Sport

Bunratty United targeting an immediate return to top flight

November 18th, 2020 8:00 AM

By Ger McCarthy

The Bunratty United squad that won the 1998 West Cork League Premier Division and added the Beamish and Premier Division Cups the following season.

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BUNRATTY United are leveraging their emerging talent to become a force in the West Cork League once again.

The final 2019/’20 PremierHiSpecCars.com Premier Division league table made for grim reading in Schull.

Bunratty United finished bottom of the standings and suffered relegation after struggling to field their strongest team throughout a challenging season.

This is a club with a rich West Cork League history however, and the Schull club has experience of bouncing back from similar predicaments in the past.

Since their foundation in 1987, Bunratty stands amongst the pantheon of WCL giants by winning five Premier League titles, five Beamish Cups, three Carling League Cups, one Parkway-Maybury Cup, four Premier Division Cups, one First Division League and Cup, one Second Division League and Cup and one Food-Link Trophy.

To underline United’s pedigree, only Drinagh Rangers and Dunmanway Town possess a superior West Cork League trophy haul.

Happily, despite last season’s setback at adult level, the Schull-based club is in a healthy state and looking to the future with renewed optimism.

That hope is well founded when you consider the club’s youth team captured the 2019/’20 West Cork U19 League title in emphatic fashion. Manager TJ O’Donovan’s squad were denied a ‘double’ by conceding a last-minute extra-time winner to Drinagh Rangers in the U19 Cup final.

That was Bunratty’s solitary defeat of an otherwise unblemished U19 WCL League and Cup record.

Jamie O’Brien, Milan Vearncombe, Isaac Solomon, James O’Regan, Killian O’Sullivan and Darragh O’Shea are just some of United’s up and coming U19s that you are going to hear a lot more about in the coming years

‘That U19 Cup final was the only game Bunratty has lost all season,’ Bunratty U19 manager and West Cork League stalwart TJ O’Donovan said.

‘You couldn’t ask for more from the players. It bodes well for next season where all but three of this year’s squad will be eligible for the U19 grade. Everyone is looking forward to getting going once again.’

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It is not just United’s U19’s that give cause for optimism as the clubs’ underage academy is also thriving.

Last season, the Schull club’s U15s went one better than their U19 counterparts by winning a SuperValu West Cork Schoolboys U15 Premier League and Cup double.

Bunratty finished ahead of Ardfield to lift the U15 league title and saw off the Canon Crowley Park side on penalties in a marvellous cup decider. The two clubs also met in the U14 Cup final where Drinagh came out on top 2-1.

Boosted by those performances, Bunratty has fielded teams in the WCSL U11, 12 (two teams), 14, 15 and 16 age-grades during the recent Covid-affected 2020 season.
Once again, dedicated work being carried out on the academy training grounds proved worthwhile with United reaching the U11 Cup semi-finals and both the U15 and U16 Cup deciders.

At Inter-League level, Eoin O’Brien (U14), Ciarán O’Leary, Fintan O’Brien, Gearoid Coughlan (all U13), Sam Logan, Damien Williams, Killian Power, Eduard O’Sullivan, Aidan O’Reilly, Dylan O’Driscoll (all U12), Lucy Hurley, Daniel Copithorne, Lee Moynihan, Frankie Whelton and Jack Shannon (all U11) were involved in this past season’s WCSL FAI Emerging Talent Programme.

Cork City FC’s Ronan Hurley is one of Bunratty’s most successful and well-known academy exports. Yet, the versatile League of Ireland footballer is just one of a long line of Bunratty United graduates that has gone on to play at a higher level.

Former Bunratty stalwarts Conor O’Driscoll, Kevin Holland, Darragh O’Callaghan and Colin O’Brien were capped by the Republic of Ireland U17’s.
John McCarthy (Cork City) and Alan O’Driscoll (Wolverhampton Wanderers) are two other former United players who also made a name for themselves after leaving the Schull club.

As for the future, Cobh Ramblers’ James O’Driscoll and College Corinthians’ (Munster Senior League) Killian O’Brien are prime examples of how a rural West Cork League club like Bunratty United is capable of developing footballers of the highest calibre.

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‘Backed by our supportive local community, Bunratty has continued to grow and build upon our founding success,’ club honorary secretary Caroline Twomey told The Southern Star.

‘Thankfully, there is no shortage of local volunteers who help to coach, fundraise and run the club, we are lucky in that sense.

‘Today, we have 130 active members including seven underage teams, with players signed up as young as six. We have two strong adult teams in play this year, our U19s and junior men’s, so the future of Bunratty United looks bright.

‘We’ll be playing in three cups (this season), so our immediate goal is to try and add to our silverware by winning one of the West Cork League’s knockout competitions.’

Caroline Twomey took over her new role from previous incumbent Martina McSweeney. During her tenure, McSweeney played a significant role in promoting schoolgirls’ football both in Bunratty and throughout the West Cork region.

United produced one of the most talented and successful teams to ever emerge from the West Cork Schoolboys’ or Schoolgirls’ ranks in the early 2000s before going on to greater things at the U18 grade.

‘In the past, we enjoyed a hugely successful three years of female soccer at Bunratty with the U18 team,’ Caroline Twomey added.

‘That team won the double, cup and league, in 2010, 2011 and 2012. We are always open to developing new teams and have a number of girls playing in the WCSL.

We are hoping to re-establish our past female soccer success sometime in the near future.’

Clearly, foundations are being put in place to help elevate Bunratty United back to the top of the West Cork League’s ranks.

A rural club that plays its home games at the community-run Schull Town Park (and run by the Town Park Committee) is eager to build on positive showings at underage, U18 and 19 level.

This season, Bunratty are fielding two U12 teams, aptly titled the Falcons and the Eagles. Time for United to soar high once again and return one of the West Cork League’s most famous clubs back to where they belong.

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