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.”

Crookstown Win The WCL Division1 Cup

The following is a match report covering the 2017 West Cork League Division 1 Cup final between Crookstown and Baltimore. Published in the Southern Star in March 2017. Enjoy – Ger McCarthy

SouthernStar

CROOKSTOWN WIN THE CUP
BALTIMORE    1
CROOKSTOWN    2
Ger McCarthy reports

They left it late but Crookstown deservedly took home the West Cork League McCarthy Sports Division 1 Cup trophy at the expense of Baltimore at a blustery Lyre.

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Crookstown – 2017 WCL Division1 Cup winners.

Down 1-0 to a Kieran Lynch opener, Crookstown used all their experience to drag themselves back into contention before netting an equaliser early in the second period. The prospect of extra-time loomed large until Michael Kelleher forced the ball home following a frantic goalmouth scramble 5 minutes from the end to win the trophy for a delighted Crookstown manager Tim Irwin.
‘It is hugely important that Crookstown won this trophy as we are trying and bring in younger players all the time but more importantly just to keep the club going,’ Irwin commented.

‘We finished our league programme very early this year and apart from the semi-final we hadn’t played a competitive game in over a month. I thought we started very slowly because of that and also the fact we were missing key players.’

‘I just hope this cup success helps attract more players to the club and that’s what it is all about really.’

Strangely, Baltimore decided to kick off with only ten outfield players as they awaited the arrival of Stephen Leonard. Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Crabs got off to the best possible start by breaking the deadlock after 5 minutes.

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Baltimore AFC – 2017 WCL Divisi0n 1 Cup finalists

Dan McEoin lined up a free-kick 15 yards outside the Crookstown penalty box and his stinging effort brought the best out of Dean Knight. The Crookstown goalkeeper’s parry was seized upon by Kieran Lynch however and the Baltimore striker fired home from close range.

James Kelleher and Darren Shine pressed forward in search of an equaliser but Crookstown’s cause wasn’t helped by the loss of midfielder Colm Crowley to injury shortly after falling behind.

Buoyed by their early breakthrough, Baltimore defended in numbers and counter-attacked whenever an opportunity arose. Utilising Kieran Lynch and Paddy Minihane’s combined abilities, the Crabs enjoyed a productive spell which included another Dan MacEoin free-kick that struck the side-netting.

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2017 WCSL Division1 Cup Final

Their opponents threatened sporadically but an inability to find a way past a solid Baltimore back four (with Brian Leonard in imperious form) meant the score remained unchanged at the half hour mark.

Stephen Leonard’s introduction had an immediate impact with James Kelleher and Charles Kenneally having to deflect away consecutive goal-bound attempts by the Baltimore striker. Despite diligent approach work, Crookstown’s struggles continued and they were fortunate not to fall further behind when Brian Leonard’s cross-come-shot flicked off the crossbar 9 minutes before the interval.

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Crookstown were much improved in the second period, Andrew Kenneally forcing Christy Hodnett into a save and James Kelleher fizzing a cross into the six-yard box that required a hasty clearance 3 minutes after the restart.

The Crabs swift-footed attack remained a constant threat throughout the second half and Noel Collins appeared to have made it 2-0 following a breakaway only to have his effort ruled out for a handball infringement.

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Undeterred, Crookstown’s attacks increased and they drew level with a superbly crafted equaliser after 54 minutes. James Kelleher drifted infield and released John O’Mullane. The Crookstown striker still had plenty to do but struck a well-placed shot beyond Christy Hodnett to bring parity to the score.

O’Mullane fired another effort inches over as a frustrated Baltimore struggled to match the intensity of their first half display. The Crabs made little headway against an increasingly confident Crookstown defence and were restricted to long-range attempts in an effort to retake the lead.

Crookstown looked the more likely to score and twice came within inches of making it 2-1when Michael Kelleher’s shot was deflected away for a corner and Donal Corkery headed the resulting set-piece inches over.

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Baltimore had chances too, Kieran Lynch forcing Dean Knight into a full-length stop but the score remained 1-1 with 10 minutes to go. Christy Hodnett produced a superb one-handed save to prevent a James Kelleher free-kick from hitting the net but Baltimore’s defence failed to heed that warning and were punished shortly after.

An in-swinging Donal Corkery corner resulted in a goalmouth scramble but Michael Kelleher somehow forced the ball over the line to edge Crookstown ahead for the first time with 5 minutes remaining.

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Baltimore had one final chance to take the decider to extra-time but Kieran Lynch’s free-kick struck the butt of an upright and was hacked to safety. Crookstown comfortably maintained their lead following that late scare and ran out deserving 2-1 winners.

STAR PLAYER

Donal Corkery of Crookstown

A first half substitute for the injured Colm Crowley, Donal Corkery made his presence felt with an all-action display in the centre of the pitch. Corkery’s performance helped Crookstown turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory.

