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.

IMPROVED
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

 

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Castletown into semi-finals

This is a recent Southern Star match report outlining how Division 2 side Castletown Celtic overcame loscal rivals and 2016 Premier League champions Riverside Athletic to reach the last four of the West Cork League Beamish Cup – Ger McCarthy.

SouthernStar

 

CASTLETOWN CELTIC    3
RIVERSIDE ATHLETIC    2
Ger McCarthy reports

Castletown Celtic knocked local rivals Riverside Athletic out of the West Cork League Beamish Cup following an absorbing quarter-final in Castletownkenneigh.

Celtic joined fellow Division 2 side Clonakilty Town plus the Premier League’s Drinagh Rangers and Bantry Bay Rovers in the last four of the cup having outlasted Riverside at the conclusion of an engaging 90 minutes.

A relieved Castletown Celtic manager Gary Shannon understood the importance of his side’s victory.

‘I’ve been going to watch Castletown Celtic in the Beamish Cup since I was a young fella but 2000 was the last time we won it,’ Shannon said.

‘Every year you’d be hoping to go on a run and our form has been excellent since Christmas. We have yet to lose a game in 2017. It was a gritty performance today in heavy conditions, an honest team effort and we needed it against a very good Riverside team. There are only three of this current Castletown team over 21 so the future looks good and we just have to keep it going

‘In terms of semi-final opponents, well, we owe Clonakilty Town one as they have gotten the better of us over the last few years!’

An eagerly anticipated local derby kicked off with persistent drizzle making life difficult. A terrific opening quarter ensued, beginning with Riverside grabbing the lead from a set-piece delivery that saw Finghín O’Driscoll divert the ball over the line from close-range.

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Creditably, Castletown redoubled their efforts and were awarded a penalty when Jack O’Callaghan was upended in the penalty box. Billy O’Brien stepped forward and sent Brian Corcoran the wrong way after 11 minutes.

Celtic should have edged in front two minutes after equalising only for Corcoran to produce an excellent point-blank stop. The Riverside goalkeeper was powerless to stop Fergal Kelleher from hammering home an unstoppable effort on the quarter hour however as a rampant Castletown deservedly moved 2-1 ahead.

The reigning Premier League champions’ best opportunity of an equaliser fell to Stephen Keohane but Gavin O’Leary was equal to the effort, diving full-length to tip away the centre-back’s goal-bound attempt.

A terrific cup tie’s pace remained unrelenting up until half time, a timeframe in which Riverside showed their quality by conjuring up a superb second goal. Rory Baggott’s inch-perfect pass was smashed into the net by Barry O’Mahony to send the sides in level at the break.

Finghín O’Driscoll angled a volley inches past an upright to kick-start the second half with Niall Kelleher and Peter Daly also stretching the Castletown Celtic defence. The Castletownkenneigh playing surface began to cut up badly yet both sides continued to press forward with Castletown having penalty appeals waved away after 66 minutes.

Chances were spurned at either end before Castletown capitalised on Riverside’s inability to clear a routine cross and substitute Kevin O’Donovan pounced to make it 3-2 with 10 minutes to go.

Brian Corcoran produced two excellent saves to keep Athletic in the tie but it was Castletown rather than Riverside who looked the more likely to add to their total as the clock ticked down. Celtic survived a few late scares and wasted a few opportunities of their own before progressing to the cup semi-finals following a famous 3-2 victory.

Castletown Celtic: Gavin O’Leary, Padraigh O’Driscoll, Fergal Kelleher, John Shannon, Sean Buttimer, Stephen Moore, Ted Lordan, Billy O’Brien, Jack O’Callaghan, Niall O’Halloran and Sean Crowley.

Substitutes: James Bermingham, Kevin O’Donovan, Gearoid O’Donovan, Kevin O’Neill and John Horgan.

Riverside Athletic: Brian Corcoran, Kevin O’Donovan, Stephen Keohane, Tiernan O’Driscoll, Rory Baggott, Barry O’Mahony, Rory O’Connor, Michael O’Driscoll, Niall Kelleher, Peter Daly and Finghín O’Driscoll.

Substitutes: Michael Murphy, Shane McCarthy and Gearoid Harrington.

Referee: Richard Bond

 

Alan Shearer interview

Alan Shearer visited the Kingsley Hotel in Cork recently and Ger McCarthy sat down with the former England international and current Match of the Day pundit to discuss a wide range of topics.

‘Speedflex is a unique, results-driven, circuit-based training concept which will transform your exercise regime, and help you achieve your goals,’ according to the company’s press release.

Brand ambassador and one of the company’s founders Alan Shearer certainly appears a wise choice when it comes to promoting the product as the 46-year-old former Premier League record goal-scorer looks fit enough to lace up a pair of boots once again, if ever asked to come out of retirement.

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Shearer scored a whopping 260 Premier League goals and netted 30 times for his country during a magnificent playing career, briefly managing his hometown club Newcastle United before becoming a television pundit for the BBC’s flagship Match of the Day programme.

