Confederations Cup winners and losers

The following article was published in the Irish Examiner following Germany’s 1-0 win over Chile in the 2017 Confederations Cup decider in Russia. Published Mon July 3rd 2017. – Enjoy, Ger McCarthy.

IrishExaminer

 

WINNERS

Germany’s conveyor belt of talent

Two statistics dominated social media following Germany’s Confederations Cup final victory over Chile last night. First, the average age of Joachim Low’s starting team was 24 years and 244 days. Second and in close comparison, the German’s recent U21 European Championship final winning side’s average was 22 years and 275 days, underlining the view that a potentially dominant young squad is evolving following on from the 2014 World Cup winners’ triumph in Brazil.

 

Chilean fire

Although they came up short in the decider, Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Chilean side lit up this summer’s pre-World Cup tournament with their intricate passing, rapier-like counter-attacking and sometimes fiery reactions to match officials. 2015 and 2016 Copa America successes were built around the combined talents of Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Eduardo Vargas but an ageing Chile squad possesses enough bite to make an impact in Russia once again next year.

 

Ronaldo

The conclusion to one of the most remarkable seasons in Cristiano Ronaldo’s distinguished career did not include a Confederations Cup medal. Instead, the Portuguese international had to be content with La Liga, Champions League, World Club Championship and European Championship successes plus the Ballon d’Or.Ronaldo still had time to help Portugal to a third-place finish in Russia before jetting off to the United States to greet the arrival of his new-born twins.

 

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LOSERS

The Russian national team

Despite running a well organised tournament, a 2-0 victory over New Zealand is all Russia’s international team had to show during an otherwise uninspiring Confederations Cup. Add to that, an ongoing FIFA investigation into allegations that Russia’s entire squad were doping at the 2014 World Cup and next year’s showpiece global event cannot come quickly enough for the host nation.

 

VAR confusion

The decision to trial FIFA’s video assistant referee technology at the Confederations Cup led to many confusing moments. Giving a referee the option to consult a VAR official or look at footage of an incident on a screen on the side of the pitch makes perfect sense, in theory. Yet, the long delays and inability of supporters or TV viewers to understand what’s going on during the decision-making process has instead, painted VAR in a negative light.

September Signs – Munster SFC final

The following article was published in the Irish Examiner following Kerry’s facile Munster GAA senior football championship final victory over Cork on Mon July 3rd 2017. – Enjoy, Ger McCarthy.

 

IrishExaminer

 

Midfield experience points Kerry to victory

Colm Cooper stated in Saturday’s Irish Examiner that ‘When Kerry hum, it’s because they have a key platform from the middle of the field to put the foot down and drive on’. How prophetic the former All-Ireland winner’s words proved to be.

David Moran issued an immediate statement of intent by winning the throw-in and setting up Kerry’s first score. True, Cork won their fair share of possession in the middle third, but over the hour, Moran and Anthony Maher underlined their importance to Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s setup with a commanding air display that tipped the balance in Kerry’s favour.

Add in Kieran Donaghy’s ability to drift out from the square and the Kingdom possesses three primary ball-winners capable of mixing it with Dublin or Tyrone later this year.

 

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Cork, God help us

Another year and another route through the qualifiers beckon for the rebels. Erratic shooting, an unwillingness to push up on the Kerry kick outs allied with Cork’s failure to raise their game meant there was only ever going to be one result.

The gulf in class between a team challenging for the Sam Maguire and one still struggling to find its identity under their current management setup was never more apparent.

Defeat to Kerry was not unexpected but the lack of passion and intensity in Cork’s display meant this was one of Cork’s most underwhelming visits to Killarney for a Munster final.

 

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Kerry’s ruthless efficiency

There were 41 minutes on the clock and sixteen points on the scoreboard before James O’Donoghue kicked Kerry’s first wide of the Munster final.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s side’s 79th provincial title was achieved without ever needing to move into top gear, an indictment of both their opponents’ failings and Kerry’s own ruthless efficiency. Tougher tests lay ahead yet the movement and accuracy of Kerry’s forwards suggests they are capable of unlocking the stingiest of defences.

