How Castlehaven found winning habit

Castlehaven players celebrate  after beating Micheal MacCarthaigh's in the Rebel Óg MAFC final at Kilmurry. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Heritage runs deep in Castlehaven.

The West Cork club, having won the county SFC in both 2012 and 2013, was honoured with the November Rebel Óg award for winning the county minor A and U16A football titles. Unsurprisingly, the names on those team-sheets were similar to the senior ones.

Hurleys, Nolans, Wheltons and Maguires abounded, and of course there were Cahalanes too. Darragh, the minor captain, is the brother of senior skipper Seánie, while Conor, who led the U16s and was also central for the minors, could easily pass as a double for his elder sibling Damien.

As is often the way with clubs relying on smaller catchment areas, a large quotient of the minor team was U16, and they enjoyed a marvellous week in the middle of the month. After beating Micheál Mac Cárthaighs in the minor decider, seven days later Macroom were seen off in the U16 final.

While the schedule might have been punishing, winning became a good habit, according to underage club secretary, Andy Whelton.

“We started the U16 championship on August 27, and from that until November 17, we played 13 championship games across minor and U16 in a 12-week period.

“Ten of the U16 players were on the minor team so it was a very busy schedule. It would be better to have played them earlier in the year, though you’re building momentum too.”

The silverware is obviously a ringing endorsement of the efforts being put in. “There is great work being done in the underage club,” Whelton said.

“It’s great to win, but the primary aim is to nurture the players along at U8, U10, 12, and then bring them on when they’re older.

“We have no other sport in the parish, a few are going out playing soccer with Skibb but in the school, it’s all football.”

They are canny enough to know that progress there doesn’t come about automatically either. As underage chairman Séamus Walsh outlined, there was a clear strategy applied, with James McCarthy — involved with the senior county-winning teams of 2003 and 2011 — put in a newly-created role.

“A number of years ago, the club identified the need to put an underage coach in the schools,” Walsh said.

“We formed a new position, that of underage coaching officer, and appointed James McCarthy to it. There was instant success in the Sciath na Scol competitions and nine or 10 of this year’s U16s would have been the first to come through that system.

“As part of that programme too we set up an U6 nursery programme and during the summer we had 30 U6s out on the field.

“They will form the backbone of the club down the line and it’s a great tribute to James’s work.”


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