CLONAKILTY teenager Orlaith Deasy finished 2020 as a Cork intermediate football winner and an U17 League of Ireland champion.
A dual star with a difference, she played her part as Clonakilty’s ladies footballers won the county intermediate title in late August – she scored two goals in the county final – and as Cork City Women’s U17s won the U17 National League final in December.
A fourth-year student at Sacred Heart Secondary School in Clonakilty, Deasy shone in attack for Clonakilty’s footballers and in defence for Cork City.
The FAI Women’s National U17 League was one of the few competitions to complete its rearranged programme despite Covid-19’s intervention. Split into three sections, Cork City finished top of Group 3 ahead of Wexford Youths, Shelbourne, Bray Wanderers and Greystones United.
Managed by Sarah Healy, City proved too strong for Shamrock Rovers in the U17 League decider held at Athlone Town Stadium a couple of days before Christmas. The build-up to that U17 League decider was less than ideal but Deasy didn’t mind playing so many rearranged fixtures if it meant reaching a final.
‘We ended up playing three league matches in one week and we needed to win all three,’ Deasy explains.
‘We managed to do that and topped our group which qualified us for the league final against Shamrock Rovers in Athlone.’
Starting at left-back but moving into the centre-half position as the league final developed, Deasy was prominent in Cork’s victory.
Shamrock Rovers may have hit the woodwork on three separate occasions but Cork were not to be denied. Olivia Gibson broke the deadlock from the penalty spot in the opening half. Laura Shine got her name on the scoresheet during the second period to wrap up a 2-0 City title win.
Naturally, Deasy was delighted to be part of City’s success even if it meant playing in a position completely opposite to her usual Clonakilty GAA corner-forward deployment.
‘When it comes to soccer, I think I prefer defending and just being a defender,’ she says.
‘I am not really sure why to be honest but having the opportunity to see everything happening in front of you and joining the attack are the main reasons, I suppose.
‘The Cork City U17 squad is a close-knit group too which has helped. There are a lot of girls from Wilton United involved but most of us have played alongside or against one another over the years. Most of the squad would have also represented Cork at Gaynor Cup level so we know each other very well at this stage.
‘The girls couldn’t really celebrate that much because of all the restrictions. We travelled back from Athlone on a bus and stopped off about halfway to have a quick bit of food. Everyone is hoping we get the chance to celebrate properly sometime in the New Year.’
Deasy’s ascension to the Cork City Women U17 ranks began with Bandon AFC before starring for Cork at the Gaynor Cup. The 17-year-old represented Cork in the annual tournament in 2018, winning the Gaynor Shield trophy at the University of Limerick under manager Jason Brown’s tutelage.
‘Bandon AFC was where I first started playing soccer,’ Deasy says.
‘Donal Warren would have been one of my first coaches. He was a really good coach and I learned a lot from him. There were times that I would have been asked to play for some of Bandon’s older girls’ teams. That was a great experience and I learned an awful lot from going up against older girls as you had to learn how to be physical and hold your ground. All the coaches at Bandon AFC helped me improve, so I was lucky to have so many people helping me out.
‘Last year, City’s Academy were holding trials and I was invited to turn up and show what I could do. There were girls from different clubs all over the county taking part and it was a step up, in terms of quality, compared to what I had been used to. I was selected following a series of trials and signed for Cork City’s U17 Academy squad.
‘The trials themselves involved training sessions but everything was done at a fast pace. That was the biggest thing I had to adjust to. The sessions just allowed all the Cork City coaches to take a good look at every player before making their minds up on who they should sign.’
Whilst Deasy’s soccer career continues to flourish, the versatile individual made an equally positive impression in her native Clonakilty ladies football team’s colours. Managed by her father JJ, Orlaith proved a vital member of Clon’s 2020 intermediate county winning panel. Deasy converted a penalty and added a second goal in the West Cork club’s 2-8 to 0-11 intermediate final win over Glanmire.
‘It was a fantastic year to be part of such a brilliant Clonakilty squad and going on to win the county,’ the corner forward says.
‘There was a big Clonakilty squad there this year and everyone was around too which was important. We had players involved from all different age-groups. It was an enjoyable experience to be involved, the whole year.
‘As for scoring penalties, sometimes if I am there by myself, either at the start or end of training, I would practice them alright. That’s where the soccer really helps!
‘I think playing soccer compliments my GAA skills, to be honest. Sometimes I’m inclined to play the ball along the ground in GAA matches but overall I have been able to take a lot of what I’ve learned from Cork City and use it when representing Clonakilty. As with Cork City, we had a great coaching team this year looking after Clon including my Dad (JJ Deasy). He is great at encouraging me and if he ever criticises, Dad always says it in the best possible way.’
2021 looks like being an even busier year for Orlaith Deasy. Playing senior football for Clonakilty and building on Cork City U17’s league success, few individuals are better placed to make their presence felt than the talented dual sports star.