WINNING the 2020 House Beauty Rooms Women's Shield trophy was a fitting reward for a hard-working Bantry Bay Rovers.
The Kealkill club is renowned for its thriving schoolboys and schoolgirls underage set up, but it was Bay Rovers Women’s 7’s team that brought silverware back to Bantry shortly before the Covid-19 virus halted all soccer activities in West Cork.
On the same weekend Inter Kenmare retained the Lake House Beauty Rooms 7s League title, Bantry Bay Rovers were rewarded for their season’s efforts with West Cork League silverware of their own.
‘I had been playing with Bantry Bay Rovers for about three years,’ player-coach Helen Martin said.
‘After a while we couldn’t get enough numbers to field an 11-a-side team so a few of us went and played with Durrus for a year. We didn’t win a single game but then the West Cork League decided to introduce a new women’s seven-a-side league on astro pitches.
‘I got a few of the girls together and asked them to go back and play for Bay Rovers. It was mostly Bantry girls playing for Durrus at that stage anyway so I said we might as well be representing Bantry Bay Rovers. We got a team back together during the summer, began training in October and got going when the league started shortly after.’
Whilst Helen Martin and a couple of other Bay Rovers stalwarts had experience of playing competitive soccer, many of the remaining squad members were completely new to the game.
‘There were a lot of girls involved with Bantry Bay Rovers this season that had never kicked a ball before,’ Martin explained.
‘Sheila Kingston hadn’t played since primary school. Jess Kelleher was brand new to it. I convinced St Colum’s Corny McCarthy and Emily Barrett to come plays for us while Lauren O’Driscoll had little or no experience of playing competitively.’
The Kealkill side finished a creditable fifth in the final Lake House Beauty Room Women’s 7’s League standings. That outcome meant Rovers, along with Dunmanway Town, Beara Women’s and Aultagh Celtic contested a round-robin format in the second half of the season before Bay and Aultagh met in the recent Women’s 7’s Shield final at the Dunmanway astro.
Amid awful weather conditions, Rovers ran out deserving 4-2 winners thanks to a Corny McCarthy hat-trick and a superb Jess Kelleher strike. Gillian Crowley and Amy Shorten replied for a gallant Aultagh but the night belonged to Bantry.
‘It was brilliant for the girls especially because some of us have been playing soccer for the last five years and never won anything,’ Martin said.
‘We only won one game playing with Durrus and only a handful playing for Bantry Bay in the 11-a-side. It is hugely encouraging for the girls to have actually won something. There was a lot of hard work put in to get there. To have a trophy at the end is hugely important for all of us.
‘The seven-a-side format is a lot better because there were way more cancellations when we played in the 11-a-side on grass pitches. Playing soccer on astro is also a way better than on grass especially for those who have never played the game before.
‘It has always been quite hard to get numbers out for playing for Bantry Bay until this year. Now that we have won a trophy, a lot of girls are coming up to me asking when the new league will be starting and there is a lot more interest in playing for the club.’
Winning a West Cork League Women’s trophy is a terrific achievement and something Bantry Bay Rovers look certain to build on over the coming seasons.
The Bantry Bay Rovers squad includes Elaine O’Sullivan, Jess Kelleher, Latisha Deasy, Deirdre O’Donovan, Elva Barron (captain), Corny McCarthy, Orla Burke, Anita Johnson, Emily Barrett, Lauren O’Driscoll, Helen Martin, Sheila Kingston and Michelle Connolly.