Battling West Cork hold their nerve to book place in SFAI U16 National Schoolboys Shield final

February 25th, 2024 2:00 PM

By Ger McCarthy

The West Cork Academy U16 schoolboys team that beat Waterford on penalties to reach the 2024 SFAI U16 National Schoolboys final.

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THE West Cork Academy U16 schoolboys defeated Waterford on penalties to qualify for the 2024 SFAI U16 National Schoolboys Shield final in dramatic circumstances on Sunday.

Villa FC’s astro-turf pitch in Waterford city was the venue for a semi-final in which the hosts grabbed a second-minute lead. The visitors hit back however, with Tim Sweeney setting up Tom Whooley for a deserved equaliser. Level at the break, West Cork enjoyed their best spell as Joe McCarthy netted to make it 2-1 minutes after the restart.

Two major turning points occurred shortly after when West Cork had two players sent off, each for debatable second yellow cards, after 55 minutes. Waterford took advantage and scored twice in quick succession to lead 3-2.

Admirably, West Cork refused to accept defeat and, despite being down to nine players, conjured up a Tim Sweeney leveller with six minutes remaining. It finished 3-3 but nine-man West Cork continued to perform heroically throughout extra-time. 

Penalties were needed when neither side could add to their total. The West Cork Academy, having played for over an hour with nine players, emerged 5-4 winners on spot-kicks to cap a memorable day and will now face Dundalk in an SFAI National Shield final.

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).


The West Cork Academy U15 schoolboys enjoyed a memorable mid-term trip to the UK, including high-profile friendlies against Leeds United and Preston North End.

Last year’s history-making Kennedy Cup squad continued their development across channel last week. Don Hurley, JJ Hurley, David Hall, Tadhg Curtin and Ken Kingston were in charge of a travelling squad that gained invaluable on and off-field experiences.

First up was a meeting with English Championship club Preston North End’s U15 Academy. An end-to-end encounter saw the visitors utilise all 21 squad members and gave a fine account of themselves despite losing 5-1. Art O’Leary was West Cork’s lone scorer prior to an even bigger challenge on day two of the trip.

Leeds United is a football club known all over the world. An opportunity to visit the EFL Championship side’s famed training facilities as well as playing their highly-regarded academy team was a special occasion for the visiting coaches and players.  It proved a chastening experience however, as West Cork suffered a comprehensive defeat to a star-studded Leeds U15 outfit.

Each day whilst in England, the U15 schoolboys squad took part in physio sessions, early-morning swimming pool sessions, stretching routines, sports massages, pre and post-match meals, pre-match tactical meetings, lengthy warm-ups, warm downs and post-match assessments. 

Day three saw West Cork visit Premier League club Liverpool FC’s world-renowned training and academy facilities. Another set of intensive training sessions concluded the rural region’s stay on their final day in the UK before flying home.

Now that their mid-term trip is complete, Don and JJ Hurley’s side must turn their attention towards an important SFAI National Inter-League group match – the Cork Schoolboys League awaits West Cork in the latter’s final Group D outing. A date and venue for that derby clash is yet to be confirmed but will take place in early March. 

West Cork Academy U15 Schoolboys: Daire Hurley (Drinagh Rangers), Matthew Buttimer (Lyre Rovers), Luke Holland (Dunmanway Town), Liam Ryan (Lyre Rovers), Padraig O’Sullivan (Kilgoban Celtic), Aodan Murphy (Drinagh Rangers), Kevin Duffy (Ardfield), Joe O’Donovan (Drinagh Rangers), Christos Delis (Ardfield), Sean Platt (Ardfield), Conrad Murphy (Clonakilty AFC), Art O’Leary (Kilgoban Celtic), Tom Whooley (Ardfield), Alex Bramoulle (Dunmanway Town), Milo Kinsella (Drinagh Rangers), Joe Twomey (Lyre Rovers), Euan Knowles ( Lyre Rovers), Conor Murphy (Riverside Athletic),  Paddy O’Brien (Dunmanway Town), Paddy Haughney (Clonakilty AFC), Levi Bosma (Togher Celtic), Rory Curtin (Castlelack AFC). Academy coaches: Don Hurley, JJ Hurley, David Hall, Tadgh Curtin, Ken Kingston.


Last Sunday, the West Cork U13 Schoolboys travelled to Waterford for their concluding SFAI National Inter-League Group F fixture against the host county. The visitors were 1-0 down at the break to a physically stronger opponent. Waterford moved 3-0 ahead by the 45-minute mark before running out 4-1 winners. Jack Allen netted West Cork’s response in a game Brehon O’Mahony, Eoghan Foley, Michael Ryan and Dara Ryan stood out.


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