 

TEAMS

Baltimore: Christy Hodnett, Brian Leonard, Aidan Murphy, Dave Ryan, Sean B O’Donovan (captain), Paddy Minihane, Conor Harrington, Noel Collins, Stephen Leonard, Dan MacEoin and Kieran Lynch.

Substitutes: Diarmuid Collins, Brian Minihane, Shane O’Donovan, Gary O’Donovan and Kieran O’Driscoll.

Crookstown: Dean Knight, Michael Kelleher, Liam Wall, Charles Kenneally (captain), Michael Deasy, James Kelleher, Colm Crowley, Andrew Kenneally, Michael Quinlavin, John O’Mullane and Darren Shine.

Substitutes: Tim Irwin, Donal Corkery and Diarmuid Scannell.

Referee: Tim McDermott

Assistant Referees: Anthony McDermott and Patrick Hurley

 

Leesons Learned – Oscar Traynor Cup

The West Cork League and Kerry District League played out a 2-2 draw in the Oscar Traynor Cup last Sunday. Ger McCarthy looks back at three things learned from a game in which Kerry progressed to the knockout phase of the tournament.

(Note: An extended match report including all the after-match reaction will be published exclusively in the Southern Star on Thursday January 12th).

 

SouthernStar

 

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Dunmanway Town’s Jerry McCarthy closing down a Kerry DL defender (Photo: Ger McCarthy).

 

1. WEST CORK PRIDE RESTORED

The most important aspects of the West Cork League’s 2016-17′ Oscar Traynor Cup campaign were restoring pride in the league’s jersey and attempting to re-establish the WCL at inter-league level.

Credit to the management team of Richie Collins, Mike Doolan and Rob Oldham for ticking both of the aforementioned boxes and ensuring the commitment of a dedicated West Cork squad delivered three noteworthy performances against Limerick Desmond, Limerick District and the Kerry District League.

 

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West Cork League v Kerry District League (Photo: Ger McCarthy).

 

There is still a long way to go, both on and off the field, before West Cork can start dreaming of qualifying for the knockout stages of such a prestigious competition but 2017 was all about laying the foundation for future campaigns.

Now that those foundations are in place, an increasing talent pool of players plying their trade across three separate divisions should be capable of kicking on next year and raising the West Cork League’s profile both at home and at Oscar Traynor Cup level.

 

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Kerry DL launch another attack on the WCL goal (Photo: Ger McCarthy).

 

2. KERRY DESERVING GROUP WINNERS

Last Sunday’s visitors to Darrara Agricultural College knew avoiding defeat would guarantee a place in the knockout phase of the Oscar Traynor Cup. Twice the Kerry District League took the lead and although they lived dangerously at times, got the point they required to move on in the competition.

David Hennessy proved a dependable goalkeeper between the sticks while Jason Hickson and Con Barrett’s central defensive partnership repeatedly denied West Cork’s strikers time and space.

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West Cork League v Kerry District League (Photo: Ger McCarthy).

Up front, Jonathan Downey proved a handful whenever in possession and he along with Ritchie Hurley took their goals superbly when the opportunities arose.

While they will be hoping for a home draw in the next round, a full-strength Kerry District League appear capable of progressing in the competition and will benefit from the best possible preparation against a motivated West Cork League outfit this past weekend.

 

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West Cork League v Kerry District League (Photo: Ger McCarthy).

 

3. MUCH TO LOOK FORWARD TO

One of the most pleasing aspects of West Cork’s Oscar Traynor Cup 2017 odyssey was the consistent level of performance from a squad containing a blend of youth and experience.

17-year-old goalkeeper Liam Colbert can be pleased with his efforts over the WCL’s three group games. One magnificent point-blank reflex save against Limerick District stands out but his overall competence in the face of quality forward lines bodes well for the future of one of West Cork’s brightest talents.

The central defensive partnership of Drinagh Rangers’ JJ Collins and Riverside Athletics’ Stephen Keohane was critical to West Cork’s Oscar Traynor Cup renaissance. Two of the finest defenders in the region, Collins and Keohane used all their experience and dove-tailed brilliantly with full-backs Barry (T) O’Driscoll and Fin Butler.

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A West Cork League substitutes bench packed with talent v Kerry DL (Photo: Ger McCarthy).

 

Up front, Drinagh Rangers’ Barry O’Driscoll (H) underlined his talent with a superb display alongside Dunmanway Town’s Jerry McCarthy this past weekend. It would take another lengthy blog to highlight each WCL squad member’s contributions but John Sheehan, Jamie Walsh, Alan Dromey and Stephen O’Donovan each had their moments in West Cork’s colours over the past couple of months.

Bottom line, the future is bright for the WCL at Oscar Traynor Cup level.

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West Cork League v Kerry District League (Photo: GerMcCarthy).

 

 

Eight-Goal WCSL Thriller

The following SuperValu West Cork Schoolboys League match report was published in the Evening Echo on Tuesday, September 11th 2016. It featured two of the most attack-minded teams in the U13 Premier League and an eight-goal thriller ensued. Enjoy. – Ger McCarthy.

