Sunday’s decider may represent a second final appearance in three years but it is their involvement at the semi-final stage on six occasions since 2010 that gives a clear indication of how long this Rosscarbery team have been knocking on the door, and, how often they’ve been left out in the cold.
For Declan Hayes (36), Anthony Roche (35), Kevin MacMahon (34), Seamus Hayes (33), John Hayes (31), Stephen Murray (31) and Alan Jennings (30) — all bar Murray featured in the semi-final win over Avondhu — the window of opportunity is narrowing.
Indeed, given the team assembled by McCarthy shows just two changes from the side which came within touching distance of county glory two years ago, and that one of those new faces is Tipperary’s Robbie Kiely, the production line wouldn’t appear to be moving so hastily that the club’s flagship team will be strengthened by the influx of youth in the next year or two.
“I don’t think this is last chance saloon,” McCarthy insisted.
“The lads are so good at looking after themselves that irrespective of the result... Kevin McMahon, midfield in the semi-final, is 34 but is in as good as shape as he’s ever been. John [Hayes], Seamus [Hayes] and the older guys, they live it for it really.
“There are plenty of other players coming through. Clubs always survive. New players come through and replace them, that’s the nature of it. It will no different here.”
What was imperative for this group, McCarthy adds, is they secured a return ticket to the showpiece event of Cork football so soon after their debut appearance against Ballincollig.
“We are fortunate it has been only two years since they were in the final. If there had been a five, six or seven-year gap, that previous final might not count as much. Certainly, it is a help in that they know what is involved and they know how to prepare for it.
“They’ve done well to get back to the final because there are no guarantees. I’ve trained teams and got to finals, but were beaten. Everyone said you would get back the year after or the year after that, but it never happened. .
“Ultimately, there will be only one way for this to be a successful season for the club and that is if they win.”
This is McCarthy’s first season at the helm, having taken the reins from former Cork team-mate Micheál ‘Haulie’” O’Sullivan. There were, he says, a number of factors that enticed him to take the post, chief among them being his belief this is a team with the potential to go the distance.
“I would have watched them a lot over the years when you’d be going to club games and what stood out was their quality up front and the overall ability. A lot of teams can struggle for talent up front. Ultimately, this is where a lot of club teams can fall short. But that is one of the things that wouldn’t concern you with this team.
“They are a football only club as well and that is very attractive. A lot of the guys, I would have come across them on the inter-county scene at one stage or another. They are very serious about their football. There is nothing more important to them. That’s something you can work with and hopefully, use to make the final step.”
And what of Ballincollig, the team that brought the curtain down on their 2014 title bid? Is Sunday a revenge mission?
We can’t replay the 2014 final. I won’t be mentioning it in the build up. I saw their games against Clyda Rovers, CIT and Nemo. What has impressed me most is how resilient they are. They went 0-5 to 0-0 down to Clyda at Blarney. They stayed at it. To use a Jim Gavin phrase, they kept going with their process. They never panicked. They squeezed up on Clyda. Against CIT, they were three down late on and got a draw. Against Nemo, they were 1-3 to 0-0 down and 1-5 to 1-2 down. They didn’t panic. They kept playing, kept going, keep doing what they’re good at.
“It will be an interesting game.”