In the first two years of the group system for the Bons Secours Hospital Cork Premier SFC, Carbery Rangers failed to qualify for the knockout stages, so to do so with a game to spare in 2022 was a bonus for the Rosscarbery club.
Victory over Carrigaline in their opener was followed by a win against Éire Óg in Bandon on Sunday, 2-11 to 1-12 the final score. With county champions St Finbarr’s having also beaten the other two clubs, Ross will take on the Barrs in three weeks’ time with first and second place in Group A – and a potential semi-final spot – up for grabs.
“Obviously, the objective at the start of the season when the draws were made was to come out of the group,” said Ross manager Declan Hayes.
“We’ve done that with a game to spare, which is great. We’re now into knockout and we’ve another four or five weeks, so there’s a chance to work hard now in the meantime.”
Having trailed by three points in the first half, an Alan Jennings goal left Ross in touching distance at half-time, down by 0-6 to 1-2 at the break before an improvement in the second period. Darragh Hayes’ goal was the catalyst for them to push clear, meaning that Colm O’Callaghan’s late goal for Éire Óg was of little consolation.
“We seemed very sluggish at the start, a bit stand-offish,” Hayes said.
“We were hanging on to them for the first 15 or 20 minutes, definitely – they looked like they could pull away from us and we’re weren’t happy at all with a lot of aspects of it.
“But, we know that the lads have savage work put in and that they’re in great condition. We were confident that, if we were there with 15 minutes to go, we’d push on.
“I don’t know were the lads thinking too much about the conditions and the heat, as they’d heard so much about it all week and they stood off a bit.
“I think the way they opened up in the last ten minutes was excellent and we were happy with that but obviously we weren’t happy with the start.”
In total, Ross had ten different scorers, something which pleased Hayes.
“Yeah, we had a nice spread of scorers,” he said.
“At one stage, we had two points scored and they were both backs but that’s the way modern football has gone and it’s how we want to play, we want fellas attacking from everywhere, forwards defending and all of this.”
One of those on target was John Hayes after his late introduction as a sub and his namesake hopes that the former Cork player can have a bigger role as the championship goes on.
“John might be doing more than coming on,” he said.
“He’s in good condition but he just had a niggly injury in the calf. It stopped him playing against Carrigaline and it flared up again and we knew that we’d only get ten or 15 minutes out of him against Éire Óg.
“We’d be hoping for more again the next day.”
There is a bit less pressure attached to that, but Hayes is looking forward to the challenge.
“It might give us a chance to try playing a different way or whatever,” he said.
“The Barrs are a super team and they’re different to a lot of other teams in that they have savage scoring forwards, which might mean approaching things differently.
“This format is great, you’re coming up against teams who play different ways all the time.”