DERRY native and Castlehaven mentor John McGuckin believes the West Cork club is ready to compete in the top tier of Cork LGFA.
Ladies football Junior D county champions in 2017, Junior C county title-winners in 2019, Junior B champs in 2020, Junior A conquerors in 2021 and most recently Intermediate winners, Castlehaven have been there, done that.
2023 dawns with the Castletownshend-Union Hall club ready to make their mark at senior level for the first time in the club’s short history.
Preparations began before Christmas under the watchful eye of manager Dinny Cahalane and his backroom team. Derry native John McGuckin has also played his part in helping the West Cork side reach the promised land of senior football.
“I’d say everyone has been thinking about playing senior from the moment the final whistle went in last year’s intermediate county final win over Glanmire,” McGuckin told.
“There may not be any league or championship fixtures out at the moment but we already know who we might be playing at senior.
“Valley Rovers dropped back down to intermediate for the coming year and we are taking their place. So, at least we know the teams we are going to see in the senior grade. We played a couple of senior teams last year including Clonakilty in a West Cork Division 1 final that we managed to win.
“Castlehaven also played a couple of challenge games against some other senior clubs. It’s good to gauge yourself and get a feel for where you’re at. We put in good performances against those teams so it was good for the girls just to see where they were at.”
Despite their magnificent run of county final successes, everyone inside and outside the Haven’s set-up knows their toughest challenges are on the horizon. The likes of Éire Óg, Aghada, Bride Rovers and Mourneabbey will be gunning for this year’s senior title. Castlehaven need every available panel member to challenge the frontrunners.
“Football is a 20-player game now. You look at the top inter-county teams, in both men’s and ladies football, it is a 20-player game where they have their starting team and their finishing team,” McGuckin added.
“You need somebody to come in and pick up where the last player left off. There’s players getting replaced not necessarily because they’re playing poorly but when we might need to just change something tactically.
“We have seen the Castlehaven senior panel grow over the last three or four years. Having girls nipping at each other’s heels for positions is invaluable from Dinny Cahalane and the management team’s point of view.
“As for going up senior, I suppose you don’t want to go changing too much because it has worked so well for us so far. I find myself saying the same thing over the last couple of years. At the start of each season, it’s going to be a step up. This year will be no different.”
McGuckin met Castlehaven player Noreen O’Sullivan while both were living and representing the Cormac McAnallen GAA club in Sydney, Australia. Once the couple returned to West Cork, McGuckin didn’t have to think twice when Dinny Cahalane asked the Derry man to be part of Castlehaven’s management setup.
The West Cork club are about to embark on their maiden senior football odyssey. McGuckin, the Castlehaven management team, players and supporters cannot wait to get started.
“Senior is where you want to be, absolutely.
“We’ve created a lot of momentum and the entire local community is behind us as well.
“For the Castlehaven players, especially over the last number of years, it is all about consistency. Over the last few years, if we went out and played well, there was a fair chance we were going to win. This year, at senior, we could go out and play well but still come out the wrong side of the result.
“So it’s about learning how to cope. Coping with any losses that come our way. That’s something the girls will have to get used to. That’s because they’re in a very unique position where they’re just not used to losing. That’s not really normal for any team so it’s how well we deal with adversity that will dictate how our year goes.”