By Ger McCarthy
Kelleher Shield winning manager Larry Kavanagh sat down with the Southern Star’s Ger McCarthy and gave his opinion on a productive year for Nemo Rangers plus Carbery’s likely 2017 Cork SFC challengers.
(Published in the Southern Star – December 2016)
As Nemo Rangers manager, Larry Kavanagh had an opportunity to cast a tactical eye over West Cork’s senior clubs over the past twelve months. So which teams impressed the Capwell side’s bainisteoir and the Carbery division’s chances of making an impact in the 2017 Cork SFC?
‘Obviously, I was impressed with Carbery Rangers the most and the way they finally went and won a first county senior football title,’ Kavanagh said.
‘In fairness to Carbery (Rangers), they have been knocking on the door for the last number of years with a record of one final and four or five semi-final appearances before winning it. They probably needed an ‘x-factor’ like Ronan McCarthy, someone outside the club, to bring in a fresh pair of eyes to the setup and help get them over the line.
‘I’m delighted for them because they have been challenging for a county (senior) championship for so long. It is a very easy thing to throw your hat at if you don’t achieve success after four or five years on the go. Fair play to Carbery Rangers though because you don’t win it yourself you want to see a deserving club step up and claim the Andy Scannell.’
Nemo Rangers recently overcame Castlehaven in a cracking encounter to claim the Kelleher Shield trophy. James McCarthy has since vacated the manager’s seat but Larry Kavanagh believes the Union Hall club will still be a force to be reckoned with this coming year.
‘I’d fully expect the Haven to challenge once again next year,’ admitted the Nemo Rangers bainisteoir.
‘Castlehaven kept going even after they got knocked out of the championship, completing all their league fixtures and then playing challenge matches against the likes of UCC right up until our recent Kelleher Shield final.
‘They are probably still smarting after getting beaten by Ballincollig in the championship down in West Cork but then Castlehaven never like losing anyway. I doubt they will dwell too long on losing another Kelleher Shield to be honest because they, like Nemo, are all about the championship and will probably be looking to play us again as quickly as they can.’
Aside from Carbery’s two perennial championship challengers, Clonakilty, O’Donovan Rossa and the Carbery division’s recent struggles at senior level have surprised the Nemo Rangers manager.
‘Clonakilty are another West Cork team who have surprisingly been struggling with relegation for the last while but Paul Holland has come in there and is trying to build a new team with a lot of young U21 and minor players,’ said Kavanagh.
‘They’ve gone well at U21 level but it looks like Paul and Clonakilty are involved in a long-term plan to bring these guys through before they’ll start challenging at senior level once again.
‘I’d say the same about O’Donovan Rossa, in that I was surprised they struggled this past year having got the semi-finals in 2015. Like Clon, Shane Crowley has brought through a lot of new, young players but they’ve been unlucky in that they met us (Nemo) two years in a row at the knockout stage of the Cork SFC and had to play so many divisional sides last year.
‘As for Carbery, this was the first time in four years since I and my fellow selectors got involved that we played a divisional side. In fact, we ended up playing three of them; Duhallow, Muskerry and then Carbery. On their day, Carbery, like any other division can be a real threat but it all depends on the persons in charge and the availability of club players during their preparation.’
Ballincollig ended Nemo’s interest in the 2016 senior championship following a 1-10 to 2-6 semi-final victory at Páric Uí Rinn. Claiming the Kelleher Shield before the end of the year represented a welcome bonus but Larry Kavanagh’s thoughts are already turning towards 2017 and a Cork SFC structure that needs rethinking.
‘It was nice to win it (Kelleher Shield) but at the same time, it wouldn’t have been a disaster if we lost either,’ Nemo’s manager admitted.
‘The lads took their closing league games seriously and there was a bit of pride involved too going up against a quality team like Castlehaven. The Kelleher Shield is the second most important trophy out there for senior football clubs so we are delighted to win it.
‘We are looking ahead to next year’s championship though as it is an incredibly tough competition to win. Any one of seven, eight, or even nine teams can win it.
‘What makes it so hard to win is the fact the competition is unnecessarily dragged out over such a long period of time. It would make for a much better competition for everyone involved if you had a shorter window to prepare for. It only takes about six games to win the thing so why not structure the championship to be completed inside an eight-week period?
‘Every team could prepare accordingly and peak at the right time instead of having to wait a couple of months to see who they’ll be playing next, not knowing if fellas will be away on holidays but more than anything, not being able prepare properly when the championship is staggered over an entire summer.’