TONY White believes Dohenys are capable of challenging for Cork LGFA junior A honours following their 2019 county final success.
Last season the Dunmanway club won the county junior B football title at the fourth attempt, having lost the previous three county finals – to Abhainn Dalla in 2018, Glanmire in 2017 and Aghada in 2016.
But Dohenys reached the Promised Land last season after getting the better of Midleton thanks to Mairead Crowley’s late point that earned her club a narrow 0-9 to 0-8 victory.
Now the team is getting ready for the county junior A championship opener against Douglas on July 29th.
The junior A championship will see six teams – Dohenys, Douglas, Naomh Abán, Abhainn Dalla, Valley Rovers and Dromtarriffe – play one another in a round-robin group with the top two advancing to the final.
‘Everyone is in the same boat in that clubs have had three or four weeks to get everything turned around and everyone ready after coming out of Covid,’ Dohenys manager Tony White said.
‘We are going to face quality teams in this year’s junior A championship. Most of them are playing at this grade for quite a while too. You only have to look at Valley Rovers and how close they came to winning it last year.
‘At the same time, Dohenys are hoping to have a good cut off it. The good thing from our point of view is that we have met all of the junior A championship teams in the county junior A league over the last couple of years. We have always been there or thereabouts when playing them. It is a big plus to know who you are going to be up against. We are aware of them but they know all about us at this stage too.’
The Dunmanway club will be able to call upon all but one of last year’s county junior B championship-winning panel for 2020. Add to that, emerging talent from the club’s minor county winners and Tony White has every right to look ahead to the upcoming campaign with renewed optimism.
‘Dohenys will have more or less the same squad as last year,’ White said.
‘Fiona Crowley has retired from the A panel alright but we have a new player signed in Cathy O’Regan and she has come in and done very well for us. There are a good few minors coming up as well and they would have the experience of winning last year’s minor B football championship which should stand to them.
‘The good thing is that every team will be starting from more or less from the same level this year. You can do all the fitness work in the world but in reality, being on the training ground and sharpening the girls’ skills will be most important. We only have a short turnaround before the championship starts so there is a huge amount of work to be done when you are training three nights a week.’
Dealing with a global pandemic and subsequent lockdown meant GAA was no longer the most important thing in Dohenys’ management and players’ lives. It wasn’t easy but keeping everyone motivated and staying in touch meant Dohenys retained their huge panel. So much so, that the West Cork club will be able to enter a second team in this year’s junior D championship.
‘It was brilliant to see 42 Dohenys girls out training at the end of January and the start of February,’ White said.
‘We started off with a strength and conditioning programme before Covid hit. It was difficult to keep everything going during the lockdown but we stayed in touch with our players and kept track of their fitness. We are going to be able to enter a second junior team this year in the junior D championship because our (squad) numbers are good. That will give everyone on the panel plenty of game time which is very important.
‘It is going to mean a lot of extra work to look after a second Dohenys football team but luckily there is a good group of people involved. I’ll be working with Finny Collins, Darren Kelly and Keith White with Sean Holland and Miriam Forbes helping out with the junior Ds.
‘Injury-wise we have had a few niggly issues already. There have been a few hamstring, knee and calf issues with some of our players since coming back. That is to be expected but we are hoping to get those rectified over the next few weeks. Coming off road running and onto the grass means every team is going to have to deal with injuries this year. It is going to be hard on girls at this time of year but they will just have to keep in touch and let us know as soon as they suffer an injury as soon as it happens.’
There is no doubt that Dohenys are coming off the biggest emotional high that this group of players has experienced following their 2019 exploits. Maintaining that momentum against more experienced opposition will be key to any chance of success in 2020.
‘Dohenys have played a good few junior A teams over the last couple of years and know the level that is needed if we are to be successful,’ White noted.
‘2019 may well turn out to be a turning point for us. To finally experience that winning feeling having suffered three consecutive years of losing county finals, only to go out and win the junior B at the fourth attempt, tells you this group is something special.
‘We still talk about the 2019 county final as it is our never-say-die attitude that helped us finally become county champions. We are hoping to use that again.’