No doubt, Fitzmaurice would have preferred a tougher test before heading to Croke Park but right now, Kerry are Dublin’s only serious challengers for this year’s All-Ireland.

 

Europa League Final – Lessons Learned

The following articles were published in the Irish Examiner before and after Manchester United’s Europa League final 2-0 victory over Ajax in Stockholm. – Enjoy, Ger McCarthy.

IrishExaminer

PRE-MATCH: Three Key Battles

Davy Klassen v Paul Pogba

18 goals in all competitions underline Davy Klassen’s threat to United’s rearguard at the Friends Arena in Stockholm. The 24-year-old captained the Dutch side to second place in the Eredivisie, excelling in his attacking midfield role.

If fully fit, Paul Pogba is expected to feature in Jose Mourinho’s starting line-up having returned to action following a five-game absence against Crystal Palace last weekend. Tonight’s Europa League final represents an opportunity for Pogba to justify his world record transfer by nullifying Klassen’s influence and adding to his tally of 5 goals for the 2016-17’s campaign.

 

Kasper Dolberg v Chris Smalling or Phil Jones

One of Jose Mourinho’s biggest selection calls is whether Chris Smalling or Phil Jones will start in United’s defence and replace the suspended Eric Bailly. Neither Smalling nor Jones have endeared themselves to United’s manager following lengthy spells in the treatment room but whoever is called up faces an onerous task in marking Kasper Dolberg.

The 19-year-old Ajax striker has found the net 22 times for his club and attracted interest from Europe’s top clubs ahead of expected summer bids. Dolberg, a Dane, is the youngest non-Dutch player to score a hat-trick for Ajax and his goals were pivotal in helping his side overcome Lyon in the semi-finals.

 

Davinson Sanchez v Marcus Rashford

Ajax’s giant Colombian central defender Davinson Sanchez is likely to move on to pastures new following the Europa League decider. Coveted by Chelsea and Barcelona, Sanchez has enjoyed a stellar campaign and will be tasked with quietening United’s main attacking threat, Marcus Rashford.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s injury opened the door for Rashford to solidify his place in the first eleven and 10 goals in 43 senior appearances suggests the England international will have a big influence on the Europa League final’s outcome.

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Europa League Final – Lessons Learned

It’s only a game

Last Monday’s suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena where 22 people, many of them children, lost their lives meant this year’s Europa League decider was always going to pale into insignificance against the backdrop of such a horrific atrocity.

European Cup final nights are always colourful and sometimes spectacular occasions yet both Manchester United and Ajax’s players and supporters could have been forgiven for not having their minds fully focused at kick-off.

Poignantly, the pre-match minute of silence that burst into a spontaneous crescendo of applause and chanting was an unscripted and beautiful moment.

 

More than a trophy

Jose Mourinho’s decision to take this season’s Europa League seriously, fielding his strongest available team whenever possible, eventually reaped dividends.

The Portuguese manager has often derided the tournament but the importance of winning UEFA’s second most-important club trophy cannot be overstated following United’s victory. No doubt, claiming the only major European title that had previously eluded the Old Trafford club will please United’s fans.

Yet, securing Champions League football, avoiding any decrease in revenues and the possibility of attracting big-name signings are of far greater significance to United’s boardroom heading into next season.

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Ajax faces another difficult summer

Irrespective of the outcome, Ajax coach Peter Bosz was destined for a difficult summer in attempting to hold on to some of his club’s prize assets, many of whom did their future prospects no harm in Stockholm.

Despite the defeat, Colombian defender Davinson Sanchez and midfield talisman Davy Klassen can expect calls from Europe’s top agents over the coming weeks.

