CARBERY’S reward for diligent off-field work is a mouth-watering Cork PSFC Colleges/Divisions preliminary section semi-final against Beara.
Carbery’s recent record in the top tier of Cork senior football makes for disappointing reading. The West Cork division suffered narrow defeats to Muskerry in 2021, UCC in 2020, CIT (now MTU) in 2019 and UCC in 2018. Four games in four years and not a single victory to show for Carbery’s efforts.
In fact, you have to go back to 2017 and a replayed opening-round win over Ilen Rovers for Carbery’s last senior championship success prior to 2022. Even that lone win preceded two subsequent championship losses at the hands of Castlehaven and Kiskeam.
That’s what made Carbery’s 2-18 to 1-10 opening round success over Imokilly in this year’s unseeded Colleges/Divisions section all the more important.
Dedicated off-field efforts coupled with a positive response from the Carbery division’s clubs when it comes to releasing players has enabled manager Tim Buckley and his selectors to develop a positive environment.
“What was critical for us beforehand, regardless of playing well or poorly, was that we got the win against Imokilly,” Tim Buckley said. “I was especially pleased with some of the individuals we brought in and how well they gelled despite coming from different clubs.
Seeing experienced and young lads work so well together was very rewarding.”
That mix of Carbery players included Ruairí Deane (Bantry Blues), Sean Ryan (Ballinascarthy) and the O’Driscoll’s, Colm and Kevin (Tadgh MacCarthaigh). Yet, most encouragingly for Tim Buckley is the influx of youth and newfound energy those newcomers have brought to the set-up.
“What makes the whole thing so exciting for me or anyone doing a job like this is seeing the young fellas like Sean Daly (Randal Óg) and Paddy O’Driscoll (Gabriel Rangers) making an impact for us,” Buckley admitted.
“You also have the likes of Dylan Scannell (St Mary’s) and young Cian Ryan (Ballinascarthy) gelling with the more established lads on the panel. It is remarkable to see that happening, guys coming together from as far west as Bantry, east as far as Bandon plus north and south in the name of Carbery football.”
A new format for this year’s divisional preliminary competition guarantees at least two games for every entrant. Carbery’s win over Imokilly has set up a mouth-watering semi-final clash with Beara. The winners will meet whoever emerges from Avondhu versus Imokilly in the decider.
“I wouldn’t be a fan of backdoor systems or anything like that as championship should be championship,” the Carbery manager confirmed.
“From the division's point of view, the championship is a much slower burn. It takes a bit longer to get off the ground. What’s been catching divisions all along is that if you didn’t get organised and lost your first game then it was over a year before you got a chance to rectify that again.
“Speaking as a Gaelic football man, I think Cork GAA is better served the more quality teams we have. By having this new process amongst the divisions, you are giving every team a number of games where they can develop and their level of performance goes up. What all that does is deliver a quality divisional or colleges team into the Cork PSFC.”
Tim Buckley’s relationship with West Cork’s clubs appears a healthy one. Unlike other divisions, who have struggled with absentees already this year, Carbery look like they will have a full panel to choose from ahead of their showdown with Beara.
“The divisional managers and I agree that there is no right time to start our championship,” Buckley admitted.
“We are adding another date or two onto our players' diaries. If that is in May or June, it still impinges on their schedule.
Carbery has adopted ‘a little is a lot’ approach this year. We have kept our get-togethers to a bare minimum.
“The only thing we have insisted upon is that whenever we do get together, everyone makes themselves available. Our clubs are aware of this and willing to cooperate. They are happy enough for us to have the lads at an appointed time.
“The County Board freeing up the month of June for us is a positive step too. It is summer football for the lads. You can’t replace the good feeling we have after beating Imokilly and the lads now know that they can compete at this level.”