In almost any other club side, Mark Collins would be a nailed-on certainty at centre-forward, dictating the flow of the game.
His influence doesn’t wane by lining out at midfield for Castlehaven alongside Seán Dineen, but it speaks volumes about their attacking options they can afford to field him deeper.
The Haven go in search of their third Cork SFC title in four years against Nemo Rangers in Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday (throw-in 5pm) and the Cork star is happy to be of use wherever he is deployed.
“You have the three Hurleys forming a bit of a triangle in attack, with Stephen at centre-forward and Brian and Michael inside,” he says.
“As brothers, they work well together — I wouldn’t say they get on well as they’re always fighting! — they have a good relationship and it seems to work. Whatever way it works for the team, you’re delighted to be playing.
“Seán does the donkey work and lets the easy stuff to me, thank God! The role I’ve played for Cork over the last few years and with the way the game has gone, positions are very similar. Wing- forward and wing-back aren’t much different to midfield so you get used to it.
“Maybe the kickouts are the only bit of a difference but I’m well-used to it now and I’m enjoying it out there.”
The Haven’s success has always been founded on fraternal cooperation — Mark’s father Francis and six of his brothers were instrumental in establishing the Castletownshend/Union Hall club as a senior operation. Now, Mark’s brother Stephen — two years his junior — has also established himself, impressing as a hard-working wing-forward on the journey to a fourth final in five years.
“To be fair to him, he has been crippled with injuries, like pulling a hamstring the week of a game and things like that,” Mark says.
“He has stuck at it and been given his chance, he was wing-back all the time but he has done very well at wing- forward. I get on very well with him, I try to bring him into it a small bit and he has done very well.”
The Haven have needed all of their nous to reach another final. Champions Ballincollig were dethroned with a two-point win in the quarter-finals while they then had three to spare on neighbours O’Donovan Rossa in the semi.
Seeing out those close games is a skill they have had to develop.
“You see it with teams over the years, the likes of Kilkenny or Kerry, they know how to win and thankfully we have developed a bit of that habit,” Collins says.
“We know when we’re in a tight game that we’ll be able to get out of it. The first year against UCC, it was level with five or six minutes to go but we didn’t have the experience to close it out.
“Against Duhallow and Nemo [in the 2012 and 13 finals], we had learned what we had to do and thankfully it has stood to us again now. We were happy with the performance against Ballincollig, we put together 40 or 50 minutes of good football. “Against Skibb, it might have only been 20 minutes so that has really focused the minds. Training has been good, so we’ll push on from there.”
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