You certainly did not need a crowd exceeding 200 people to know this was a local derby. Even without the usual trimmings of a packed stand and giddy matchday atmosphere, the needle that was evident inside the four white lines was very much in keeping with the pre-pandemic meetings of local rivals Castlehaven and Carbery Rangers.
But unlike the most recent championship encounters between these two standard-bearers of football in West Cork, it was the Haven who came out on top yesterday, the first time they have done so since 2012.
In 2014, ‘17, and ‘19, it was Carbery Rangers who had claimed local bragging rights, but two of the players so instrumental to those victories — Cork footballer John O’Rourke and former Cork footballer John Hayes — did not start here. O’Rourke was sidelined because of a hamstring injury, while tendinitis meant Hayes did not see action until the closing quarter.
That Hayes pointed with his first touch of the game highlighted the experience and poise Carbery Rangers had been robbed of for three-quarters of proceedings, particularly in the second period when they struggled to create scoring opportunities in the face of a strong breeze. His white flag, which arrived on 52 minutes, was only their second of the half. It would turn out to be their last.
The edge to proceedings, so prominent during a first half which produced five yellow cards and plenty of heated exchanges, had dissipated by the time Hayes entered the fray. Castlehaven, through Cathal Maguire, man of the match Michael Hurley, older brother Brian, and fellow Cork senior Mark Collins, were four clear and certainly not for catching. They won by five. It could —- and should — have been more.
That the victors tallied nine second-half wides emphasises the extent to which they were on top during the second half an hour, particularly so following the sin-binning of Carbery Rangers defender Jerry O’Riordan on 48 minutes.
“We made a lot of elementary mistakes, at times, but Ross are a hard side to play against, they beat us the last few times. But when the game was there to be won in the second half, the players went and won it,” said Castlehaven selector John Cleary.
“Carbery Rangers were down a few players because of injury. John Hayes has been a thorn in our side for a long number of years. He didn’t start, the same with John O’Rourke, a county player. Naturally enough, they were handicapped today. We still had to go out and beat them. The lads who were out there for Ross gave 100% and I felt at times we didn’t show composure, but look we got over the line.
“Newcestown had a huge win on Saturday night, so we will look forward to that game. These games against players that they know, they are going to be tough and are not going to be free-flowing.
“The objective was to get the win here. The bonus would have been to have played outstandingly well, we felt we didn’t do that. Hopefully, we can play a bit better and get the win again the next day.”
It was all square at the break, 0-7 apiece, the sides level on four occasions during a fiery opening half.
The Haven were far sprightlier out of the blocks. Three from the boot of Michael Hurley and one from Conor Cahalane propelled them into a 0-4 to 0-0 lead after nine minutes.
Carbery Rangers, whose attacking threat was considerably diminished by the absence of O’Rourke and Hayes, eventually found their feet and were back on level terms by the 18th minute. Mark Hodnett was responsible for three of their opening four scores (two frees), with the lively Darragh Hayes also getting on the scoresheet.
The men from Rosscarbery could have had three goals by this juncture. Castlehaven goalkeeper Anthony Seymour produced two fine saves to deny Mark and Brian Hodnett, with Alan Jennings drilling his chance wide of the target. It was tit-for-tat from there to the break, with Castlehaven — backed by the elements — kicking on in the second period to end an eight-year wait for a championship win over their local rivals.
M Hurley (0-6); B Hurley (0-4, 0-1 ‘45); M Collins (0-2, 0-2 frees); C Cahalane, C Maguire (0-1 each).
: S Hayes (0-4, 0-2 frees); M Hodnett (0-3, 0-2 frees); D Hayes, J Hayes (0-1 each).
: A Seymour; J O’Regan, R Walsh, R Maguire; R Whelton, D Cahalane, D McCarthy; D Whelton, M Collins; C Cahalane, B Hurley, C Maguire; C O’Driscoll, S Nolan, M Hurley.
: J Cahalane for S Nolan (40); C Hayes for O’Driscoll (56).
R Milner; R Hegarty, Jerry O’Riordan, James O’Riordan; K Scannell, B Shanahan, T O’Rourke; M Hodnett, J Fitzpatrick; B Hodnett, P Hodnett, A Jennings; D Hayes, S Hayes, C O’Donovan.
: P Hurley for P Hodnett (40); J Hayes for K Scannell (45).
: D Murnane (Macroom).