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West Cork U16s take on Dundalk in national shield final 

March 8th, 2024 10:00 AM

By Ger McCarthy

West Cork U16s take on Dundalk in national shield final  Image
The West Cork Academy U16 Schoolboys team that has reached this weekend’s SFAI U16 National Schoolboys final against Dundalk at the University of Limerick.

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THE West Cork Academy will face Dundalk in the 2024 SFAI National U16 Schoolboys Shield final at the University of Limerick on Saturday (5pm kick-off).

It has been quite the journey for the U16s since they first entered the West Cork Academy, some at the tender age of 11 years old. Contesting a prestigious SFAI National final against Dundalk is the least this hardworking group deserves according to David Hall, who coaches the team alongside Danny Logan.

‘This is a remarkable group of young men,’ Hall told The Southern Star. 

‘I, as a coach, am not an easy taskmaster! I set very difficult and lofty targets in terms of professionalism, application and behaviour. All those are important things. It is not everybody’s cup of tea but these lads meet those targets every time. Not only do they meet them, but they revel in them.

‘Trophies are great. Results are great but I always say that they are poor barometers of success. These U16 lads have pioneered our Academy and driven it to places we could only have imagined.

‘It would be the icing on the cake to win on Saturday. These lads are already a success, they are robust and everything about them is quality. They are a credit to their clubs and especially their families.’

This is a special group of players and one that further underlined its growing reputation by overcoming difficult opponents in the knockout stages of the SFAI National U16 Schoolboys Shield.

Drawn away to Mayo in the quarter-finals, the visitors played superbly and built a 6-2 lead. Mayo managed to net injury-time goals but Tim Sweeney’s hat-trick along with Alex Bramoulle, James Maguire and Conor Vassallo efforts cemented a 6-4 victory.

That result set up a semi-final meeting against Waterford at Villa FC’s astro-turf pitch in Waterford city. Tom Whooley and Joe McCarthy strikes edged West Cork 2-1 ahead before the visitors had two players red carded in quick succession. Waterford seized their opportunity and moved 3-2 in front. 

Admirably, Tim Sweeney equalised six minutes from the end and the nine men held out, for over an hour in total, to draw 3-3 after extra-time. West Cork emerged 5-4 winners on penalties and secured this weekend’s national shield final appearance against Dundalk.

‘That Waterford game was difficult for everybody involved but we were prepared,’ David Hall admitted.

‘These lads would have come up against top-class opposition, like Atletico Madrid, in the 2023 Surf Cup International Invitational tournament in Salou, Spain. They spent many of those games in Salou without the ball and had to learn about defending, executing a low block, maintaining two deep lines as well as their shape.

‘Even down two players against Waterford that day, these lads were able to execute another mid to low block. It was like second nature to them. They just did what they had done over in Salou and Waterford had no answer to it. The lads were able to go back on what they had learned in training and experienced in Spain against quality opposition to get over Waterford and reach the final. They did it extremely well too.’

West Cork Academy U16 Schoolboys: Rory Curtin (Castlelack), Jack Browne (Kilmichael Rovers), Ronan Hayes (Ardfield), Luke Holland (Dunmanway Town), Ryan O’Boy (Kilgoban Celtic), Conor Vassallo (Dunmanway Town), Shane Hallihane (Skibbereen), Sean Platt (Ardfield), Sam Logan (Bunratty United), Finn O’Mahony (Clonakilty AFC), Tim Sweeney (Kilmichael Rovers), Donnacha Hennigan (Dunmanway Town), Alex Bramoulle (Dunmanway Town), Ronan Collins (Skibbereen), James Maguire (Clonakilty AFC), Padraig Hegarty (Drinagh Rangers), Rory O’Neill (Clonakilty AFC), Joe McCarthy (Skibbereen).


This weekend is equally important for the West Cork Academy U15 Schoolboys –the outcome of their SFAI National U15 Schoolboys Group D encounter against the Cork Schoolboys League will determine who Don and JJ Hurley’s side plays next.

West Cork will clinch top spot if they overcome Cork in their final group outing. That scenario would see the rural academy travelling to the winner of South Belfast and Donegal in the SFAI U15 Schoolboys Cup semi-finals. A Group D runners-up berth would secure a home semi-final in the SFAI U15 Schoolboys Bowl. Finishing third in Group D would see West Cork making the long trip to Inishowen Boys in the last four of the SFAI U15 Schoolboys Shield. Canon Crowley Park in Drinagh will host Sunday’s pivotal Group D local derby with Cork at 2pm.


On Sunday, March 10th, Shane Hough’s Academy team will host North Tipperary in the SFAI U12 Schoolboys Trophy quarter-finals. That last-eight encounter takes place on the Clonakilty Rugby Club’s astro-turf pitch in Shannonvale. Mayo or the North District Schoolboys League await the winners in the SFAI U12 Trophy semi-finals.

The West Cork Academy U13 Schoolboys were involved in a Munster Schoolboys Blitz last weekend. Lorne Edmead was in charge of the region’s U13s in a provincial blitz finals day held at Mayfield on Sunday afternoon. Jack Allen scored twice in a 2-0 win over Limerick County Reds. A 1-0 loss to Cork Athletic placed West Cork in the Munster Trophy final against Limerick County Whites. Limerick prevailed on penalties following a 0-0 draw.


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