IT IS fair to say that Castlehaven have been one of the most consistently successful Cork LGFA clubs over the last five years.
During that timeframe, the West Cork side has moved up through the junior ranks, claiming junior D, C, B and, this past year, A county titles.
Castlehaven, managed by Dinny Cahalane, will now start 2022 as an intermediate club. They are a club on the rise and have their sights firmly fixed on making an impact at their new grade.
So, what has been happening, both on and off the pitch, inside Castlehaven LGFA that’s led to such a magnificent run?
‘Well, firstly, we are really delighted with the success that we have had,’ club captain Siobhan Courtney explained.
‘There have always been very good structures within the club which has led to that success. A good cohort of the team has stuck together. Over the last few years, we (the panel) have gotten to know one another better and improved.
‘Our management team has been brilliant. New players joining the panel has been important too and pushed everyone on. We are all fighting for our places which makes things very competitive. I think that all adds up to why we have been so successful and why we intend to drive things on once again next year. We will give the intermediate grade a good crack.’
Emma O’Callaghan is Castlehaven’s goalkeeper and played at a consistently high level over the past 12 months. The shot-stopper only joined the panel a couple of years ago but has quickly become an integral member of the club’s multi-championship winning panel.
‘We have been very lucky to be so successful,’ O’Callaghan said.
‘I have been particularly fortunate in that I only joined in 2019 and was involved in our three-in-a-row (consecutive junior C, B and A titles). To be fair, our management team has been unbelievable to us but right from the get-go, the girls have put in the hard yards.
‘Castlehaven has an unbelievably committed squad. Players travel up and down from Cork just to make training sessions. There are big numbers at training the whole time. That makes everyone even more competitive when it comes trying to nail down a place (in the starting team).
‘Our management team are unbelievable too and always there an hour before training. If someone gets injured, like I did for a month this past summer, they are constantly there with you during your physio and rehab in the gym. The players cannot thank them enough.’
Shelly Daly is another Castlehaven player benefitting from a competitive environment which has led to Cork LGFA county successes in four of the last five years.
‘It is nice to have the competition and there are younger girls coming through the ranks which keeps the pressure on as well,’ Daly said. ‘Everyone is fighting for a spot but at the same time, we are kind of like a big family too. We have bonded very well and everyone knows how each other plays from all our training sessions.
‘Through all that intensive training, we have been able to better ourselves and that’s where the performances and results have come from. It is that competitiveness that drives us.’
Castlehaven’s 2021 Cork LGFA junior A campaign involved what looked like a tough-looking opening group phase. Yet, the 2020 junior B county champions didn’t break stride from their previous year’s success. Overcoming Naomh Abán, Abhainn Dalla, Douglas, Dromtarriffe (walkover) and Dohenys saw Castlehaven finish top of the group. That unbeaten record secured a home semi-final against Douglas in which the Haven emerged merited 2-6 to 0-4 winners.
An all-West Cork county final took place in MTU between Castlehaven and Dohenys on November 13th. A never-to be-forgotten encounter was played out in front of a huge attendance.
Two evenly-matched sides were level at 1-8 apiece at the end of normal time and 1-12 apiece after extra-time. A winner was needed on the day because the Munster junior championship began the following weekend.
So, a 30-metre free-taking competition was needed to decide the result. Level one each after five kicks, sudden death saw Dohenys have a match-winning attempt ruled out for a player crossing the kicking line. Shortly after, Aideen Santry’s kick was enough to earn the Haven a county title in the most emotionally draining of circumstances.
‘Winning previous county championships really stood to us that day against Dohenys,’ Shelly Daly admitted.
‘We have had some very tough games down through the years including the battles we had with O’Donovan Rossa. Those experiences really stood to us in the final. We did everything we could to stay in that county final but unfortunately it went to a 30-metre shootout. It was our self-belief and a bit of luck that got us over the line.’
‘It was a very hard situation for both teams to be in,’ Siobhan Courtney added. ‘The teams were so close through normal and extra-time. There was only ever a point or two in it. It was a very hard way (30-metre frees) for either team to lose in that manner.
‘It was heart-breaking for Dohenys. I suppose we had a bit of luck on the day but everyone that stood up to take a free did all they could do. There was no blame pointed at anyone if they missed.
‘It was a crazy situation and emotions were running very high and people were finding it hard to cope with. We were delighted to get there in the end.’
‘I was just delighted there wasn’t a penalty shootout!’ goalkeeper Emma O’Callaghan added.
Castlehaven know from their 2021 Munster LGFA experiences and losing to Tipperary’s Mullinahone in the provincial semi-final that a big step up is needed this coming year. Few squads are better equipped to meet the challenge that playing in the intermediate grade brings.
‘I think our next pre-season is hugely important,’ Siobhan Courtney explained.
‘You learn a lot more from losing than you do from winning and we learned from that Mullinahone Munster semi-final defeat. You have to reflect a lot more when you lose.
‘That is what our management team and players will be doing during pre-season and working on. Definitely, we will be working on our physicality and other areas as well. Improvement in all areas is needed to compete at intermediate level. We have great facilities down in Castlehaven and the players are fortunate to have access to them.’
Anyone that was present in MTU will never forget that Castlehaven junior A county final win over Dohenys. It was another chapter in a remarkable story that has seen the West Cork club rise up through the Cork LGFA ranks in such a short period of time.
The intermediate grade will hold no fears for a Castlehaven club ready to challenge the establishment once again in 2022. They are not finished yet.