The first obstacle in UCC’s quest to retain the Sigerson Cup has been cleared and selector Paul O’Keeffe is hopeful that they can accrue momentum from here.
Having beaten NUI Galway last week, UCC are away from home again this Sunday for a quarter-final tie against IT Carlow (4pm).
Not since 1995 have UCC gone back-to-back — only IT Tralee and Sligo IT have managed it in that quarter-century — but O’Keeffe knows better than to look too far beyond the next task at hand.
“Every Sigerson game you play is a potential banana-skin but that was a real battle,” he said.
“I thought we played some great football, scraping home with a decent performance will always bring you on.
“With the injuries we had, that was a real worry and we knew Galway would bring what they brought, they’ve been strong for three years.
“Next weekend is kind of a trip into the unknown and sometimes that’s scary when it comes to Sigerson. Often, you’ll see a team where, on paper, you mightn’t recognise too many names but they’re all solid footballers and well-organised.
“It’ll be tough and we’re away again.”
In the wake of the Galway win, UCC manager Billy Morgan had lamented the way that the Sigerson was being almost ignored, with preparation time limited due to the early start and inter-county demands on so many players.
O’Keeffe had said before the game that he couldn’t remember a time when it was so tough to gain access to players. Things have been a bit easier this time around, even allowing for the seven-day turnaround between games.
“Once you get into it and you’ve something to aim at, you are getting a little bit more leeway,” O’Keeffe said.
“We’ve had good numbers on Tuesday and Thursday, so it’s beginning to take shape. The key thing is getting access to your players so you can have a decent run at it.
“At least you have that game under your belt and a little bit of work done this week and you’re facing into Carlow in a better position than you were last weekend.”
While the UCC team which played against Galway was littered with players who have played for their counties, such as Seán O’Shea, Liam O’Donovan, Killian Spillane, they managed without a number of stars too, and O’Keeffe is optimistic that some of those who were absent will be back for the Carlow clash.
“We’re waiting on a few guys that have niggly injuries,” he said.
“It’ll probably be late before we know but I would expect to have some of the players back, but I don’t know if we’ll have all of them.
“We’re waiting on Seán Wilson, Conor Geaney, David Shaw, Graham O’Sullivan hopefully will be back too. Nathan Walsh is out long-term but you’d be hopeful of having two of three of the others back in some shape or form. I’m not sure if they’ll be match-fit for 60 or 70 minutes but we should be able to get something out of them. That adds depth to the panel, which puts you on the front foot again.”