CORK SFC FOURTH ROUND:
Douglas v O'Donovan Rossa
Take a look at the main picture accompanying this joint- interview.
We’d be willing to bet that, had you decided to sever any interest in Cork football in the mid-90s, you’d still be able to ascertain the two subjects without too much difficulty, such is their similarity with their fathers.
On the left is Kevin Davis of O’Donovan Rossa, son of former Cork footballer and current selector Don; next to him is his first cousin Jamie, the Douglas footballer ànd the son of Tony. Tomorrow in Clonakilty, the pair come up against each other in championship for the first time as their clubs meet in the fourth round of the Cork SFC.
“We’ve played alongside each other a lot more times than against each other,” Kevin said this week, “though there was a Kelleher Shield game last year where we marked each other for about five minutes towards the end. We’re used to it, training with Cork minors and U21s, you get on with it.”
Jamie is keen another meeting should be on the record too, however: “The other time was an U12 West Cork League against Cork Schoolboys League in Cork IT. We were both captains, I think I’ve a picture at home.”
On that occasion, Jamie’s side – laced with quality players, including the soon-to-be-Brighton defender Brian Lenihan – won well (“I kicked lumps out of him!” he laughs of marking Kevin) but tomorrow’s fourth round meeting (3.30pm) should be a lot tighter.
Both clubs are filled with potential and have underage pedigree. In 2011, Kevin was part of a Skibb side which won the county U21 title while Jamie had the misfortune to be part of Douglas sides which lost three Premier 1 MFC finals in a row.
Transferring the promise to senior is a big ask. Skibb reached the senior semi-finals in 2012 but haven’t looked like adding to their sole title – in 1992, when Tony, Don and brother Pat were part of a side which went all the way to All-Ireland Club success.
“That U21 team had been successful the whole way up and there are seven or eight of us now playing at senior level, so we have a bit of winning experience behind us,” Kevin says.
“The (senior) first round against Clyda Rovers this year was one of those days where we got caught on the hop. We were going well in the league but on the day we just didn’t perform, we let ourselves down. We had to look at ourselves after that and re-assess where we were going, it was great in a way that we had the Aghada game so soon after it.”
Douglas have struggled to be involved in the business end since losing the 2008 final to Nemo Rangers. This year, they beat Newcestown in May (Jamie has been able to take a three-week holiday in the US with his girlfriend in the interim) and while there is pressure, it’s from within.
“It’s a blessing to have Pat Flanagan involved as a fitness coach,” Jamie says, “because he’s able to tailor the training before championship to ensure that we’re in good shape. To be honest, I don’t think we need to prove anything to anyone bar ourselves. We all believe we’re good footballers and a lot of the young lads have won things coming through.
“Personally, the minor finals would drive me on. We were very disappointed, but thankfully the minor team last year won one and they’ve a great chance of repeating this season.”
O’Donovan Rossa’s frustrations are no doubt amplified by the fact their neighbours Castlehaven have won the last two county titles. They feature two city residents, Damien Cahalane and Mark Collins in their side, drawn west by their fathers’ heritage. Was there ever the chance of Jamie playing in red rather than black, green and white?
“I would have played a small bit with Skibb when I was younger,” he says, “we played together in some tournament in Bandon when I was around seven or eight, an U10 West Cork competition. Growing up in Douglas, though, and going to school in St Anthony’s, I played with my friends in Douglas and that’s just the way it was. Eddie Murphy was probably a big factor in that, he had after-school training and I played in the Community Games with Douglas so that kind of tied me in with them.
“I was very young so it wasn’t like there was a big moment where I had to make a decision. Obviously, if I was living anywhere in West Cork there’s no question that I’d be playing with Skibb. I would have grown up going to the championship games, Don was involved until around six or seven years ago so there was always a strong family interest.”
For Kevin, the Skibb jersey beckoned from a very young age.
“I’ve been togging out for the seniors since I could walk, really! Myself and Thomas Hegarty used to be the mascots when we were younger, I’d have been over at the park every evening since I was able to kick a ball. The surname isn’t a hindrance. In anything, we’re privileged that our fathers achieved so much.”
Jamie and Kevin will hope to line out together for Cork U21s in 2015, as well as with UCC in the Sigerson Cup. Jamie was at corner-back on the side which made it four Munster titles in a year this year and recently featured in senior training matches, though Kevin’s recent history has been hampered with injury.
“I had osteo pubis in 2013 so I missed the whole year really,” he says “I only came back playing in January so I was too late for the Sigerson. I was on the minor panel in 2011 and I broke my collarbone twice in a row so I took a while to come back from that. I was way off it when I came back and in 2012 I had a lot of niggly problems with hamstrings.
“Touch wood though, it’s all going well now. I’ve never really had the opportunity to show what I can do at inter-county level so hopefully I can take that chance going forward and get a good bit of game-time at U21.”
For Jamie, the senior experience has been a benefit. “Playing with the calibre of senior inter-county players is going to bring you on, just the sharpness and the speed of the game. You have to think on your feet. I was only involved in A-versus-B games, they brought in a few of us. Any time you go to training, you want to impress. They’re the lads you look up to and want to emulate.”
To add to the intrigue this week, the players’ paternal grandmother Eileen celebrated a milestone birthday on Thursday in Skibb, with her family present. As well as Tony and Don, brothers Pat and Gearóid are all members of An Garda Síochána. Regarding the future, Kevin and Jamie don’t rule it out.
“We’re in college at the moment, enjoying life there!” Commerce student Kevin laughs. “Down the line, you never know, maybe if the opportunity arose down the line.”
Jamie is keeping his options open. “I wouldn’t write it off, but not at the moment, I’m doing arts in UCC and that’s the main focus for now.”
And finally, who will Tony Davis be shouting for tomorrow?
“Split-allegiances, I suppose,” his son says. “Obviously, he’s a Skibb man but he’d still like to see me do well. I haven’t asked him, I won’t either. It’s his club so I wouldn’t even question it.”