On a rare visit to Cork, the former England international doesn’t hold back when asked why successive English managers have been unable to replicate a club-like atmosphere similar to Martin O’Neill’s and deliver success at international tournaments.

‘I think you need a bit more than just a club atmosphere,’ Shearer stated.

‘England had that type of atmosphere back in 1996 (Euro 96’) and went all the way to the semi-finals. You need ability to get you that little bit further. At the same time you can’t keep saying that England have been unlucky because, at the end of the day, we haven’t been good enough over the years.

‘You can’t have won anything since 1966 and just keep saying you’ve been unlucky. We haven’t had the ability to progress as far as we wanted at major tournaments. The vast majority of times at major international tournaments England just simply haven’t been good enough.’

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A proud Geordie, Shearer became manager of his beloved Newcastle United (taking over from Chris Hughton who was in temporary charge while manage Joe Kinnear recovered from heart surgery) for the last eight games of the 2008-09’ season. Alas, Shearer was unable to prevent his side from relegation but looking back, doesn’t regret the experience.

‘I absolutely loved the experience, loved every minute of managing Newcastle United despite what happened,’ said the Match of the Day pundit.

‘It was a tough, sometimes hard experience but I really enjoyed it. Making decisions, rightly or wrongly, I always knew I was eventually going to go into it. It was always my plan to go into management once I had retired. I finished up after what happened at Newcastle, had one or two offers but just felt they weren’t right.

‘Then, the longer I was out of the management cycle I just started to love punditry a bit more. I thought I’ve got to knuckle down and stick it. I’ve done that the last four or five years and love what I’m doing now. I’ve no plans or interest in going back into management and would be amazed if I ever did.’

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Finally, as Shearer is an avid golfer, it seemed appropriate to ask if the picturesque golf courses of West Cork and Kerry might entice the TV pundit back for another visit in the near future.

‘I was unaware I had actually been in Cork before until one of the guys from the Kingsley Health club and gym informed me I once played England U21’s against Ireland (at Turner’s Cross),’ Shearer admitted.

‘We won 2-1 on that occasion and I managed to score as well but I will have to come back here and get a round of golf in. Everyone tells me the area has many beautiful golf courses so that’s something I will definitely have to do.’

Alan Shearer; brand ambassador, former international and Premier League footballer, manager, TV pundit, Geordie and an absolute gentleman.

 

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).

 

 

My Sporting Moment of 2016

By Ger McCarthy
(Published in the Southern Star – December 2016).

Darth Vader’s (aka the Southern Star Sports Editor) demand for my personal sporting moment of 2016 proved a far more difficult task then I first envisaged. This is because the past twelve months have been jam-packed with multiple highlight reel moments, both at home and abroad.

SouthernStar

On the international front, the O’Donovan brothers stunning European and Olympic rowing successes, Robbie Brady’s late winner against Italy at the Euro’s, Irish rugby finally ending their New Zealand hoodoo, Conor McGregor being Conor McGregor, the Chicago Cubs winning a first World Series since 1908, the Denver Broncos defence mangling Cam Newton to win SuperBowl 50 and Leicester City stunning the football world to claim the Premier League.

Closer to home, the outpouring of emotion witnessed in Páirc Uí Rinn when Carbery Rangers claimed a first ever Cork SFC title, Bandon GAA’s football and hurling juggernaut showing no sign of slowing up, the West Cork Schoolboys League making a name for itself at both the Galway and Kennedy Cups or the West Cork GAA ladies playing the best brand of football I’ve witnessed in a long time made 2016 an extra-special sporting year.

Yet amid all those amazing highlights, it is a personal sporting moment much closer to home that wins out.

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Since early September, I and a bunch of fellow coaching enthusiasts have been responsible for looking after the Clonakilty AFC Under7 football team. Every Saturday morning (they deserve a mention) Barry O’Donovan, Maurice Moore, Noel Jordan, Declan Rice, Paul O’Driscoll and I have been putting between 25 and 30 young footballers through their paces in the Clonakilty Community Hall.

These are the first of many tentative steps in what, hopefully, will be a lifetime spent enjoying all sports, not just football for this particular group of youngsters.

They are an unbelievably nice, funny, well-behaved and confident bunch of young fellas, a pleasure to coach. I’ll level with you though; because they are 7-year-olds, there are times you want to pull your hair out but overall, the Saturday morning training sessions are the most rewarding and fastest 60 minutes of the week for all involved.

Unfortunately, it won’t be long before demands are made of these tiny footballers across a wider spectrum of sports like rugby, GAA etc. It won’t be long before these kids become young adults and their time is spent in gyms and taking part in far too many training sessions.

For now though, the Clonakilty AFC Under7’s are free to simply enjoy themselves, play a bit of football and laugh out loud in a safe and friendly environment.

My son, Fionn, is part of the squad and the day he put on a football kit with his beloved Ronaldo emblazoned across the back of the jersey to attend his first training session is my standout sporting moment of the year.

Why? Because it reminded his father – in a sporting world full of dopers, cheaters, whingers and begrudgers – that a child’s innocence and delight at simply having an opportunity to play football is more important than anything else.

