Ciarán McGann hoping for final flourish from Castlelyons

East Cork side, PIHC finalists in 2020, take on Courcey Rovers in Saturday's decider
Ciarán McGann hoping for final flourish from Castlelyons

Castlelyons manager Ciarán McGann speaking to his players after last year's Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier IHC semi-final win over Courcey Rovers. They face the same side in Saturday's final. Picture: Larry Cummins

HAVING lost the 2020 Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier IHC final to Blarney, Castlelyons will hope to go a step further on Saturday evening when they clash with Courcey Rovers in Páirc Uí Chaoimh (5pm).

Victory over Ballinhassig in last Saturday’s decider has brough the East Cork side to a second straight decider, but it was a case of making the journey gradually, according to manager Ciarán McGann.

“Going back to my own playing time,” he says, “I remember we played Youghal in an intermediate final in 2013 and we lost out by one point.

“It was a devastating loss because we were three points up coming down the home stretch. Then, the following year, we were trying to go gung-ho to get back to the final if we could at all. We were beaten by Ballyhea after a replay and Ballyhea went on and won it that year.

“It took us a while to recover after that. We had a record of three or four championship wins in five years after that, we couldn’t get back on the wagon.

“This time round, after being beaten in the county final, we met at the start of the year and said that the group was staying together – there were no J1s or anything with the various restrictions in place. We have a couple of lads based outside of Cork, but all guys who’d be coming home every weekend or every second weekend anyway.

“They all wanted to stay involved and we said we’d knuckle down. Before we went back training, while the lockdown was on, we put individual programmes together with the assistance of Pa Hanley at ABC Physio in Fermoy.

“When we got back together as a collective group, we just said that we’d go one championship game at a time. I know that’s a cliché but we didn’t talk about getting back to a final or redemption or anything like that, because if you do that you’ll fall at the first hurdle.”

For McGann – who was part of the Cork squad that won the 2005 All-Ireland title – the switch from playing to managing was a quick one, so much so that he’s still riding both horses.

“I finished up playing two years ago – well, finished playing intermediate as I’m still playing junior all the time,” he says.

“The plan was to chill out a small bit as I’ve kids and that and maybe play a bit of junior, but at the end of the season I was asked if I’d come on board as manager.

“I had a think about it and I said I’d come on board. I put together a team of selectors and Johnny Crowley is coaching us. We’ll give it two years anyway and see where we go anyway!”

It’s hard to argue with two successive final appearances, though the circumstances do differ.

“Last year, we were maybe coming in under the radar after poor enough championship results in the three or four years previous to that,” McGann says.

PRESSURE

“That can work to your detriment then when the semi-final comes around because you’re playing a team that’s battle-hardened after a quarter-final.

“I think it was nearly eight weeks from the Inniscarra game to the Ballinhassig game and, even previous to the Inniscarra game, there was a three-week after the Valley Rovers game.

“Saying that, we went on the circuit looking for challenge games, against really high-quality senior teams, like Midleton.

“They were full-strength and they were hurt because they were after a heavy defeat to Sars. They gave us a lesson about physicality, speed of play, speed of though, but we hung in there and we had a mighty game against them, there was only a point or two in it at the end.

We also went on and we played Kilbrittain and we brought Kilmallock up, so we were getting good games but we went in against Ballinhassig last week and championship is just different.

“We didn’t in the first half but in the third quarter Ballinhassig were doing all the hurling and there looked like only one winner. They’d been through a lot of tough, physical football matches if you’ve a group of players who are getting across the line in championship matches, whether it’s football or hurling, it stands for a lot.”

Castlelyons prevailed, though and now it’s another south-east opponent, with McGann expecting a stiff challenge.

“Courceys are very similar to ourselves and we’ve played them a lot down through the years,” he says.

“I remember 2011, they beat us by 0-8 to 1-4 on a wet day in Páirc Uí Rinn and people were saying it was a shocking game but they went on to win the county.

“We beat them in the semi-final last year, we won by four or five points. There’s never much between us.

“We played them this year in July in Castlelyons and I think they won by two or three but it was a brilliant challenge game. We’re two similar clubs – same in terms of numbers and playing base – and it’s going to be a massive game for both of us.”


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