BY GER McCARTHY
ANNE O’Grady is in the middle of another hectic summer coaching her club and division as well as the county’s minors and U21s.
Few coaches, male or female, are as a busy as the Bantry Blues club woman. This year alone, the Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí maths and Irish teacher has had to divide her time between two inter-county set-ups as well as her local club Bantry and the West Cork senior divisional squad.
It’s a labour of love for O’Grady, whose journey in coaching started eight years ago with Bantry’s U16 ladies. Since then her reputation has grown, and she’s been an integral part of the West Cork management team since its inception in 2016.
As usual, she’s patrolling the sideline this year with manager Brian McCarthy, as well as James O’Mahony from O’Donovan Rossa who is new to the set-up. West Cork were emphatic 4-17 to 0-2 winners of their recent senior championship opener.
‘Getting off to a winning start was very important,’ O’Grady says.
‘We needed a run out and couldn’t be complacent about facing St Val’s. We have plenty of young players involved with us (West Cork) this year and I am in the fortunate position of also being involved with the Cork minors and know quite a few of them from that.
‘We also have the likes of Rachel and Eve Murphy from Bantry who were involved with us three years ago, when they were only 15, back with us again. Fiona Keating is in her second year with us and Christina O’Sullivan from Beara has joined up now as well.
‘It is a transitional period but the older girls have been fantastic with the new players. Jane Mulvihill (Valley Rovers) is a good example, coming on in goal for the last 15 minutes against St Val’s, and Cork goalkeeper Martina O’Brien has been brilliant with her, helping her settle in and passing on all her experience.’
Next up for O’Grady and West Cork in the championship on August 8th are reigning county, Munster and All-Ireland champions Mourneabbey, who beat West Cork in last year’s county final. Eire Óg are the other side in the four-team group where the top two progress to the semi-finals whilst third and fourth will have to play a quarter-final against whoever emerges from the other senior group.
‘We are in a very difficult group this year again but realistically, Mourneabbey are the team to beat and have been for the last number of years because of all their success. We are just looking forward to having a crack off them in the group stage if only to see where we are at,’ O’Grady says.
‘West Cork have a lot of very good players including Cork seniors at our disposal. But the reality is though that we have pretty much a new panel this year as some girls not available, like Áine Hayes, Maura O’Brien and Clare O’Leary.’
The importance of West Cork’s participation is not lost on O’Grady who believes giving divisional players an opportunity to test themselves at senior club level can only benefit Cork’s inter-county chances in the long run.
‘Being brutally honest, there are clubs in West Cork who might never get to the chance to play at the senior grade,’ the Bantry native stated.
‘There are a number of exceptionally talented girls in every club so having the chance to play senior needs to be encouraged not just in West Cork but in the three other divisions as well. We need to see the plusses rather than the negatives when it comes to deciding on divisions playing in the senior championship and do what’s best for Cork ladies football.
‘There is definitely talent coming through from the region. I have seen massive numbers on the Cork U14 All-Ireland winning squad including our (Bantry Blues) own Ella Downey. There were 11 girls from the Carbery division alone which is very encouraging.
‘The Cork U14 starting team included a large amount of West Cork girls in the All-Ireland final against Galway and that is a positive sign that there is talent in the region and that those girls are coming through at inter-county level.
‘The girls wouldn’t be there with Cork were it not for their clubs and the coaching they receive. That’s why I think it is very important that the West Cork division keeps offering their young junior and intermediate club players the opportunity to play in the senior championship.’
O’Grady, as usual, is flat to the mat. As well as club and divisional team commitments, she was on the Cork U21 management team as they won the recent Munster final against Kerry, while the Cork minors – managed by John Cleary – are in All-Ireland semi-final action this Sunday.
No rest for the Bantry woman but that’s just the way she likes it.
Bandon Co-Op is delighted to be involved with and supporting many local community groups all over West Cork. This video encapsulates some of the wonderful people that we have the pleasure of dealing with #TogetherStrongerWestCork