Thankfully, Ajax has a history of bouncing back from losing their best young players to Europe’s elite clubs and will continue promoting young talent to keep Ajax at the forefront of Dutch and European football.

 

Pogba yet to become United’s most important player

Many column inches were written following Paul Pogba’s move from Juventus back to Manchester United for a world record transfer fee of £89 million in the summer of 2016.

Since then, the French international midfielder has struggled to justify the massive outlay that brought the 24-year-old back to Old Trafford. Pogba may have endured an injury-plagued campaign but in truth, has failed to establish himself as United’s dominant player.

Instead, it is Antonio Valencia, Juan Mata, David de Gea and Ander Herrera who picked up the slack and ensured United claimed two trophies and a Champions League berth.

A special day for West Cork football

By Ger McCarthy

Last weekend saw Cork City FC’s home ground of Turner’s Cross host a West Cork League Beamish Cup final for the very first time. Here, Ger McCarthy reflects on an important day for football in the West Cork region as well as the West Cork Schoolboys League’s continuing rise in popularity and a cracking U14 Cup decider at the same venue.

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Irrespective of the result, last weekend’s SuperValu West Cork Schoolboys League U14 Cup decider and West Cork League Beamish Cup final showcased all that is good about football in the west Cork region.

The curtain-raiser between Ardfield and Skibbereen’s U14’s lived up to its pre-match billing with a terrific final involving thirteen Kennedy Cup squad members entertaining supporters over 70 engaging minutes.

Skibbereen’s clinical finishing proved the difference in the end, the Baltimore Road club securing a 3-1 victory plus U14 league and cup double, yet Ardfield showed why their young squad has a bright future ahead of them.

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Drinagh dominated the second half of Sunday’s Beamish Cup final yet Bantry Bay Rovers proved more than match for their opponents for much of the opening half. An inability to convert the two half-chances that came their way ultimately cost an up and coming Bay team on a day Rangers underlined their status as one of the most powerful teams in the region.

A 4-0 victory was richly deserved for a Drinagh side accustomed to taking their opportunities in cup finals over the past decade. Keith Jagoe (below) and Robert O’Regan were outstanding in the centre of the pitch and ably assisted by a livewire attack in which Gearoid White, Barry O’Driscoll (H) and Gavin Beamish shone.

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For their part and despite the loss, there is no doubt that Bay Rovers will bounce back. One or two seasons plying their trade in Division 1 will help a youthful Rovers squad find their feet once again before a quick return to the top tier of West Cork League football.

Bantry Bay Rovers could have little argument with the Beamish Cup final’s outcome though and will be disappointed at having conceded three of their four goals from set pieces. Clearly, Drinagh had their homework done and exploited a weakness in their opponents rearguard to maximum effect.

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Whilst goalscorers Barry O’Driscoll (H), Barry O’Driscoll (T), JJ Hurley and Keith Jagoe will naturally attract plenty of newspaper headlines, it is Drinagh’s defensive division that anchored the second of possibly three cup successes in 2017 for the Canon Crowley Park outfit.

Stand-in goalkeeper Rob Oldham kept a clean sheet and proved a safe pair of hands throughout the cup decider in the absence of injured Liam Cahalane. Yet, it was JJ Hurley, Barry O’Driscoll (T), JJ Collins and Darren Beamish’s composed defending that prevented a young Bay Rovers attack from finding the net.

Keith Jagoe and Robert O’Regan’s ability to shield their back four ensured there would be no Bantry Bay comeback.

Rangers are often lauded for their ability to score from multiple areas of the pitch but an experienced defence was just as important in Drinagh’s 2017 Beamish Cup success.

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Beamish Cup Final Teams

Drinagh Rangers: Robert Oldham, JJ Hurley, JJ Collins, Barry O’Driscoll (T), Darren Beamish, Robert O’Regan, Tomas Connolly, Gavin Beamish, Gearoid White, Barry O’Driscoll (H) and Keith Jagoe (captain).

