young talent coming up as well but it might be a few years before we see it, there are quality footballers in the club but how well they’ll develop will depend on how hard they work themselves."
Being a football-only club has its benefits but the team manager believes it will still be difficult over the coming months.
“It’s going to be very difficult to plan the season considering that you have one game in April and depending on how Cork footballers get on, it might be August or September before you play championship again.
“You train hard for the first round then you have to make a decision, do you back off because you don’t know when you are going to going again.
“We’ll play it by ear, it’s a new championship and a new season as such so we’ll learn as we go and see how it pans out.’’
He acknowledges too the difficulty involved when you have inter-county players involved.
“We have Robbie Kiely playing with Tipp and John O’Rourke with Cork and the day is gone really when you see them.
“We’ll have them for championship but then you will be saying is it unfair on others if these fellows come back in and play but that’s the way the inter-county season is gone and if you are producing players of that standard you are going to have to accept it and play them when they are there because that’s the only opportunity you have."
They have managed to get in four or five league games with O’Rourke playing in just one against the Barrs but Kiely was tied up with Tipp most of the time.
“I suppose the likelihood is that our starting championship 15 won’t have played together this season so far.
But they have been playing together for a few years and are familiar with each other and with the way I want Ross to play the game so we’ll be hoping that it gels and comes together on the championship days.
And what style does he prefer?
“Carbery Rangers have always been a footballing team. We are not overly defensive, we like to attack, play counter-attacking football too if we can, take the game to the opposition and nothing will change in that regard.’’
Looking at the overall complexion of the championship, he believes that there are five or six teams well capable of winning out.
“There’s definitely that number and the Barrs are obviously the closest contenders to Nemo Rangers.
“They probably should have beaten them the first-day last year and we have already played them in the league and they were looking very powerful, in fairness.
“Beyond the two of them, I believe it will be fought between the best of the rest. There are a couple of very good West Cork clubs but all you can do is try and win your first round and take it from there.
“We have won a county and it has benefited our players big time. The experience of being so close, so often for the years before helped as well in getting over the line.
“It has given them that bit of certainty in their own minds that they are capable of winning it and grinding out close games.’’