Cahalane wait and see as ’Haven face big Gaeltacht test

IT will be very much a case of Hamlet without the Prince should Niall Cahalane fail to line out with Castlehaven against An Ghaeltacht in tomorrow’s Munster Club SFC semi-final in Killarney (2.45pm).

The ageless wonder lasted only 20 minutes in the recent Cork county final, being forced off with a torn thigh muscle he picked up in the week leading up to game against Clonakilty.

Cahalane hasn’t trained since, and according to coach James McCarthy, “it’s very much a case of waiting to see if Niall declares himself fit enough to start. His presence would be a huge boost to the rest of the lads.”

Having seen An Ghaeltacht play in the replay of the Kerry county final, McCarthy is under no illusions about the enormity of the task facing his charges.

“If they put together for the hour a performance like they did in the second half of the Kerry county final replay, then we’ll be in big trouble,” said James.

“They are a team of all stars. Any club team that gave six players to the county this year must be regarded as favourites.

“They are a big physical team and have the advantage of an extra game played while we missed out on a quarter-final against the Waterford champions because they weren’t ready to play.”

Despite winning the Cork title, Castlehaven were made to struggle for the last quarter, something McCarthy puts down to the loss of Cahalane and an injury to Bernie Collins.

“We have a very young team, and Niall’s influence on them has been hugely instrumental in our success this season. There is no knowing what effect his absence would have, particularly in a game such as this.

“You have to remember this is Cork v. Kerry, and we have a responsibility to represent the county well. Unlike the Cork final, where we were clear favourites to win, we go into tomorrow’s semi-final with that off our backs.

“Gaeltacht will be the favourites on this occasion, and we should allow us to be far more relaxed, and I’m hoping we can express ourselves far better. There has been a view expressed that the ‘Haven are quite happy with winning the county title’. Not so.

“We got back to serious training the Friday night after the county final. When you consider that Stephen Connolly cancelled his holidays to be available tomorrow, it shows just how committed we are to doing well in the Munster championship.”

McCarthy’s opposite number Fergal Ó Sé has succeeded in combining both playing and managing An Ghaeltacht with little difficulty, primarily, as he says himself, because he has an excellent group of selectors and training in with him.

“My function as manager is to organise what needs to be done. Once on the field, I have no function except to play as well as I can. The lads on the sideline share the responsibilities during a game, and it has worked well for us.”

It’s difficult to imagine that a team like An Gaeltacht, with such talent, has only won the Kerry title twice, their first in 2001.

“That has often been said about us,” said Ó Sé, “but competition down here is very keen, and it’s not easy to win out.

“We overdid the celebrations after our first title win and paid the price against Nemo. The team is two years older and wiser now, and while we have struggled in all our matches this season, I feel there is at least one big game in us.

“It would be great if we could produce that against Castlehaven. Up to now, we have been depending on our county players to pull us through, but that won’t be good enough against the Cork champions.

“They have been down this particular road before, which is a big advantage to them. Despite his age, Niall Cahalane played an amount of ball in the county final, and if he’s playing tomorrow, we cannot allow him to do the same.”

The county rivalry will obviously spill over into this game, which should add a bit more spice to it, and while not dismissing the title aspirations of St Senans (Clare) and Cahir (Tipperary), the likelihood is the provincial winners will come from tomorrow’s semi-final.

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