Substitutes: Jamie Walsh, Shane Connolly, Adrian O’Driscoll, Stephen Crowley, Daniel McCarthy and Paraic White.

Bantry Bay Rovers: Donal Casey, Daniel Murray, Paul Drummey, Martin Hurley, Jamie McSweeney, David Daly, Brian Donovan (captain), Shane Drummey, Eoghan McElhinney, Gavin Johnson and Shane McSweeney.

Substitutes: Ciarán McElhinney, Shane Murray, Ricky Peters, Shaun O’Sullivan and Ross Leahy.

Referee: Paul McDermott. Assistant Referees: John Corcoran and Shane O’Neill. Fourth Official: Martin Coakley.

 

Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai claim Conroy Cup

This article appeared in a recent edition of the Evening Echo newspaper reviewing the inaugural West Cork Post Primary Schools Conroy Cup competition. Enjoy.


By Ger McCarthy

EveningEcho

Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai claimed the inaugural West Cork Post Primary Schools Conroy Cup, a competition the organisers hope will grow in popularity in the coming years.

Cork City manager John Caulfield, the West Cork Branch of the ISRS, Irish Soccer Referees of Ireland, West Cork League, West Cork Schoolboys League, Gateway Radio and West Cork secondary school organisations came together to launch the Richard Conroy Memorial Perpetual Cup in Dunmanway recently.

 

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The schools competition and trophy have been organised in an effort to commemorate Richard Conroy’s many years of dedicated work both on and off the pitch as a referee and West Cork League committee member.

Three schools; Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai, Skibbereen Community College and MICC Dunmanway took part in the first running of the tournament over the past number of weeks but such is the huge interest sparked in the inaugural competition that plans are already underway to expand the entry for next year’s Richard Conroy Cup as well as adding additional age groups.

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Winning Colaiste Pobail Bantry and former Cork City youths coach Pat Curran along with fellow coach Donal McGrath are delighted to finally see a Post Primary Schools soccer competition established in West Cork.

“Schools soccer is certainly getting very strong in West Cork and will be of huge benefit to the sport come 2018 when soccer moves to summer time,” noted Pat Curran.

“There will also be a schools season in the winter and we look forward to seeing it rolled out to four different age groups next year. I firmly believe that schools soccer is a great platform for the players that take part in it.

“I rang Paul Bowden, my old colleague from Cork City FC, a few years back to tell him about a young man and former student called Connor Ellis who he should consider signing for Cork City Under 19’s and look how that has turned out.

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“Also Conor McCarthy, who plays for Blarney, won the FAI schools player of the year on Sunday is also a Cork City player. Young players representing their various schools now know that it is possible to become a professional soccer player within their own county once they are willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

“In the last few years West Cork has been well represented at national schools level when you consider Dunmanway went to an All-Ireland final and Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai got to last year’s senior Munster decider.”

HIGHLIGHT
CPB Bantry hosted MICC Dunmanway in the Conroy Cup semi-finals where the only highlight of a disappointing first half was the hosts’ superb opening goal. Dunmanway failed to adequately clear a corner and James Hickey took full advantage, walloping in a first-time volley from 25 yards to make it 1-0.

The visitors fought back impressively and equalised courtesy of a Donnacha Collins effort early in the second period. CPB responded well and Luke Scully restored the Bantry schools’ advantage ahead of a frantic finale in which goal-clearances and the crossbar came to the home side’s rescue before the final whistle eventually shrilled. That 2-1 victory secured CPB Bantry’s place in the final against Skibbereen Community College.DSC_1865
A huge crowd was in attendance for the first ever Conroy Cup final in which Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai broke the deadlock before three minutes had elapsed. Ryan O’Sullivan connected with a Kuba Ratajczak cross to hand Bantry an early 1-0 lead. Skibbereen bossed the remainder of the opening half and it took a marvellous James Crowley save to deny Conor Hourihane a certain equaliser on the stroke of half time.

