The slickness of the Rosscarbery side is as admirable as their consistency, and their determination to atone for last year’s final disappointment against Ballincollig was evident in this thoroughly lob-sided quarter-final at Páirc Uí Rinn.
But they are no more informed today on whether their defence will withstand Nemo’s slick attacking patterns on October 4 because Duhallow offered a negligible threat throughout yesterday’s encounter.
The divisional side began with five changes to the official team list, a portent of their disorganised state, as they failed to score in the opening 22 minutes. By that stage, Carbery Rangers were 1-6 to the good, the fisted-goal given them by John O’Rourke, whose bright movement was a feature throughout at corner forward. He finished with 1-5 from play in an attack that ticks a lot of boxes.
John Hayes, his brother Seamus, Declan Hayes and Kevin McMahon offer a serious attacking arsenal who will cause Nemo’s defence plenty of problems in the semi-final. Throw in their rangy wing-forward Alan Jennings, who claimed three points from play here, and one can see why the purists will be salivating over this Cork SFC semi-final.
Duhallow’s veteran manager Ned English was probably manning the line for the final time for his native division, frustrated again by having to prepare, as he said himself “with two hands tied behind my back.”
“It was men against boys out there, trying to play against a senior club team. We have good players, but our preparation in the last couple of years has been completely inadequate to prepare us for senior football at this level.
“When you get to the business end of the season, the step up for a good junior or intermediate club player to the standard of the best clubs in this county — and Carbery Rangers are one of those — is a serious commitment that needs serious senior football training three nights a week.”
He explained: “Since we started for (the fourth round game against) Newcestown, over the past six weeks, we’ve met three times. It’s no longer like Duhallow teams of the past, where we were able to train consistently twice a week right through the year.
“The growth in teams in the division now playing at higher grades means they don’t allow their players to train with us. And the sheer volume of fixtures — on Friday night, the divisional Board, in their wisdom, decided to play an Under-21 championship match with two (of our) players involved — one of them due to start as a half back broke his hand. That shows you what we are dealing with.
“I’ve hung around too long for that kind of thing. I’ve given as much as I can. They’re great lads, and this is not blaming the clubs. It is the sad position that group teams find themselves in in a very overcrowded fixture list. It’s not just Duhallow facing this. That’s why talented divisions can’t pull it together. As it’s constituted at the moment, it’ll be few and far between you’ll see divisions reaching the finals.”
None of which will concern Carbery Rangers manager, Michael ‘Haulie’ O’Sullivan, who saw his side go in at the break with a 1-8 to 0-2 lead. Eight minutes after the restart, a defensive slip — there were several in the treacherous underfoot conditions — gave Duhallow’s Donncha O’Connor an easy fisted goal, but no sooner was Rangers’ guard up than O’Connor was sent off for a second yellow card offence.
With his dismissal went any vague notion of a Duhallow comeback, two points in as many minutes from Kiskeam’s David Scannell (42nd and 43rd) as good as it got for the division at 1-11 to 1-5.
The performance of Kevin McMahon, blighted by injuries in recent seasons, was hugely encouraging from Ross’ point of view, and there’s plenty more in the tank from the three Hayes’ up top.
“I’d be hoping that last year’s final has given us a bit of added attitude to get back there again,” said O’Sullivan. “We’d feel that we left it there (in the final), we had a big lead early and we didn’t perform in the second half.
“We gave the players a good break afterwards, and we didn’t go back until February. But they expect it of themselves now, getting to this stage, this is their fifth semi-final. We lost three and won the semi last year for the first time.
“You look at the top four in the Kelleher Shield (Division 1 of the SFL) and they are the four teams left — ourselves, Skibb, Castlehaven and Nemo. We put a big store on the league and it does tell when you are playing the best teams all the time in Division One. It definitely improves you.”
J O’Rourke (1-5), K McMahon and A Jennings (0-3 each); J Hayes (0-2), B Shanahan (45), R Kiely, K Fitzpatrick (0-1 each).
D O’Connor (1-1, one free), D Scannell (0-2, one free), S Murphy, J Corkery, A O’Connor, K Holland (45) (0-1 each).
P. Shanahan; A Roche, B. Shanahan, T. O’Rourke; S Murray, P. Hodnett, R. Kiely; M Mennis, J Fitzpatrick; A. Jennings, J. Hayes, K. McMahon; D. Hayes, S. Hayes, J.O’Rourke.
K. Fitzpatrick for J Fitzpatrick (15); S O’Neill for K Fitzpatrick (53); J. O’Riordan for Kiely (55); T. O’Donoghue for J O’Rourke (55); G O’Brien for S Murray (59).
N O’Connor (Newmarket); J McLoughlin (Kanturk), E. Callaghan (Rockchapel), S Murphy (Ballydesmond); AJ O’Connor (Kiskeam), B Daly (Newmarket), K. Buckley (Newmarket); S. O’Sullivan (Dromtarriffe), A Walsh (Kanturk); J Ryan (Newmarket), D O’Connor (Ballydesmond), C. O’Keeffe (Newmarket); D Scannell (Kiskeam), J O’Connor (Boherbue), A. O’Connor (Knocknagree).
J Corkery (Boherbue) for O’Keeffe (half-time); P Gayer (Castlemagnier) for Daly (34); A Carroll (Kiskeam) for J O’Connor (BC, 36); K Holland (Kanturk) for Ryan (49).
D Murnane (Macroom).