PODSIE O’MAHONY says Ballincollig are not going to Páirc Uí Chaoimh to make up the numbers in their Bon Secours Cork PSFC semi-final against Nemo Rangers.
It is September 25, 2021. Ballincollig and Clonakilty are locked in almighty Cork PSFC Group C tussle at Newcestown. Clon have just beaten Ilen Rovers while Ballincollig are coming off a one-point loss to St Finbarr’s.
In such a tight group, neither side is yielding an inch. Both teams are hungry to throw off the shackles of underachievement and want a serious rattle off the county.
Level 1-9 to 0-12 and deep into injury-time, a couple of decisions go the West Cork club’s way. Dara Ó Sé converts the winning free and Clon later reach the county final. Ballincollig miss out on the knockout stages and are left to ponder what might have been.
It is a real sliding doors moment for manager Podsie O’Mahony and his players.
Yet Ballincollig have bounced back in style to deservedly reach the penultimate round of this year’s championship.
“I’ll be honest with you, one thing we have had this year is a bit of luck,” Podsie O’Mahony commented.
“Is there a bit of an edge or a desire within the lads? Definitely.
“I mean, we played Douglas and in 67 minutes of football were awarded one free inside the 45-metre line. Douglas had eight, one of which earned them a draw [0-16 to 1-13]. Then, we did very well against Valley Rovers [4-14 to 2-10].
“This year, all we could do was mind our own side of the street, we did that thanks to our performances and got through.”
O’Mahony’s side has racked up 9-44 en route to this year’s semi-finals. Darren Murphy (3-12) and veteran Cian Dorgan (2-15) have accounted for the bulk of that total but it has taken a full panel’s effort to reach the last four.
Lying in wait is a familiar foe.
“We are only in a semi-final. It is Nemo. We know what they are all about but we are not going to Páirc Uí Chaoimh to make up the numbers,” O’Mahony stated.
“People don’t realise that we are a very, very young team. Seven 20-year-olds started in the win over Carbery.
“Is it a step too far for us? Possibly, I don’t know. Look, we are there, I suppose because we have played some quality football in the last three games.
“As a team, and when you look at the group we were drawn in, we gave ourselves a decent chance of reaching the quarter-finals. We did that. The quarter-final win over Carbery was also a really solid performance from those young fellas.”
For all Ballincollig’s youthful exuberance and ability to rack up impressive scores, Nemo Rangers represent O’Mahony’s side’s most difficult challenge in the last two years.
“As they are so young, you honestly don’t know which way the Nemo game is going to go,” the Ballincollig manager said.
They will be coming up against the likes of Paul Kerrigan, Barry O’Driscoll, Mark Cronin and the two Horgans. Then you have Luke Connolly. Jesus, that’s just their forward line!
“We will find out a lot about ourselves against Nemo. The reality is that our backs are against the wall on this one. That’s the reality.
“Look, we will be in this game and give it our best shot. There is a lack of experience at senior level but remember, most of the Ballincollig guys have done very well at underage.
“Nemo are the barometer of how to bring young fellas through in a GAA club. That’s why we are delighted to have brought so many through to senior at this stage. You would like to have a few more senior heads with them alright but the lads have done brilliantly this year.”
Páirc Uí Chaoimh is the venue for both Premier SFC semi-finals and a stadium Ballincollig have surprisingly not featured at for some time, though it was closed in 2016 when they last reached a county final, held in Páirc Uí Rinn.
“For whatever reason, this year’s county quarter-final was the first time Ballincollig played at Páirc Uí Chaoimh since 2014,” O’Mahony noted.
“Being a city team, that’s very disappointing. It was great to play there in the quarter-finals as the dressing rooms are that bit bigger and the pitch is bigger.
"Having said all that, Ballincollig have beaten Nemo in the last two semi-finals we have played and won’t fear them. We respect them. It is their hundredth year. They are very dangerous but we won’t be going there to make up the numbers.”