BY KIERAN McCARTHY
EVEN though Castlehaven is a tight-knit community, Siobhan Courtney is aiming to get the better of one of her own when West Cork take on Éire Óg in a county senior football semi-final next Wednesday night.
Courtney will start in the full-back line for West Cork against an Éire Óg outfit that is managed by Haven football legend John Cleary – and she’s determined to make sure it’s her team that advances to the county final.
‘I wouldn’t know John that well but everyone knows of him and what he has achieved as a player and a manager. He’s doing a great job with Éire Óg now too and we’ve seen that in the games we’ve played against them in the last few years,’ Courtney says.
She did line out alongside John Cleary’s sister Nollaig, another Cork great, when they played together with Gabriel Rangers. That was the time when Castlehaven didn’t have an adult ladies’ football team. Now they do, and recently won the Division 5 county football league title.
‘That was a win that we needed because it’s the wins that drive people on a bit more,’ she says.
When Courtney left West Cork on a career break eight years ago, there was no Castlehaven adult team, but when she returned after five years in Dubai, the local ladies’ football landscape had dramatically changed. Suddenly, there were options that weren’t there before – Castlehaven had a ladies’ adult team and the West Cork senior football team was up and running.
By the time Courtney came back home, West Cork already had one year under their belt. It was a no-brainer to put her hand up for selection and, now in her third season, she’s loving it.
‘I was playing football in Dubai all the time and my last year there, the West Cork team was set up here at home so I was following them from over there,’ she says.
‘Alice O’Driscoll from Castlehaven was on the team so she was keeping me informed and when I came home she said I should try for it. I went, I liked the training, it was brilliant.’
Initially, she admits, she had doubts if she’d fit in, if she was good enough, but she soon proved she was. Courtney nailed down a spot in the West Cork defence alongside county players like Melissa Duggan and Clare O’Shea, and in front of Cork goalkeeper Martina O’Brien.
In her three seasons, the divisional team has improved year after year, and reached the county final for the first time in 2018. They took eventual All-Ireland champions Mourneabbey to a reply before coming up just short – and there’s a desire and hunger to go one step further this campaign.
But before they can even look that far ahead, West Cork meet Éire Óg in a county semi-final at Cloughduv next Wednesday. This is a repeat of last year’s semi-final that West Cork won 2-10 to 1-6, and the divisional side also came out on top in their recent group game, but Courtney is taking nothing for granted.
‘Over the last few years the margin between West Cork and Éire Óg has got smaller and smaller,’ she points out.
‘It’s a tough battle every time. We are totally focused on this game because we know how difficult it is going to be. Éire Óg are a team improving all the time, they have inter-county players, they are coached and trained really well and they’ll back themselves to beat us, so it’s going to be very hard.’
There’s a strong belief in the West Cork camp that there is more to come from this team. While Cork bowed out of the All-Ireland series earlier than they wanted, there was a knock-on benefit for West Cork manager Brian McCarthy and his management team – they got their county players back earlier, and that has helped.
‘Having our Cork players available during the week for training sessions is a big boost, numbers are good at training, the standard is very high and everyone is pushing to get a place on the team,’ says Courtney.