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'You couldn't look forward to a better match than a county final. We'll wait as long as we have to'

Cork footballer Mark Collins and former county team-mate Daniel Goulding on the postponement of county senior finals next Sunday.

Mark Collins in action for Castlehaven this summer.
Mark Collins in action for Castlehaven this summer.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

WINNING A COUNTY semi-final after a penalty shootout that concluded an epic encounter should mean widespread celebrations.

For Castlehaven there was that initial outbreak of euphoria in Páirc Uí Rinn last night when their footballers booked a place in this year’s Cork senior decider.

Yet it was tempered later when word filtered through to them that NPHET had recommended the entire country enter Level 5 – the highest of the Covid-19 restrictions – during their riveting semi-final.

This morning came the news that the GAA was suspending all club activity with immediate effect until further notice. After defeating St Finbarr’s in a pulsating game, Castlehaven were due to take on Nemo Rangers next Sunday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, one of seven county senior finals that were planned to take place around the country.

There’s uncertainty now over when that game will be held, a strange situation for players to face.

“Obviously the announcement has come as a bit of a shock,” admits Castlehaven captain and Cork footballer Mark Collins.

“But look we will just have to see over the next few days what is going to happen. All we can do now is get the bodies right and prepare as well as we can, and be ready when the day comes. It’s crazy, I know the numbers are going sky high every day. I suppose we were expecting the worst.

“It’s been a long year and to be fair to us we worked hard in lockdown ourselves, sessions on our own and stuff. If we’ve to do that again, by God we’ll do it. You couldn’t look forward to a better match than a county final. We’ll wait as long as we have to.”

Collins was immersed in the drama last night. A marathon encounter featured over 90 minutes of action and the 30-year-old was Castlehaven’s scoring hero. He converted the free at the close of extra-time to draw the teams and ensure penalties were required. Then he nailed the spot kick that put Castlehaven ahead 1-0 and later kept his nerve once more to fire to the net in sudden death to clinch victory for his side.

Penalties are not a scenario Collins is accustomed to.

“Would you believe we didn’t get a penalty all year I’d say. We were out early in training last week one night. Bernie Collins, who’s kind of doing a bit of the coaching with us, he came up to us while we were waiting around before training.

“He said to take a few penalties and we started laughing at him. Honest to God. We couldn’t believe it happened. It’s absolutely crazy, it was amazing. I think I only took one in championship ever. Just as captain of the team, I felt I had to stand up and thank God they went in.

“Anthony Seymour has bided his chance, he’s waited and waited and to be fair to him he stood up when we really needed him tonight and made three fantastic saves for us.

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“I said coming off after extra-time finished, I said to Cathal Maguire, ‘Jesus we would have taken penalties with two minutes left.’

“I thought it was all over to be honest with you. Lucky probably to get out of it and thank God we did. The bodies are out on their feet at the end. I’ve never seen so much cramp but that’s what it meant to both teams. To be fair to the Barrs, we knew they’re such a spirited club. They only played Wednesday night and to go to extra-time tonight, how they kept going was unbelievable. We’re just delighted to get out of it.”

Collins and Castlehaven must now play the waiting game. His former Cork team-mate Daniel Goulding can relate to that.

daniel-goulding-dejected Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Yesterday he kicked 0-6, four of those registered in open play, to help his club Éire Óg triumph against O’Donovan Rossa and reach a final in the second tier of senior football in Cork. That was set to take place next Sunday and they have also qualified for an intermediate hurling final with the details of that game yet to be finalised prior to today’s announcement.

“It was very disappointing to hear. I totally understand the GAA’s decision but it was very exciting for our club to be preparing for county finals over the next few weeks.

These are crazy times and hopefully the GAA and county board can provide updates regarding provisional timelines for the completion of the championships. That way teams can refocus and enjoy the build up and preparations the finals.”

Despite the setback of the postponement of the final, 2010 All-Ireland winner Goulding savoured the semi-final success that propels his side to a final against Mallow, their first at senior football level.

The juggling act between both codes has been enjoyable despite the busy schedule of late.

“We were delighted to come out of the game with a win. Conditions were very bad and it was a huge battle. Playing a semi-final in a senior grade is a totally new experience for our group and it is great to have a final to prepare for.

“Our group have had a very busy and enjoyable few months. During lockdown it was unlikely that any games would be played in 2020 so there is great credit due to Cork county board for getting the championships to this stage.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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