LAST year, Paul McCarthy guided Seandún to the final of the Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC divisions/colleges final.
Wins over Duhallow and Muskerry brought the city divisional team – competing in the championship for the first time in a decade – to a clash with Imokilly. Defeat there was no disgrace, but they suffered due to scheduling conflicts.
McCarthy and his management team of Gordon Aherne, Mark Prendergast, Ken St Ledger, Ray Lucey were keen to move on to something else and Inniscarra proved to be the perfect match for them. Having topped their Premier IHC group, a semi-final with Ballinhassig awaits in Cloughduv at 4pm tomorrow.
“We sat down one night after the Seandún gig was over, myself and the coaches, and we said we’d go again somewhere,” he says.
“We felt we couldn’t leave things the way they were, because the way it ended with Seandún was disappointing – we didn’t get a fair crack of the whip in the end, after putting in a lot of hours with the team.
“We said we’d stick together and go again. A few calls were made and we met the club and met the players. We put a plan out for them and asked them if they’d buy into it and they have since last October.
“The challenge was attractive – it wasn’t a case that they had no chance. We don’t know at the start of any given year where we’re going to end up, all we can do is try and that’s the beauty of it. That’s where the enjoyment is, the challenge.
“I think hurling is the best game in the world and it’s a privilege to coach any team, especially a proud club like Inniscarra.”
The son of Gerald McCarthy, Paul coached teams at various levels for his home club St Finbarr’s. Wins over Youghal and Bandon meant Inniscarra were sure of qualification before their final match against Valley Rovers, where a draw was enough for top spot and one of the top two seedings.
“To be honest, we drew with Valleys in the last group game and we were actually bitterly disappointed with the way we played,” McCarthy says.
“But we got a draw but it was as good as a win on the day as it got us into the semi-final. We didn’t perform but we ground it out, the lads stuck to what we were telling them to do and it worked out very well for us.
“Any draw you get in the top grades, they’re all going to be tough and a lot comes down to what happens on the day. Look at Bandon – we beat them well and they still ended up going through and nearly caught Ballinhassig the last day.
“We went unbeaten – ourselves, Castlelyons and Watergrasshill, two in the semi-finals and the other gone. It’s very competitive and premier intermediate always has been.
“Teams are tuned in and hungry – they all want to get up to the top grades and there’s nothing easy there.”
The extra two weeks off were certainly welcome.
“It was a blessing, really,” McCarthy says.
“It was unfortunate that the junior footballers, who put in a massive effort and had a lot of dual players, were caught by Aghinagh in the Mid-Cork semi-final but it’s worked out well for us from a hurling perspective.
“We’ve had three clear weeks with the lads and this is where the strength and conditioning really comes into play because the run has to be really timed.
“Everything is working well, though. As well as the management, you have a lot of Inniscarra people involved and the work they’re doing is phenomenal, filling ice-baths and looking after food and gear and everything is brilliant.
“You need a big team – it’s not just the coaches and the manager, you need a team around that team as well and we have that, thank God.”
Ballinhassig, who finished second to Castlemartyr in the group stage, earned a semi-final spot with victory over Bandon a fortnight ago.
Castlemartyr, winners of the Lower IHC in 2020 and then the IAHC last year, kept up their momentum as they beat Carrigaline to set up a last-four meeting with Castlelyons, who, like Inniscarra, took an automatic place in the semis. That game takes place at Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 5.45pm tomorrow.