EveningEcho


DUNMANWAY TOWN 4
RIVERSIDE ATHLETIC 4
Ger McCarthy reports

An Evan Maguire hat-trick earned Dunmanway Town a point at home to Riverside Athletic following a thrilling 4-4 SuperValu West Cork Schoolboys U13 Premier League draw in Mohona.

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Two squads that lifted U12 silverware during their previous campaign met in the first U13 Premier League fixture of the 2016-17’ season and served up an eight-goal classic.

On a heavy pitch, the visitors took advantage of Dunmanway Town’s slow start to move 2-0 in front after 5 minutes. The hosts struggled to mount a response and looked in danger of suffering a heavy defeat once their opponents edged 3-0 ahead.

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That was Evan Maguire’s cue to take a fixture played at an unrelenting pace by the scruff of the neck. Maguire pulled one back before Riverside found the net for a fourth time but once again Maguire responded, bagging his brace to leave two between the teams at the interval.

An engaging second half saw Athletic denied several goalscoring opportunities by the brilliance of Dunmanway goalkeeper Aaron Mannix. Two late goals – including Maguire completing his hat-trick – saw Town draw level and earn a deserved share of the spoils.

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Despite failing to take all three points, Riverside enjoyed standout performances from William Hennigan, Eoghan Collins and Cian Kennefick. Evan Maguire was Dunmanway’s man of the match with Killian Vassallo, Gavin Farr and Aaron Mannix also playing well.

William Hennigan proved one of Riverside’s most prolific goalscorers last term and got off the mark courtesy of a close-range finish to make it 1-0 after 3 minutes. Athletic doubled their advantage shortly after when the Mohona club were guilty of some hesitant defending and forced to concede a corner.

Town could only clear the ball to the edge of the penalty area where an unmarked Cian Kennefick gained possession. The young midfielder took a touch before drilling a shot past Aaron Mannix for his side’s second goal of the evening.

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ACTION
That effort roused Dunmanway into action with Shane Barry and Eoin Buckley asking questions of Riverside’s back four ahead of a superb Eoghan Collins stop that maintained his team’s two-goal advantage. A scrappy period ended with the visitors moving three clear once William Hennigan made space in the penalty area and walloped home a terrific strike.

Creditably, Dunmanway redoubled their efforts thanks to Gavin Farr and Killian Vasallo’s increased workrate, reducing the deficit when Evan Maguire burst clear and slid a fine effort into the net. Unfortunately for the hosts, a lofted through-ball was seized upon by Olan Corcoran eight minutes later and the Riverside midfielder made no mistake to restore Athletics’ three-goal lead.

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An exciting first half concluded with both teams attacking at the earliest opportunity and Dunmanway Town utilising Evan Maguire’s to net a second goal. Maguire cut in from the left wing, dribbled past two defenders and scored from the tightest of angles shortly before half time.

Next, Eoin Buckley came within inches of a third Dunmanway strike when the hosts’ striker failed to connect with a Maguire cross. Yet, a much tighter second period saw defences dominate with Aaron Mannix and Eoghan Collins called upon to produce a string of excellent saves. Riverside should have added to their total but struggled to find a way past goalkeeper Mannix and were punished for their profligacy when Town made it 4-3 seven minutes from the end.

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Oran McCarthy headed home a Gavin Farr free-kick to give the Mohona side hope and a resurgent Dunmanway Town immediately poured forward following the restart. Evan Maguire’s searing pace took the Town striker deep into Riverside Athletic territory and his shot rolled over the line for the eighth and final goal of a cracking league fixture.

Dunmanway and Riverside’s 4-4 draw precedes a busy period for the SuperValu U13 Premier League with the former entertaining Castlelack in their next outing. On the same weekend, Riverside travel to Canon Crowley Park for what should be an intriguing encounter with Drinagh Rangers.

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The remainder of the U13 weekend fixture-list sees last year’s winners Skibbereen beginning their campaign at Ardfield with Bunratty United and Bantry Bay Rovers clashing in a local derby at Schull. Clonakilty AFC and Lyre Rovers’ derby should produce plenty of goals at Ballyvackey.

So, a terrific U13 Premier League title-race awaits if Dunmanway and Riverside’s season-opener is anything to go by.

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TEAMS
Dunmanway Town: Rian Murray, Conor Sheehan, Oran McCarthy, Gavin Farr (captain), Shane Barry, Evan Maguire, Sean Kearney, Eoin Buckley, Killian Vassallo, Aaron Mannix, Gavin Dullea, Cathal Murray, Fionn Kearney, Ben Quigley, Adam Russell and Brian Murphy.

Riverside Athletic: Eoghan Collins, Olan Corcoran, Brian Crowley, William Hennigan, Cian Kennefick, Stephen O’Connell, Aaron O’Connor, Ian O’Donovan, Patrick O’Driscoll (captain), Conor O’Sullivan, Colm Sexton, Eoin Cullinane, Eoghan Mangan, Patrick Collins and Darragh Ryan.

Referee: Dermot O’Donoghue