Ger McCarthy lists ten of his favourite West Cork League players currently plying their trade
A POSTPONEMENT of all West Cork League activities due to the Covid-19 outbreak has created an opportunity to list some of my favourite players from the region’s top two divisions.
This is not an exhaustive list but more a reminder to the WCL community and even those that don’t necessarily follow local football of the array of talent dotted throughout the region.
The following are the players I have enjoyed reporting on the most for their respective clubs and are presented in no particular order.
Barry O’Driscoll (T) (Drinagh Rangers) – Perennial league and cup contenders Rangers are fortunate to have such a talented squad to call upon. Most people outside of Drinagh immediately think of regular goal-scorer Barry O’Driscoll (Hawthorn) when it comes to the Premier Division club’s most highly-regarded players and rightly so. Yet, it is the other Barry O’Driscoll (Toughbawn) who has anchored the Canon Crowley Park side’s defence to numerous trophy successes and deserves equal praise. O’Driscoll (T) and JJ Collins formed a hugely impressive central defensive partnership en route to Drinagh’s league and cup titles over the past decade. Today, O’Driscoll (T) remains the WCL’s most accomplished defender.
Mark Cronin (Ballydehob) – Ballydehob came within a penalty shoot-out of claiming last season’s Premier Division title. It was a season in which Mark Cronin reinforced his reputation as one of the region’s most creative and influential players. Cronin has pulled the strings in the Hob’s midfield for many years, but his consistency and dead-ball delivery continue to mark the attacking midfielder out as one of West Cork’s top players. Ballydehob’s second title challenge in as many years owes much to his ability to create something out of nothing.
Gearoid Barry (Lyre Rovers) – Although unexpectedly mired in a Premier Division relegation battle, Lyre Rovers have every chance of staying up as well as qualifying for a Beamish Cup final with Gearoid Barry amongst their ranks. Barry graduated from Lyre’s schoolboys’ academy before establishing himself as one of the best central midfielders in the top tier. The midfielder’s ability to knit defence with attack and pop up on the edge of the penalty area with the odd goal makes him one of Lyre’s most important players.
Ger O’Callaghan (Mizen AFC) – This season’s Championship campaign has been one of the most entertaining for many years thanks to the quality of Mizen AFC and Spartak Mossgrove plus a clutch of promotion chasing clubs. The former possesses a player of terrific quality in Ger O’Callaghan. Comfortable on the wing or deployed in a more central role, O’Callaghan’s consistent efforts have been crucial to Mizen’s return to the Premier Division. A player capable of turning a game with a moment of individual brilliance, O’Callaghan will be a welcome addition to next season’s top tier.
Alan Ward (Clonakilty Town) – A strengthened Clonakilty Town line-up has seen the Darrara-based club remain in the top echelons of the Premier Division and within one tie of reaching a Beamish Cup final. Ward’s influence has been integral to Town’s rise up the table. He is a player capable of leading the attack or dropping deeper to create havoc in the final third. The striker or attacking midfielder has been at the centre of all Clonakilty’s best moments this term and will be central to Town’s Beamish Cup aspirations.
Johnny Kelly (Dunmanway Town) – One of the West Cork League’s most naturally gifted strikers, Kelly learned his trade at the Mohona club before joining Togher Celtic and playing a central role in their first Beamish Cup success for 22 years in 2019. Kelly’s return to Dunmanway Town has proven a shrewd move and helped the player’s hometown club maintain their push for a second consecutive league title. The striker’s superb brace of goals in Dunmanway’s 2-1 defeat of Drinagh at the beginning of February underlined his class and ability to unlock the tightest of defences.
Robbie Lucey (Togher Celtic) – Togher Celtic’s campaign has not gone according to plan but in Robbie Lucey, the 2019 Beamish Cup winners are fortunate to have one of the West Cork League’s brightest prospects. The 18-year-old was part of last season’s unforgettable (junior) cup success and one of the main reasons Togher claimed the West Cork League U18 title. In Lucey, Celtic possess a youth graduate capable of becoming one of the WCL’s best players thanks to his ability to create space plus his long range passing and clinical shooting.
Shane Shannon (Durrus) – Durrus’ return to the Premier Division owed much to goalkeeper Michael Casey and a superb back four’s consistency. Yet, Shannon was the 2019 Championship-winning club’s jewel in the crown thanks to his goal-scoring exploits and partnership with the equally talented Shane Sweeney. Shannon proved his worth against numerous Premier Division defences during some of last season’s cup competitions before moving into this year’s top ranks. A striker with pace to burn and a keen eye for goal, his best years are still ahead and that’s good news for Durrus.
Brian O’Donovan (Spartak Mossgrove) – Mike Bradfield and Cormac Ryan’s goal-scoring exploits are one of the main reasons Spartak Mossgrove are returning to the WCL Premier Division at the first time of asking. But is the Bandon-based club’s Brian O’Donovan who never leaves the side down no matter what role he is asked to play. O’Donovan began with Crossmahon as a 16-year-old but is still playing today along with his son Josh in Spartak’s colours.
Colm Cleary (Bunratty United) – The current campaign has proven a hugely difficult one for Bunratty United. Throughout a winless Premier Division campaign, Cleary has continued to lead the line and weighed in with three goals despite Bunratty being rooted to the bottom of the table. The experienced forward has maintained his consistency in front of goal throughout the highs and lows of playing up front for United and remains one the WCL’s most talented strikers.