COBH football captain Adam McCarthy has witnessed some changes during his 13 years playing at adult level and he is hopeful of effecting another one on Sunday.
The East Cork side take on Kilmurry in the Bons Secours Hospital Cork JAFC final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh (3.30pm). When 30-year-old McCarthy first lined out, the club were intermediate in hurling and junior A in football but relegation was experienced in both before they bounced back to win the 2017 county JBFC, having lost the 2016 decider.
The club reached both East Cork junior A finals this year and, while they lost to Erin’s Own in the hurling, victory over Castlemartyr in the football decider has led to them targeting another county title.
“We dropped down and started a rebuilding process,” McCarthy says.
“We bounced back fairly quickly – we had to drop down to come back, create interest and build a panel. Success breeds success, so if you’re winning anything at all it’s going to help in the future.
“We got to the East Cork junior A final in 2019, maybe a bit ahead of schedule, and we lost to Erin’s Own, who were quite strong that year.
“Then, the following year, we were trounced by Midleton, the year of Covid, and got to the final again last year against Bride Rovers and we lost.
“Our big aim at the start of the year was winning the East Cork, to go one better than last year. Since then, we’ve been going in 30-minute blocks, taking it half by half.
“I think we’ve probably surprised ourselves in a way, but then at the same time we know how good we can be.”
By day, McCarthy runs his own business, Nebula Coaching, and he was the strength and conditioning coach to the Cork U20 sides that won the 2020 and 2021 All-Ireland hurling championships under Pat Ryan.
Naturally, his expertise is called upon by his own club, too.
“It’s very enjoyable,” he says. “I head up a lot of that stuff but a lot of senior clubs would have embraced that well before junior clubs.
“We’re still in the early stages of all of that, in terms of understanding when to train hard and how to recover. I’m helping, but I understand as well that, when you’re a player, you have to keep your lips shut sometimes too!”
Given that Cobh treat hurling and football evenly, getting the levels of fitness right is key, but it is one of a few important factors.
“This year was great for the club player,” McCarthy says.
“You were getting more meaningful games, which was fantastic – any dual player with us has got around 25 or 30 games this year, between league and championship.
“It’s a question often asked as we’re competing evenly in both and it can be difficult but the big thing is communication between managements and then it’s just about going week to week – I’m sure the likes of St Finbarr’s or Kanturk would say the same thing.
“It’s been managed well this year by the two backroom teams and that leads to players enjoying themselves more and ultimately winning.”
On Sunday, they will look to continue that, with McCarthy hopeful that the Páirc Uí Chaoimh factor is something from which they can take inspiration.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a big factor for us, really,” he says. “I’m one of the elder statesmen and I’m often looking around wondering what the others are thinking but the one thing that I have noticed this year is that all of the panel are extremely competitive.
“They want to compete and play fairly, which is a great testament to them. The last day down in Kilworth in tough conditions against Buttevant, it was the kind of game that you might shy away from, especially younger fellas who don’t have experience, but what I saw was that they were ready for any challenge.
“We’ve a lot of players who love playing in big games, they live for that and I think that we’re all excited.”