West Cork derbies will light up Premier Senior and Senior A grades in 2023

Ger McCarthy previews some of next season's most appealing football games
West Cork derbies will light up Premier Senior and Senior A grades in 2023

Michael Hurley, Castlehaven, surrounded by Carbery Rangers players Brian Shanahan, Alan Jennings, James O'Riordan and Thomas O'Rourke. Picture: Dan Linehan

THERE are some cracking West Cork derbies to look forward to in the 2023 Bon Secours Cork GAA football championships.

The draws for each of Cork GAA’s football championships have thrown up some enticing matchups involving clubs dotted across the Carbery division.

Castlehaven, Carbery Rangers and Clonakilty are joined by Valley Rovers in Group A of the Premier SFC.

The Haven and Rangers kick things off on Friday, July 28 in Ahamilla, Clonakilty. That game will be a repeat of a West Cork derby from 2021. Kilmacabea was the venue for a tight affair in which Brian Hurley’s 1-6 saw Castlehaven edge their rivals 1-9 to 0-11 before going all the way to the county semi-finals.

James McCarthy is back in charge of Castlehaven again this year with a backroom team comprising of Seanie Cahalane, David Limrick, Brendan Deasy, Bernie Collins and Enda Buckley.

Clonakilty reached the county final that same year back in 2021 only to come up short to St Finbarr’s. The Brewery Town will have faced Valley Rovers prior to taking on Carbery Rangers in the first of two West Cork derbies to be held at Enniskeane on August 20th.

Both clubs are under new management for the coming season with Seamus Hayes taking over from Declan Hayes in Rosscarbery. Martin O’Brien has left Kanturk to assume command of Clonakilty following Mike ‘Haulie’ O’Neill’s departure.

Hayes and O’Brien have won county titles with their respective clubs and will pinpoint this derby as the most crucial of their group clashes.

Clonakilty are back in Enniskeane to face Castlehaven on September 10th, the same day Rangers and Valley Rovers meet in Drimoleague. Those final round of group games will determine which of the three Carbery division’s representatives move forward to the knockout stages or who might end up facing a relegation play-off.

O' Donovan Rossa's Brian Minihane hand-passing the ball clear of Dohenys Mark Buckley in the Bon Secours Cork SAFC at Bantry. Picture: Denis Minihane.
O' Donovan Rossa's Brian Minihane hand-passing the ball clear of Dohenys Mark Buckley in the Bon Secours Cork SAFC at Bantry. Picture: Denis Minihane.

This year’s Bon Secours senior A football championship draw has also thrown up a group including three West Cork clubs.

Newcestown, Dohenys and Ilen Rovers will meet in Group C of the competition. Bishopstown are the odd one out amongst a quartet of clubs that will turn to their younger squad members in an attempt to reach the knockout stages.

Dual senior club Newcestown suffered a disappointing relegation from the county’s top tier in 2022. Drawn in the same group as Clonakilty and Castlehaven, Newcestown lost to divisional neighbour the Haven and Nemo Rangers either side of drawing with Clon. That resulted in a relegation play-off against Éire Óg where the Ovens side triumphed 2-10 to 0-14.

Ilen and Bishopstown have faced similar relegations from the Premier SFC over the last three years. Newcestown will begin as top seeds and favourites to grab one of the two knockout places on offer.

Dohenys will have plenty to say about that when they face the aforementioned top seeds in what should be a terrific Group C opener in Rossmore on July 29.

Declan O’Dwyer is back the helm of the Dunmanway club’s footballers having overseen draws with Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh and Kiskeam plus a victory over fellow West Cork side Bandon in last year’s group stages. Next, a county quarter-final, involving yet another West Cork rival in O’Donovan Rossa, saw Dohenys exit the competition following a 0-13 to 0-8 loss.

The outcome of this year’s Group C opener will be crucial to both Newcestown and Dohenys as they each face a revitalised Ilen Rovers before the conclusion of the opening phase.

Ilen failed to emerge from Group A of last year’s senior A championship despite some encouraging displays. Defeat to Clyda Rovers preceded a local derby with arch-rivals O’Donovan Rossa in Moneyvohallane. A brace of second-half goals from Kevin Hurley and Tomás Hegarty sealed O’Donovan Rossa’s 2-16 to 1-9 victory.

REBOUND

Creditably, Rovers rebounded to outscore Newmarket 0-14 to 0-13 and retain their senior A status. Rovers’ Jason Whooley and Diarmuid Duggan have stepped away from their joint-management roles so a new face will lead Ilen’s challenge in 2023.

Newcestown and Ilen meet in Rossmore on August 19 before the latter take on Dohenys in Drimoleague on September 10th in the final round of Group C fixtures.

O’Donovan Rossa are the other West Cork club in this year’s Cork SAFC and will once again be under the tutelage of manager Gene O’Donovan. Drawn against Fermoy, Knocknagree and Kanturk in Group A, the Skibbereen side is eager to improve on last year’s semi-final exit to eventual champions St Michael’s following a 2-21 to 2-11 loss at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

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