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.”

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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.

 

Champions League Final – Talking Points

Champions League Final – Talking Points

By Ger McCarthy

UCL TRophy

 

Tactics and formations

Real Madrid’s 4-3-3 setup functioned as expected with Sami Khedira starting in the centre of midfield instead of the suspended Xabi Alonso. Alonso’s absence affected the supply-line to the famed front three of Benzema, Ronaldo and Bale who were unable to influence the game in the manner Madrid fans would have hoped for until deep into extra time.

Isco and Marcelo’s arrival sparked a late revival as a tiring Atletico side retreated into defensive mode and the belated arrival of Morata for a hugely disappointing Benzema helped Real Madrid turn defeat into the most amazing of victories.

Atletico Madrid stuck with their favoured 4-4-2 formation throughout the Champions League decider despite the pre-match loss of Turan to injury and Diego Costa before 10 minutes had elapsed. Adrian came on for Costa and seamlessly played up front alongside David Villa at the apex of Atleti’s attack without ever unduly worrying the Real back four.

Raul Garcia slotted into Turan’s position on the right wing before Jose Sosa replaced the midfielder midway through the second period who was on a yellow card and struggling to deal with the increasing influence of Angel Di Maria.

 

Alonso was badly missed

Sami Khedira was asked to step into the centre of the park and replace the suspended Xabi Alonso having only just returned from a long-term injury. The German international picked up a booking, was out-jumped by Godin for the game’s opening goal and failed to make the positive impact Carlo Ancelotti would have hoped for before being called ashore on the hour mark.

Alonso was picked out by Atletico’s players and coach earlier in the season as the Real Madrid player they felt required the most attention. Not Ronaldo, not Gareth Bale or the in-form Angel DiMaria, but Alonso.

The former Liverpool midfielder’s ability to protect his back four as well as maintaining the tempo in midfield permitted the likes of Di Maria, Modric, Ronaldo and Bale to flourish, best exemplified in the two-legged semi-final trouncing of Bayern Munich.

Bottom line is that Madrid badly missed the Spaniard’s influence but deserve huge credit for overcoming the loss of one of their most important players and eventually claiming ‘la decima’.

 

It proved a Costa mistake

Diego Costa lasted all of 9 minutes before having to go off injured begging the question just what was Diego Simeone thinking by starting the Spanish international in the first place?

Costa has been substituted in three previous fixtures, was clearly far from 100% match-fit and ended up costing Atletico a substitution in the biggest game in the club’s history. Although Simeone’s squad is paper-thin compared to their more illustrious rivals the idea that the Argentinean coach had little option but to select a clearly unfit Diego Costa from the start was absurd.

The decision back-fired on the Spanish league champions with Simeone unable to replace a cramping David Villa in extra time and for all the Argentinean’s expertise in guiding Atleti to the La Liga title and a Champions League final, questions will be asked about starting a clearly unfit Costa.

 

Bale’s misses almost proved costly

The former Tottenham Hotspur winger was famed for his ability to gallop away from opposing defences and score important goals whilst plying his trade in the Premier League before securing a lucrative move to the Santiago Bernabeau.

Bale was gifted possession from a wayward Tiago pass after 32 minutes of Saturday night’s Champions League final before accelerating inside a couple of defenders and missing the target with only the goalkeeper to beat.

Granted the close attentions of Tiago and Miranda may well have done enough to put the Welsh international off but on a night of fine margins Bale’s miss ranked as a major turning point, especially with Aletico grabbing the lead three minutes later.

Bale should have done better with two additional opportunities in the 73rd and 78th minutes before the winger rose highest to head home Real’s second and match-winning goal.

 

The importance of set pieces

Uruguayan international Diego Godin took full advantage of Iker Casillas’ unwise decision to come for a Koke corner on 35 minutes. The Spanish international goalkeeper got caught in no man’s land and was unable to prevent Godin’s header from crossing the line.

It wasn’t that surprising to see an opening goal coming from a set-piece considering the lack of space afforded in a crowded midfield area and the safety-first approach of both teams on the most important of nights.

And to underline the importance of set-pieces and corner kicks at the highest level just look at Sergio Ramos’ towering injury-time header to take the final to extra time when Atletico appeared set to win it.

 

Defenders deserve recognition

Sergio Ramos has many detractors and is not afraid to indulge in the ‘dark arts’ when called upon to help his side out of a troublesome situation. Yet the character and determination of the Real Madrid central defender cannot be questioned following his stellar individual performance in Lisbon.

His late equaliser to take the final to extra time along with his boundless energy during a tiring 120 minutes ensured Real Madrid remained in contention right up until the final, final whistle. Ramos has been immense for Ancelotti and Madrid this season and deserves recognition for his performances.

A word too for Diego Godin, whose previous headed effort won La Liga at the Camp Nou only a week before and a superbly timed tackle prevented Isco from equalising with 10 minutes left.

The South American defender is often overlooked when reporting on Atleticos’ star players from this momentous season but Godin more than proved his worth to Diego Simeone this year and especially over the past fortnight.

Follow Ger on Twitter: @germccarthy74