Ross rising from junior club to Cork senior champions and set for Munster campaign

Carbery Rangers players celebrate their Cork senior final victory

THERE WERE SIX players who featured during the 2003 Cork junior final that also saw gametime earlier this month when Carbery Rangers at last experienced the winning feeling on county senior final day.

If vaulting from junior kingpins to senior champions seems meteoric, they needed plenty patience as well to get to the stage where today they enter the Munster senior club football arena for the first time at the Gaelic Grounds against Monaleen.

An All-Ireland winner with Cork in 2010, John Hayes was the hub of the Carbery Rangers attack during that junior success (2003) and the intermediate win (2005).

What followed was a long slog to reach the summit, pockmarked by a succession of near misses in the knockout stages.

  • 2010: Semi-final – St Finbarr’s 1-10 Carbery Rangers 0-8
  • 2011: Semi-final – Castlehaven 2-12 Carbery Rangers 0-5
  • 2012: Semi-final – Castlehaven 2-9 Carbery Rangers 0-9
  • 2013: Quarter-final – Bishopstown 5-10 Carbery Rangers 0-14
  • 2014: Final – Ballincollig 1-13 Carbery Rangers 1-10
  • 2015: Semi-final – Nemo Rangers 1-11 Carbery Rangers 0-13

They were remarkably consistent over the past six season before this year all those lessons was absorbed and successfully translated into the victory they desperately craved.

Victory over Ballincollig was a testament to their patience and resilience. A first county senior title was duly cherished.

  • History makers! O’Rourke stars as Carbery Rangers clinch first Cork senior football title

“We have been up senior 11 years, so those (junior and intermediate) wins are a little bit of a distant memory.

“Eventually it’s something we can look back on that we’ve come a long way but at the moment, all the last few years have been focusing on to make sure Ross are one of the stronger senior sides in Cork.

“There would have been a feeling out there that this year was our last chance. To finally win a final was just a brilliant feeling.

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“For us this is a natural progression. It’s a new experience for everyone in terms of the Munster senior championship. It’s an exciting challenge.”

Carbery Rangers players celebrate their Cork senior final victory

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

On a personal level, the county final day was one to savour. Hayes kicked 0-5 en route to Carbery Rangers victory, his brother Seamus chipped in with 0-2 alongside him in attack.

Before the game, word had reached him that his cousins Darren and Ronan Crowley had enjoyed victory with Bandon in the intermediate final curtain-raiser.

!It put pressure on us a small bit after the lads won. I met the two of them when we were going out on the pitch, they were doing the lap of honour with the football cup. It was a great achievement.

“For my mom and my aunt Carmel, it was obviously great satisfaction. A lot of my family would have got a lot of enjoyment out of the day.

“In GAA there’s a lot of bad days and a lot of hard days. Your family suffers along with you when things are going badly so it was nice to see things working out well on this occasion.”

Carbery Rangers finally entered the winners enclosure with Douglas man Ronan McCarthy at the helm. It was a native of the Rosscarbery club Micheal O’Sullivan – a teammate of McCarthy’s on the Cork team that contested the 1999 All-Ireland final against Meath – that had laid the foundations.

Former Cork footballer Micheal O’Sullivan

Source: INPHO

“They’d be different guys. Haulie was an excellent coach. He was very close to a lot of guys on the panel as well so it’s not easy always for a guy who’s been involved with a lot of players to get straight into management.

“But he did an excellent job. We probably should have achieved the county title when he was in charge, so no one would lay the fault at his door.

“I think Ronan came in and a lot of the work the lads over the last few years had done, probably added a bit of freshness and opportunities for guys that weren’t featuring as much previously.”

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Former Cork selector Ronan McCarthy

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Hayes had a ringside seat for Carbery Rangers preparations, breaking away from the inter-county game for good last January to concentrate on club endeavours, and can see the fixture frustrations that engulf club players.

“It is a benefit being around the whole time training with the club but I think the first six months are a big struggle for club players. (It’s) something the GAA need to look at.

“There’s talk of a players’ body being set up but it shouldn’t need to be done to give a little bit of respect to the club competitions.

“I’ve looked at it myself in the past with other guys and as long as the inter-county structure is set up as it is with the drawn-out nature, then the club players are going to suffer and they are going to have to wait.

“As far as I can see so far there’s only lip service being paid to it in terms of actually doing anything to it.

“But at the moment, I’m only focusing on Sunday and progressing in the Munster championship is all I can worry about.”

Carbery Rangers player John Hayes

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The provincial stage is one they want to shine on. Carbery Rangers have previous experience of Munster football at junior and intermediate level.

Rather than this being a novel bonus experience, they are treating it the same as any demanding championship encounter.

“If we go out and don’t perform, it’s going to leave a sour taste after winning the county regardless. I don’t really buy that it’s a pressure off situation.

“I want us to progress in the Munster championship. We’ve been knocking on this door, having hoped to get to this stage with a few years.

“Now we have the opportunity, it’s up to us to go out. It’s a step up in quality and a step up in class.

“There is pressure on us in wanting to represent ourselves on the Munster stage.”

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Munster SFC club quarter-final: Monaleen v Carbery Rangers, Gaelic Grounds, 3pm

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