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West Cork are ready for Kennedy Cup challenge

June 8th, 2024 9:00 AM

By Sean Holland

West Cork are ready for Kennedy Cup challenge Image
The West Cork Academy U14 schoolboys team that will represent their region in the Kennedy Cup at the University of Limerick next week.

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THE West Cork Academy begins its 2024 SFAI Kennedy Cup campaign against West Waterford East Cork in the University of Limerick next Monday.

Eamonn Bradfield’s U14 schoolboys squad has been handed a difficult draw in the opening phase of the country’s most prestigious schoolboys soccer tournament.

Thirty-one league representatives will battle it out over five intense days at the University of Limerick, each team hoping to bring silverware back to their respective region.

Each competing academy team plays in an initial (three of four team) round-robin group. Following that, the final group standings dictate which knockout competition each side progresses to.

‘We put our original Kennedy Cup plan in place about six months ago and weren’t too worried about this season’s U14 schoolboys inter-league results,’ head coach Eamonn Bradfield told The Southern Star.

‘It has all been about peaking in June. We took the focus off the inter-league. Obviously, our recent trip to Catalonia, and a fifth overall finish in the Elite Smart Football Tournament, was where we ramped things up.

‘The group stages in Catalonia were similar to the Kennedy Cups. You played one group game on the opening day, two games on day two and then quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals. That’s similar to what the lads will face in Limerick.

‘The lads know what’s expected, they understand the format, and the demands of playing three games in two days. That’s going to be a big physical ask but they are fighting fit.’

Ranked 11th in the country following last summer’s historic third overall placed Kennedy Cup finish, a new West Cork Academy U14 schoolboys squad faces three stern examinations across the opening two days of their weeklong stay at the Limerick campus.

First up is a meeting with 27th-ranked West Waterford East Cork (WWEC) on Monday at 4pm. Day two of the tournament will test West Cork’s resolve with back-to-back group matches against Mayo (ranked 18th) at 10am and the eighth ranked team in the country, the North Dublin Schoolboys League (NDSL), at 4pm.

‘I probably would have preferred to play North Dublin earlier and not potentially be depending on that result,’ Bradfield admitted.

‘Look, we were going to have to face a Tier 1 team like the NDSL at some stage anyway. Day two of the Kennedy Cup is probably not the best time but it is what it is.

‘As coaches, we have tried to keep the lads’ feet on the ground and not get them over-excited. At the end of the day, these are just games of football. Obviously, expectations are high based on the West Cork Academy’s results over the past two Kennedy Cups but we are going to Limerick to compete. I doubt any of our opponents want to play the West Cork Academy at any stage of the tournament.’

2024 West Cork Academy SFAI Kennedy Cup squad: Jack Allen (Castlelack), Darragh Bradfield (Riverside Athletic), Harry Chambers (Castlelack), Fionn Coppinger (Clonakilty AFC), Charlie Curtin (Castlelack), Rory Ecklof (Kilmichael Rovers), Paddy Haughney (Clonakilty AFC), Conor Hourihan (Bay Rovers), Daniel Kiely (Castlelack), Oisín McCarthy (Dunmanway Town), Donal McSweeney (Castlelack), Conor Murphy (Riverside Athletic), Eoin Murphy (Castlelack), Paddy O’Brien (Dunmanway Town), Gearoid O’Keefe (Castlelack), Luke O’Neill (Clonakilty AFC), Rory O’Sullivan (Sullane), Ronan Twomey (Clonakilty AFC), Conall Whooley (Drinagh Rangers). Head Coach: Eamon Bradfield (Riverside Athletic). Assistant Coach: Jack O’Sullivan (Drinagh Rangers).

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