HAVING picked up their first championship win since 2019 in the final round of 2022’s group stage, Carrigaline head into 2023 with the relegation question mark continuing to hang over their heads.
However, the club feel very differently about the upcoming championship season. They’re hungry to continue their improvements and will aim to make it out of the group for the first time since the premier senior grade was established, as highlighted by chairman Philip O’Reilly.
“This year we’re hoping to see if we can make the quarter-finals. That would be the target,” he begins.
“[Last year] was a big step forward. The lads showed a lot of bottle against Éire Óg to score a goal in the 64th minute, and then to go back and get a point then after that.
We’ve been hanging in there at senior since 2016, we’ve been Premier Senior since they changed it, and we feel we’re making progress.”
O’Reilly also discusses his role as chairman and what he can do to help Carrigaline’s development as a football team.
“I’d like to continue what has been done. Football has been strong in Carrigaline since the mid-90s, so I don’t think it’s a case of improving anything, but just making sure that the structures are in place to keep us going forward really.”
The reforming of the club championship system in Cork is a decision that is generally considered to be popular among the players and managers, but the unpredictability and closeness of each fixtures makes it a challenge for all clubs.
Club captain Ian Sheerin talks about the difficulty of the new system, and what he and his Carrigaline teammates will be hoping for this summer.
“We want to get out of the group, that’s our big aim.
We have a tough draw, but you’re talking about 12 teams in Premier Senior, so there’s not too many easy draws at the same time.
“We’re targeting that first game, and we’re hoping to kind of build on that as well. Obviously, we’re very conscious that Éire Óg will be targeting us as well, especially after pipping them last year. If you get a win against Éire Óg, you’ve momentum on your side straight away,” says Sheerin.
“Ballincollig will be playing Nemo and they might be coming off a tough game there, so it’s very much in our own hands, which is a good place to be.
“Having to play Nemo in the third game is great, because if you’re going into the Nemo game needing a result, you probably haven’t taken care of business up to that point anyway!”
What would have previously been considered Carrigaline’s weakness is set to become their strength. The team is still quite youthful, and as one of the more senior players, Sheerin is confident in Carrigaline’s young core and how they have developed over the past few years.
“When I came down from Wicklow four years ago, it was a very young team still finding their feet a bit, and probably still are,” the skipper says. “I’m the oldest on the squad by a few years. I’d say three quarters of the team is under the age of 25.
Senior football in Cork doesn’t take many prisoners, and I think that’s where we found a challenge in the first couple of years.”
Now in his second year as Carrigaline manager, Michael Meaney echoes Sheerin’s views on the bright future that awaits these Carrigaline footballers.
“From coming back last year and looking at what we have now, the future is very, very bright,” he says.
“There are some absolutely fantastic young fellas coming through, yeah, they’re a young team, but we can’t be holding onto that label all the time. They need to kick on now.”
Meaney also hails the efforts of previous manager Mick McCarthy and his backroom team, as well as his own group of players.
“The management team that were there before us put in a great foundation, and with the volume of players that are available to us, we’re getting the fruits of it now, and that’s all down to their hard work.
“A lot of it comes down to the players. They put in the hard work, we’re only there to facilitate,” says Meaney.
“To be fair, it’s always been about the players, not about management or any other driving force.
“We’re here to put things into place as best we can, and you need a bit of luck along the way, and we’ve had that in our campaigns, and they got the reward for their hard work.”