Kuba Ratajczak and Thomas Flynn’s midfield dominance helped tip the balance in CPB’s favour as the second half progressed culminating in man of the match Sergei Manez Alvarez collecting a Flynn through ball and making it 2-0.

Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai made sure of their victory when Alvarez netted his second although there was still time for Alex Minihane to score a consolation for Skibbereen just before the end.

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The Bantry School ran out 3-1 winners and were presented with the Conroy perpetual cup by Richard’s son, Richard junior, after the final whistle. Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai will be back to defend the trophy next season when it is hoped an increased number of West Cork schools will take part.

 

3 things learned from Drinagh v Skibbereen

My reaction to today’s West Cork League Parkway Hotel/Maybury Coaches Cup final between Drinagh Rangers and Skibbereen.

By Ger McCarthy

 

 

A sleeping giant shows signs of awakening

Skibbereen’s fall from grace, once one of the West Cork League’s perennial Premier Division title challengers to struggling at the wrong end of the Division 1 table, represents one of the saddest storylines in local football.

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Skibbereen

Yet, the Baltimore Road club showed enough guts and no little amount of skill in pushing Premier Division opponents and long time rivals Drinagh all the way in Sunday’s Parkway Hotel/Maybury Coaches Cup decider to suggest there is life in one of the West Cork League’s most famous clubs.

There is enough experience amongst the likes of JP Reen, James Reen and John Hodnett plus the emerging talent of Cian Coughlan to build Skibbereen’s future on.

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Yes, new blood is definitely needed but Skibbereen AFC showed with the right attitude and application that they are capable of getting back to the West Cork League’s top tier.

Skibbereen AFC’s proud football dynasty demands they should be competing amongst the region’s elite. Reorganising and recruiting make this coming off-season one of the most important in the Baltimore Road club’s history.

 

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Drinagh Rangers

Same old Drinagh, always winning

The sight of Drinagh captain Keith Jagoe holding aloft the Parkway Hotel/Maybury Coaches Cup was a timely reminder of the Canon Crowley Park side’s prowess heading towards their upcoming Beamish Cup final at Turner’s Cross.

In a season their Premier Division title hopes were crushed by local rivals Dunmanway Town, Drinagh showed they could still grind out a cup final victory rather than rely on their usual finesse.

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Barry O’Driscoll (H) and Gearoid White were both guilty of squandering multiple chances they’d normally convert.

Yet, Drinagh still managed to score the all important winner and then defend it superbly despite Skibbereen’s late onslaught before deservedly holding aloft a trophy that had previously eluded them.

What Easter Sunday’s victory showed more than anything else is that there is much work to be done ahead of their Beamish Cup decider against a younger, faster, more clinical Bantry Bay Rovers.

That will suit co-managers Don Hurley and Declan Deasy perfectly however and their experienced squad know the hard work starts this week if they are to add another trophy to the cabinet.

 

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West Cork League football in a healthy state

It was refreshing to see a large crowd at Mohona on Easter Sunday for the final of a competition that rarely attracts such interest.

Drinagh and Skibbereen supporters in attendance were treated to a tough, hard-fought encounter full of goalmouth incidents and plenty of debatable decisions.

That’s what West Cork League football is all about though. Controversial decisions as important as results, points and trophies down this neck of the woods.

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Plenty of skill on display too with Rangers’ Keith Jagoe, Barry O’Driscoll (H), Robert O’Regan and Gearoid White underlining their credentials as some of the Premier Division’s top players.

Skibbereen’s James Reen was a rock at the back while JP Reen, Cian Coughlan and John Hodnett underlined the capabilities in an engaging final.

Hopefully, more football fans will continue to take advantage of the fact they have such a talented league on their doorsteps and make an effort to support their local clubs.

