With 12-team championships and seeded groups, we are seeing a considerable number of fixtures repeated each year and a prime example of that is in the Bons Secours Hospital Premier SFC.
For the third year in a row, West Cork rivals Castlehaven and Newcestown were drawn in the same section and their meeting in Rossmore on Sunday (4pm) is winner-take-all, though the Haven do go in a point ahead, knowing that a draw will be sufficient for them.
Having beaten Clonakilty in their opening game, the Haven lost a cracker to Nemo Rangers last time out. Having come back into that match after a poor first half, Mark Collins feels it’s a defeat that the Castletownshend/Union Hall side can learn from as they seek to maintain their 100 percent record of emerging from the group since the change in format at the end of 2019.
“The difference between after the game and half-time was huge,” he says.
“At half-time, we were so disappointed with how we’d played – that we didn’t do any justice to ourselves – whereas afterwards we knew we had come out and played and there were a lot of positives to take, even if we still have a lot to learn.
“Getting things right for three weeks’ time was the main thing – if we got things right and beat Newcestown, we’d be still in it.
“I’ve played Newcestown nearly every year since U21s and you never, ever get anything easy from them.
“They won’t fear Castlehaven either – they’ll fully believe that they can beat us. If you’re not prepared for that, you’re in for a right rude awakening.
“Still, it’s a great opportunity.
The Haven reached the 2011 final – their first in eight years – losing to UCC, before winning the title in the next two seasons with final wins over Duhallow and Nemo Rangers respectively. Since then, they have reached the 2015 and 2020 finals, losing to Nemo each time, while there have been two other semi-final appearances, including last year’s penalty shootout defeat to St Finbarr’s.
Another win on Sunday in the Carbery derby will take them close to the business end of proceedings again and it’s where Collins obviously wants to be.
“I think we’re very lucky,” he says, “we’re involved in a very good set-up and there’s a lot of work being put in, it’s very professional.
“To be part of it is very fortunate. There are years that can slip by very fast, so to be competing is exactly what you want.
“Okay, we haven’t got over the line and that’s a disappointment but to be in with a chance is what you want, to be close to getting there.”
This year is Collins’ first where he hasn’t had to combine his club commitments with inter-county duties, having opted to step away from the Cork scene. With team-mate Michael Hurley not part of the Rebels set-up in 2022 either, the Haven have benefited from the presence of two key players for the whole year.
“We had myself and Michael both around more this year,” Collins says.
“I’ve really enjoyed the year. I’m lucky that it’s a level that’s not a million miles from inter-county and we train really hard so I wasn’t going from inter-county to a complete drop-off where I wasn’t doing anything.
“It might be a small bit different in terms of commitment but the set-up is very good.”
Unfortunately, the compacted nature of the club championship campaign has had a negative knock-on effect in terms of Collins not lining out for Douglas in the Premier SHC. It’s a situation he would like to have avoided but ultimately it was impossible to serve the two masters.
“It was a hard decision to leave them down,” he says.
“I’m 32 now and playing six games in seven weeks would be so tough. I just didn’t think it was feasible.”