Cork Masters football team looking to build on experience of last year

Over-40s team open their campaign away to Waterford on Saturday
Cork Masters football team looking to build on experience of last year

The Cork Masters football squad that played against Clare last year. They begin their 2022 campaign against Waterford this Saturday.

Cork Masters football manager Mark O’Sullivan is optimistic that last year can prove to be a good foundation as the team begin their 2022 championship campaign away to Waterford on Saturday.

The county’s over-40s team competed for the first time last year and will have six matches in the round-robin section, against Waterford, Kildare, Clare, Kerry, London and Laois, before hopefully advancing to the knockout stages. Four of the games are at home, with Glenville the base, though Saturday’s clash, which starts at 12 noon, is over the border, at the home of Clashmore/Kinsalebeg.

Waterford are new entrants for 2021 and Ballygarvan native O’Sullivan is well aware of what it’s like trying to get a team off the ground.

“We grew out of the social GAA thing,” he says.

“We could never get the numbers going for the football aspect of that so we decided to see if there was a competition we could enter to try to build a bit of interest.

“We found about the Masters competition and decided to enter a team but then 2020 and the lockdown happened and so everything was packed up for the year.

“I was diagnosed with cancer in December 2020 so I decided to take a step back from it – I would be finished my chemo and stem-cell transplant but I wouldn’t be physically able to play.

“I still wanted to stay involved, to keep my mind active. I was enjoying it anyway and I said I’d be happy to help out in the backroom but they appointed me as the manager, almost by default really!

“It went from there and we tried to get the word out. We eventually ended up with a panel of 35 players.

“Unfortunately, we were quite inexperienced in terms of what was required and we had a lot of injuries, particularly non-contact injuries. This year, we’ve put a lot of the focus in pre-season on stretching and flexibility and we’ve spoken to people like Liam O’Reilly, who have advised us that the body responds differently to exercise when you’re over 40.

“We started in March in MTU under lights, doing a bit of strength and conditioning, and since the start of April we’ve been in the Farm doing more football-based training.” Last year was certainly an educational experience.

“Our first game was against Dublin, which was a real shock to the system,” O’Sullivan says.

“We very quickly came to realise that there was a very high level of football being played by certain counties but, at the same time, there’s a mix.

“We were also well-beaten in our second game by Clare but when we went and played Kildare, we were very disappointed that we didn’t come away with a result. Basically, at the end of the day, it was our conditioning that caught up with us.

“There’s a big mix in terms of quality but some counties are very strong – the likes of Dublin, Donegal, Tyrone, Mayo at times are all strong teams.

“London beat Leitrim in the first game of the 2022 competition and the standard, even at the lower end, is quite good. There are new teams in this year – Laois have re-entered, Waterford and Kerry are new in this year, so it’s building all the time.”

And, while they would like to enjoy success on the field, O’Sullivan knows that the benefits extend far beyond that.

“We definitely had a lot more enquiries this year,” he says, “and we’re hoping that that’s going to build, year on year.

“We’ve had more of an opportunity to prepare so we’re targeting improved performance, hopefully a couple of wins, and see where it goes from there.

“The other side of it is that it’s roll-on, roll-off in terms of substitutions. It’s really important to us that participation is prioritised, because there’s very little out there in terms of team sports for people our age.

“We feel that it’s good for the mental health, physical health, emotional health. It’s ticking a lot of boxes for people.

“This is very aspirational, but we’ve talked about the possibility of setting up a West Cork team as well. We are self-financing but we did get some sponsorship this year from McBreen Environmental and Eirdata and we’re very grateful to them.”

Cork Masters panel: Billy Sheehan (Whitechurch), Don McDonald (Dungourney), Tadgh Lyons (Nemo Rangers), Finbarr O’Riordan (Dromtariffe), Aidan Kelleher (Dungourney), Donal Cashman (Millstreet), Peadar Ó Laoighre (Kilmacabea), Rory Duggan (Nemo Rangers), Dan Croke (Mullinahone, Tipperary), John Paul O’Driscoll (St Oliver Plunkett’s), Jason Deasy (Shamrocks), Derek Smith (Doonbeg, Clare), Tadg Sheehan (Macroom, player/coach), Ger McSweeney (Iveleary), Flor Harrington (Urhan), Donal Kelly (White’s Cross), Flor Crowley (Adrigole), Mike Brady (Ballygarvan), Dave Creedon (Aghada), Terry Cronin, Brian O’Regan (Kinsale), Seán Buckley (Carrigtwohill), Kevin O’Sullivan (Tadhg Mac Cárthaigh), David O’Leary (Rochestown), John Ahern (Ballygarvan), Diarmuid Holland (Macroom, player/selector), Diarmuid Lynch (Mitchelstown), Chris Daly (Brian Dillons), Robert Oldham (Iveleary), John Lawlor, James Touhig (Rochestown), Barry Fitzgerald (Midleton), Michael Keohane (Midleton), Edwin Buckley (White’s Cross), Conor McCarhty (Nemo Rangers), Lyndon Kiely (Kinsale), Conor Keane (Ballinascarthy), Paul Hartnett (Rochestown). Manager: Mark O’Sullivan (Ballygarvan); Selectors: Seán Horgan (Shamrocks), Rob Stewart (Rochestown).

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