Remembering Richie Conroy

The following is a feature I submitted for my weekly Evening Echo weekend  column on the decision to create a new Richie Conroy Perpetual Trophy for Post Primary schools based in West Cork. The trophy is in honour of one othe league’s most dedicated inviduals who passed away all too soon. – Ger McCarthy.

EveningEcho

 

Cork City manager John Caulfield has helped launch a new West Cork post primary schools soccer competition in honour of the late Richie Conroy.

Members of the West Cork Branch of the ISRS, Irish Soccer Referees of Ireland, West Cork League, West Cork Schoolboys League, Gateway Radio and West Cork secondary schools all came together to launch the Richard Conroy Memorial Perpetual Cup in the Arch Bar, Dunmanway last week.
Over the past few months, many of Richie’s friends and fellow referees had been looking at ways to commemorate Conroy’s many years of involvement in his beloved sport.

“Speaking with Richie’s family it was evident that they  along with all our referees were anxious to honour him as well as helping promote the game in West Cork,” said Tadg Sheehan, Secretary of the West Cork Branch of the ISRS.

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“Having spoken to Pat Curran of Pobal Bheantrai we sounded out other schools and got a positive response. This cup will be an U17 post primary competition confined to West Cork schools only. The trophy has kindly been donated by the Conroy family and the competition is supported by the West Cork Branch of the ISRS, the West Cork League and the West Cork Schoolboys League.”

Five schools have entered the inaugural competition; Skibbereen, Pobal Bheantrai (Bantry), Schull, Dunmanway and Beara. It is hoped to entice other schools from within the region and possibly further afield such as Bandon, Clonakilty and Macroom in the coming years.

The draw for the first Richard Conroy Memorial Perpetual Cup has pitted Pobal Bheantrai against Dunmanway in the quarter finals with the winners advancing to a last four meeting against Schull. Skibbereen and Beara contest the second semi final ahead of the 2017 decider provisionally fixed for April 7th.

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SUPPORT
Cork City manager John Caulfield was happy to lend his support to the new competition, citing the importance of continually needing to promote the sport in an increasingly crowded sporting calendar. Richie Conroy was a person Caulfield knew well and respected throughout his early playing days and right through to becoming a League of Ireland manager.

“I was delighted to be invited to attend the launch of the Richard Conroy Memorial Perpetual Cup and helping promote soccer in West Cork,” Caulfield stated.

“It is difficult to keep the sport going in our region so I’m thankful of the huge amount of work being put in behind the scenes by a lot of dedicated people.

“Obviously, Richie Conroy was someone I knew a long, long time. During his lifetime he was a real, proud, passionate West Cork soccer man. I, like everyone else, was shocked and saddened to hear of Richie’s passing but there is no doubt he would be delighted and probably laughing to see so many people coming together to create a tournament in his honour.

“Everyone in West Cork has fond memories of Richie Conroy, a great man, a great soccer man and that is what I will always remember him as.”

Caulfield believes creating a post primary competition is a positive and necessary step in keeping soccer at the forefront of available sports, especially to U17’s.

“The fact the Richard Conroy Memorial Perpetual Cup is going to be a post primary schools competition is very important as there is a lot of work going on in trying to promote the game at that level,” admitted the Cork City manager.

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“People are well aware that summer soccer could be on the way via the West Cork Schoolboys League. Six or seven years ago it was something I wouldn’t necessarily have been in favour of. Now, I actually believe it is the right way forward because it means better pitches, longer evenings in which to get games completed and youngsters will be playing ball every week as opposed to waiting weeks after games are put off.

“I can see around the various schools in West Cork that their playing facilities are very good. Introducing this new cup, in honour of Richie Conroy, will help encourage U17’s to play and promote the game in schools which as I said earlier, is hugely important.

“The importance of playing in a post primary schools competition like this Richie Conroy Cup is vital to keep students playing at a competitive level (in school) and hopefully finding another player like Connor Ellis who came through Pobal Bheantrai and has since broken into our first team.”