West Cork boosted by expanded Womens league

West Cork League boosted by expanded Womens league
By Ger McCarthy
(published in the Southern Star – November 2016).

SouthernStar

An increased number of participants competing in this season’s Irish Examiner West Cork Women’s League bodes well for the future expansion of the game across the entire region.

There’s little doubt that West Cork women’s adult and schoolgirls football has been on the wane in recent years but a new FAI nationwide initiative plus an infusion of emerging talent suggests a brighter future lies ahead for the sport.

Earlier this year, West Cork was selected by the FAI as one of the designated areas for a new ‘Live Your Goals’ campaign which took place at Skibbereen AFC’s Baltimore Road ground. Officially launched by FIFA at the 2011 Women’s World Cup finals, Live Your Goals is an ongoing worldwide campaign aimed at inspiring young girls and women to play football.

‘The key aim of the campaign is to ensure that football is the number one sport for females across the globe in terms of participation and popularity,’ said FAI National Coordinator for women’s football, Emma Martin.fai
‘We (the FAI) came to West Cork because it is a huge region and we are determined to rebuild underage structures so that women’s football has a long-term future. As an association, we simply want to reenergise young girls’ interest in the sport and get them actively involved with clubs from their local area.’

The FAI’s Live Your Goals proved a hugely successful event, so much so that the WCSL’s Emerging Talent Programme decided to expand its growing numbers to incorporate a schoolgirls squad for the coming year.

Yet, would a successful FAI initiative plus a new Emerging Talent Programme for schoolgirl footballers make any difference to the West Cork adult setup?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Following successive years of round-robin mini-leagues, the 2016-17’ Irish Examiner West Cork Women’s League will have seven clubs competing for the league and cup honours.

Drinagh Rangers (reigning champions), Beara United, Kilmichael Rovers and Bunratty United are joined by Inter Kenmare, Bantry Bay Rovers and Dunmanway Town with this season’s newcomers already breathing new life into a previously stagnant setup.

ADDITION
Bantry Bay Rovers are one of the best known clubs in the region and the addition of a women’s team underlines the dedicated work being carried out both on and off the pitch in Kealkil, something Deirdre O’Donovan and her teammates are hoping to capitalise on.

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‘I would estimate that Bay Rovers has not competed at ladies league level in West Cork for well over a decade,’ O’Donovan commented.

‘A large number of female enthusiasts were anxious to get involved with the West Cork League once again. We felt there was an opportunity to put a decent squad together considering the amount of Bay Rovers teams being fielded at schoolboys and junior (men’s) level. Why not a women’s team as well?’

Kerry-based club Inter Kenmare makes a welcome return to this season’s WCL women’s setup and are determined to play a major role in the revamped league.

‘Inter Kenmare are delighted to be back and are hoping to build on the expanded setup in West Cork,’ stated Kenmare’s Majella O’Sullivan.

‘There are seven teams taking part this year which is fantastic and we are hoping to use the opportunity to get more people, especially younger players, involved with Inter Kenmare. One of the few trophies to evade our grasp is the West Cork Women’s League title. We have won Kerry league championships and even Munster Juniors cups but never the big one from this region so we are really looking forward to the new campaign.’

GOS Auto Accessories (Macroom) Cup holders Kilmichael Rovers are another club benefiting from a resurgence of interest throughout their local area.

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‘We have 30 registered players in our squad for the coming season compared to only 13 or 14 over the past few years so the future is definitely looking bright,’ stated Kilmichael Rovers club stalwart Niamh Cotter.

‘Last year there were only four teams involved so I believe having an expanded division is brilliant news for West Cork women’s football.

‘Beating Beara on penalties to win last season’s cup final was absolutely fantastic for the club and surrounding community. There aren’t too many sports for young girls to get involved in living in a rural area like ours, so seeing Kilmichael win a trophy was a massive boost and will hopefully encourage more girls to take up football in the next couple of years.’

PROSPECT

Speaking of Beara United, last season’s cup runners-up are another West Cork women’s club delighted at the prospect of welcoming a host of new players onto an already talented squad.

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‘An increase in the number of teams is definitely a bonus for women’s soccer in West Cork and Beara will hopefully benefit from the extra competition,’ commented United’s Claire Power.

‘This is the first time in many years that Beara has the opportunity to welcome some new, young players into our squad. We also have some experienced players returning from injury and others coming back having taken time off so Beara will have a much bigger panel to choose from in 2016-17’.

‘Getting to last season’s cup final showed what we are capable of but what is far more important is demonstrating to the younger female players from around Castletownbere just what can be achieved by being part of our club.

‘Being from such a rural area means we won’t have any players transferring in so it is very much a home-grown setup. I have been involved since we first began seven years ago and looking ahead, we are aiming to get back into another cup final and hopefully a different result this time around!’

There is still much work to do be done, especially at schoolgirl’s level where young female footballers are permitted to compete within their equivalent schoolboys leagues but not as standalone teams.

Yet, the signs are positive as increased numbers at adult level, a developing ETP squad plus the FAI’s increased commitment suggesting West Cork women’s football is set to make a big impact in the coming years.