Castlehaven hoping to drive into semi-finals once again

"It’s up to us now to improve – we know that we have a lot to work on, we have two weeks to knuckle down now but it’s very enjoyable."
Castlehaven hoping to drive into semi-finals once again

Castlehaven's Cathal Maguire looking to get clear of the Newcestown defence in Sunday's Bons Secours Hospital Cork Premier SFC game in Rossmore. Picture: Dan Linehan

THREE years of the group-stage format in the Bons Secours Hospital Cork Premier SFC have result in three year of progression to the knockout stage for Castlehaven.

Victory over Newcestown in Rossmore on Sunday meant that the Castletownshend/Union Hall side finished second to Nemo Rangers in Group C, setting up a quarter-final meeting with Mallow – and a possible semi-final against St Finbarr’s for the third straight season.

Having won back-to-back titles for the first time in 2012 and 2013, the Haven have been unable to reclaim the Andy Scannell Cup since then, but they have made the finals of 2015 and 2020 as well as reaching two other semi-finals.

Being drawn in the same group as Nemo this year meant that the section, also featuring last year’s beaten finalists Clonakilty and Newcestown, was classed as the ‘group of death’ but, despite the second-round loss to Nemo, Castlehaven are still standing.

There is room for improvement as the nights draw in and the action moves from the fields of West Cork to city venues but Haven manager James McCarthy was satisfied with how his side accounted for Newcestown on a 3-12 to 1-9 scoreline.

“We’re never happy, I suppose, but the result was the main thing here,” he said. “Both teams were fighting to go through, it’s a great format for the competition.

“It was hard to play football in these conditions – you could see it, there was a swirling wind. We’ve a lot to work on, but our attitude was good.”

APAPTABILITY

Adaptability has been key for the Haven in the group stages. Their opening match against Clonakilty was an attritional and dogged affair, as evidenced by the 0-10 to 1-5 scoreline. Then, with Nemo having beaten Newcestown, the second game in Clon – a repeat of the 2020 county final – was an open and flowing affair, the Haven coming back after a poor first half to draw level only for Luke Connolly’s late goal to win it for the city side by 3-13 to 1-16.

Needing to tighten up for the do-or-die final game – a Newcestown win would have put them through – the Haven did

that. A 2-6 to 0-4 half-time lead ensured that they always had enough of a cushion in the second half, tacking on further points to put the game beyond their opponents, who must now face Éire Óg in the relegation play-off.

“Every game is different and every opposition is different,” he said.

“People said the Nemo match was a great game, but at the end of the day when we were getting in the car to go home we had lost and that put us under a bit of pressure for today’s match.

We got some great goals – we should have more, I thought – but there were aspects that we were very happy with. We had young fellas, Robbie Minihane started and Tomás O’Mahony started.

“We’re still missing fellas coming back from injury, so our panel will be getting stronger.”

Ultimately, nobody wants to be at their peak in the group stages, then failing to kick on when the proper knockout stuff starts. In McCarthy’s view, getting to this point was the mission regardless of method and now the focus can turn to what lies ahead.

“I presume we’ll be in Páirc Uí Chaoimh from now on or Páirc Uí Rinn and that’s where you want to show your wares,” he said.

“If you’re knocked out at this stage, you can be talking until next year. It’s up to us now to improve – we know that we have a lot to work on, we have two weeks to knuckle down now but it’s very enjoyable.

“You know when you’re playing, you have your structures, you have your dates and no excuses.”

If they are to reach a third consecutive semi-final, they will have to get past Mallow. The North Cork side won last year’s senior A title and were given little chance of emerging from a group featuring Ballincollig, Douglas and Valley Rovers, especially as they lost nine of their ten Cork Credit Unions Football League fixtures.

Douglas' Dara Kelly scores his goal past Mallow goalkeeper Kevin Doyle last weekend. They made the quarter-final despite defeat. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Douglas' Dara Kelly scores his goal past Mallow goalkeeper Kevin Doyle last weekend. They made the quarter-final despite defeat. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

However, wins over Ballincollig and Valleys meant that they had top spot secured with a game to spare and, though they did lose their final outing to Douglas on Sunday, they produced a spirited final quarter fightback that meant there was the narrowest of margins between the sides at the end (an outcome that saw Douglas eliminated as Ballincollig advanced).

While the Haven will be strong favourites, McCarthy certainly isn’t taking things for granted.

“No, not at all,” he said.

“We played Mallow in our last league game and they’re a big, physical team. They gave us hell and they could have easily won that game that night, there was nothing in it.

“This is a quarter-final of a county, it’s dog eat dog up here now.”

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