Blues sign off on another great year by winning first-ever senior ladies trophy
By Tom Lyons
THE Bantry intermediate ladies football team were crowned senior champions of West Cork for the first time in Bantry last Sunday when they scored a comprehensive win over neighbours Beara in the West Cork senior final.
It was a clean sweep of titles for the Bantry girls this season as they had already captured county intermediate championship and league titles in 2016. It has truly been a rags-to-riches story for Bantry ladies football.
‘Five years ago the club had just been set up and the team was campaigning in junior B,’ explained team mentor, former Caheragh footballer Ivan Kingston.
‘They’ve gone from junior B right up to senior in five short years. This year we were campaigning in intermediate for the first time, having won the junior A last season.
‘They are a marvellous bunch of girls. Their work rate and their commitment to training is amazing. We beat Clon in the semi-final of the West Cork senior and they have been the best team in West Cork for some years, so now we can lay claim to that honour.
‘The girls are brilliant to work with and deserve all the honours they’ve won. We have some very good footballers on the team, there is no weak link, they’re all able to play and the subs who come on actually help to strengthen the side.’
It took the new champions a while to settle on the soft surface, following heavy Friday rain and a game the previous day, but once the outstanding Emma Spillane and Jessica Coakley got a grip at midfield, there was no holding them.
Early on it was the free-taking of impressive full forward Amy Dineen – daughter of former great Blue, Stephen, a mentor on the team – which sustained them as they led by 0-4 to 0-1 at the end of the first quarter. Dineen kicked three from placed balls, with county player Libby Coppinger, so strong on the forty, adding one from play. Beara’s only reply came from the talented Amanda Murphy.
With centre back Mairead Dullea in sparkling form despite the presence of Beara’s county player Áine O’Sullivan on the forty, Bantry piled on the pressure in the second quarter. Dineen, Coppinger, Myra O’Sullivan, Sarah Bishop, Eve Murphy and Rachel Murphy proved a dynamic attacking sextet for the winners and the points flowed from Bishop, Dineen (two frees), O’Sullivan and Eve Murphy.
Beara were unlucky when full forward Maureen Sullivan was brilliantly blocked by Mairead Dullea when she looked like goaling and they had a goal disallowed for square infringement, but they did finish the half with points from Áine and Christine O’Sullivan, two fine efforts, giving them some hope facing the second half. It was 0-9 to 0-3 at the interval.
Áine O’Sullivan, who had moved outfield in the second quarter, reverted to the forwards in the second half and her attempts to break through for a badly-needed Beara goal provided many highlights in the second half. However, there was just no penetrating a Bantry defence in which all six backs, Lucy Coakley, Edel McCarthy and Eileen O’Driscoll in the solid full-back line and Sarah Deane, Mairead Dullea and Bernadette O’Flynn in a superb half-back line, all had their moments, in front of the totally reliable Seadhna O’Sullivan between the posts.
It was rampant Bantry who again grabbed the initiative after the break when Dineen struck the crossbar and then pointed, followed by a Coppinger point.
Any hope of a Beara comeback was truly quashed when Bantry struck for two well-worked goals in the space of two minutes. In the 33rd minute Coppinger finished to the net after a fine run from Eve Murphy and a minute later, Coppinger and Rachel Murphy combined to set up Sarah Bishop for the second. Game set and match to the Blues but there was a lot of football to be played yet.
Áine O’Sullivan, playing her heart out, struck the Bantry crossbar before Myra O’Sullivan and Dineen sandwiched an Áine O’Sullivan point. It was 2-13 to 0-4 at the end of the third quarter in a very lively encounter and O’Sullivan’s persistence for Beara finally paid off in the 46th minute when she set up impressive sub Sarah Hanley for a cracking goal.
Improving Beara, with O’Sullivan, Hanley, Amanda Murphy, Clare O’Shea, Laura Sheehan, Fiona O’Sullivan, Patricia Dunne, Ciara O’Sullivan and Christine O’Sullivan giving their all, tried hard for goals that might bring them back into the game but there was no way through a rock-solid Bantry defence.
When the next goal came in the 53rd minute it was greeted with a great roar from the Bantry supporters as a long-range shot from full back and captain Edel McGovern, soon to be married, flew into the roof of the Beara net.
Sarah Hanley pointed a Beara free but Bantry had the final say in a splendid team performance when Dineen (free) and sub Ellen O’Sullivan pointed.
The final score was 3-15 to 1-5 as Bantry collected their first-ever senior silverware to take with them into the top rank next season.
‘Beara, in fairness, have been out of action for about six weeks while we were playing in the Munster intermediate championship,’ admitted Ivan Kingston.
‘We lost the Munster semi-final to Abbeyside of Waterford but we learned a lot from that game as they were a very defensive side. Our girls are a very ambitious bunch and are looking forward to playing senior next season. They are always pushing the boundaries to see how far they can go. This was a nice win for us.’
The cup was presented to winning captain Edel McGovern by John McCarthy of the West Cork LGFA.
Libby Coppinger, Bantry, was declared Player of the Match.
Bantry: Amy Dineen 0-8 (6f); Libby Coppinger 1-2; Sarah Bishop 1-1; Edel McGovern 1-0; Myra O’Sullivan 0-2; Eve Murphy, Ellen O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
Beara: Sarah Hanley 1-1; Áine O’Sullivan 0-2; Amanda Murphy, Christine O’Sullivan 0-1 each.
Bantry: Seadhna O’Sullivan; Lucy Coakley, Edel McGovern, Eileen O’Driscoll; Sarah Deane, Mairead Dullea, Bernadette O’Flynn; Jessica Coakley, Emma Spillane; Rachel Murphy, Libby Coppinger, Myra O’Sullivan; Sarah Bishop, Amy Dineen, Eve Murphy.
Subs: Sarah Coakley, Ann Coakley, Anne Marie O’Mahony, Doireann O’Shea, Ellen O’Sullivan.
Beara: Jennifer Cronin; Laura Sheehan, Fiona O’Sullivan, Ann Daly; Patricia Dunne, Clare O’Shea, Darerca O’Shea; Rachel O’Shea, Áine O’Sullivan; Siofra Nee, Christine O’Sullivan, Ciara O’Sullivan; Amanda Murphy, Maureen Sullivan, Niamh O’Sullivan.
Subs: Katie Kelly, Sarah Hanley, Danielle Kelly.
Referee: Owen Burns (Clann na nGael).