Castlehaven veterans lead the way but focus is on bringing through new players 

James McCarthy and his selectors have already used 34 footballers in the league campaign 
Castlehaven veterans lead the way but focus is on bringing through new players 

Mark Collins, Castlehaven, in action against Eoghan McGreevey, the Barrs. Picture: Larry Cummins

MARK COLLINS and Michael Hurley’s availability has helped Castlehaven enjoy a productive 2022 Cork Credit Union Football League campaign.

Castlehaven’s recent Division 1 Group A county league victory away to Fermoy saw Michael Hurley (1-6) and Mark Collins (0-4) provide the bulk of the winning team’s scores. On Saturday they drew 1-15 apiece with Ballincollig.

The duo opted out of the Cork setup following dedicated years of service. Consistent county league performances and regular scoring means Collins and Hurley are reaping the benefits of focusing solely on club football.

The West Cork club is enjoying a terrific run near the summit of the Division 1 Group A standings thanks, in part, to Collins and Hurley’s availability. This is far from a two-player show, however, as the Haven are using this year’s league programme to freshen up their starting 15 by giving U20 and minor graduates lengthy runs in the senior team.

As a result, Castlehaven have coped admirably without Cork seniors Brian Hurley and Rory Maguire plus their inter-county U20 and minor contingent and are looking good heading towards the senior county championship.

“Having Mark and Michael around for our matches and training sessions has been a huge bonus,” Castlehaven senior manager James McCarthy said. “For our younger club members, especially the younger ones playing from U10 upwards, they see the two lads around the place all the time now. They watch Mark and Michael training and see how professional they are. The youngsters look up to these guys.

 Michael Hurley breaking between Carbery Rangers' John O'Rourke and Kealan Scannell. Picture: Dan Linehan
Michael Hurley breaking between Carbery Rangers' John O'Rourke and Kealan Scannell. Picture: Dan Linehan

“All the young players lost out on the last two years because of Covid. They haven’t seen the seniors training regularly during that time but now see them out on the pitch, including Mark and Michael, three times a week. 

Those two lads are great leaders on and off the pitch. They are like extra mentors for me.” 

Collins and Hurley’s presence helped Castlehaven get off to a blistering start in this year’s Division 1 Group A. Consecutive wins over Newcestown, St Finbarr’s and Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh preceded high-scoring losses to Éire Óg and St Michael’s. The Haven got back on track by overcoming Kiskeam and Fermoy and then drawing with Ballincollig.

This year’s league competition has never been more important to managers like James McCarthy following a stop-start Covid-affected 24 months. A decision to split the top five finishers in Division 1’s Group A and B into next year’s top tier has added extra impetus.

Castlehaven has taken advantage of a full 2022 county league programme by utilising over 30 players so far this term.

“This year’s league is more important than ever because previously, Covid meant we hadn’t really a proper structure,” McCarthy stated.

“If you had young players involved over the last few years, there was no place to blood them. Castlehaven has used 34 players in the league this year already. 

It might sound a crazy number but it is a fact. We have given chances to every player training with the senior squad.

“Sometimes, this year, because of injuries, we decided to rest our older and more experienced players. So, results have gone our way, mostly, but in some of our other matches, it was more about blooding young fellas. That was the plan since the start of the season and one of the main reasons myself and the Castlehaven senior management team decided to give it another year.

“We have young fellas coming through, five or six of them were on this year’s Simcox Cup-winning panel with Skibbereen CS, and they have all played regular senior county league games with us. There are another four or five who didn’t get a look in over the last few years because of Covid but have now taken their chance.

“You can’t play them all but again, we have been able to give them their chance at senior level in this year's county league. I would be hoping that Castlehaven’s future is bright over the next four or five years because of these fellas and the progress that they will make in the league and championship with us.

“The club is delighted to see them coming through. We have used 34 players because guys needed a rest while others were injured and some others were away. Another big bonus with playing all these young fellas right now is that we have Mark Collins and Michael Hurley to mentor them.”

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