IT was a season like no other but the 2020 West Cork League campaign ended with all league and cup competitions completed despite a global pandemic.
The Covid-19 outbreak meant there was no competitive West Cork League action between Monday, March 9th and Saturday, July 18th, resulting in an unprecedented mid-September finish. Thankfully, those interruptions didn’t deter dramatic endings to the (adult) Premier and Championship divisions and cups.
The destination of the WCL Premier Division title came down to the final game of the season. Old rivals Drinagh Rangers and Dunmanway Town squared off in a winner-take-all encounter at Mohona. The Canon Crowley Park side needed to avoid defeat to claim their third league crown in six seasons whilst nothing but three points would suffice for their opponents.
Defending league champions Dunmanway produced a terrific display but it was Drinagh who broke the deadlock courtesy of one of their club’s underage graduates, Robbie McQueen. Barry O’Donovan equalised in the second half but a 92nd-minute McQueen strike earned Rangers a 2-1 triumph and Premier Division glory.
Creditably, Dunmanway rebounded from that disappointment to qualify for the Beamish Cup final. Clonakilty Soccer Club were the Mohona side’s opponents in the decider, a game played at an empty (due to Covid-19 restrictions) Turner’s Cross stadium in Cork. The cup final did not disappoint with both teams contributing to an entertaining encounter that, for the first time, was live-streamed on the internet. Cathal Daly wrote his name into the history books by scoring both of Dunmanway’s goals in a 2-0 victory. Maintaining his record of netting in each round of the competition, Daly scored twice in the second period to secure Town’s triumph.
Clonakilty Soccer Club did not end the season empty handed however, as the amalgamation of Clonakilty AFC and Town clubs picked up the 2020 Parkway Hotel – Maybury Cup. Castletownkenneigh was the venue for a re-run of the Beamish Cup final between Clon and Dunmanway and a free-flowing encounter produced seven goals. Barry O’Donovan and Johnny Kelly scored for Town but a Chris Collins hat-trick and Alan Ward brace earned Clonakilty a merited 5-2 win.
Elsewhere in the WCL’s top tier, Togher Celtic made their mark by claiming the Gareth O’Driscoll Premier Cup. Despite failing to trouble the Premier Division frontrunners, Celtic won their fourth trophy in as many seasons by seeing off Drinagh Rangers in the Gareth O’Driscoll decider. It took extra-time plus Garret Crowley and Darren Kelly goals to earn Togher a hard-fought 2-1 victory.
Bunratty United may have suffered relegation from the West Cork League’s top division but the Schull-based club’s future looks bright following the success of their U19 squad. United remained undefeated throughout their triumphant U19 league campaign but were denied a ‘double’ by Drinagh Rangers.
An U19 Cup final defeat was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect season for an up-and-coming Bunratty group. Cup winners Drinagh Rangers defeated the league champions after extra-time at the Baltimore Road in Skibbereen. United’s Darragh O’Shea broke the deadlock before Mark Grace took the final to extra-time. Penalties looked likely as Bunratty, reduced to ten players following a red card, held on until the final minute. Robbie McQueen delivered a corner into a packed penalty box where an own goal saw Rangers emerge 2-1 winners.
Inter Kenmare dominated the WCL Women’s League and Cup competitions, picking up both trophies to complete a terrific ‘double’. Encouragingly, the women’s grade’s move to a seven-a-side format on astro pitches proved a profitable one. The Kerry side proved worthy champions despite Drinagh Rangers pushing the champions all the way.
Bantry Bay Rovers won the Women's Shield trophy. The Kealkill club, Dunmanway Town, Beara and Aultagh Celtic contested a round-robin competition before Bay met Aultagh in the Shield final. Awful weather conditions didn’t deter the Bantry club from emerging 4-2 winners with Gillian Crowley and Amy Shorten on target for Celtic. Corny McCarthy netted a superb hat-trick with Jess Kelleher contributing a superb goal to earn Bantry Bay the Shield trophy.
Last season’s West Cork League Championship Division proved one of the most entertaining for years. Spartak Mossgrove deservedly finished top of the table after a season-long battle with Mizen AFC. The latter and Riverside Athletic also gained promotion to the top tier with Athletic defeating Baltimore in a play-off at Canon Crowley Park.
Mizen AFC added to their promotion accomplishment by claiming the WCL Championship Cup thanks to a narrow victory over Aultagh Celtic. Town Park in Schull was the venue for a final that saw Darren O’Donovan score the only goal of an evenly-fought game. O’Donovan’s strike was enough to secure Mizen’s first trophy since winning the First Division back in 2014.
Drinagh’s second team added the WCL Division 2 League title by utilising a panel made up of experienced players plus many of the club’s up and coming U19s to good effect. Rangers second Division 2 title in as many years, following a mid-season divisional split and was overseen by manager Mike Doolan and coach Kellie Doolan.
So, another West Cork League season is in the history books. A new 2020-21 campaign kicked off in late September but was only a week old when a national lockdown ended West Cork League action throughout the region. Clubs have not completed a competitive or friendly game since. Hopes are high of a return to on-field action sometime in the new year and the previous (2020) campaign shows that the WCL Committee is more than capable of completing all their competitions within a tighter timeframe.
There will be difficulties, but Courtmacsherry and Beara United’s return to the Championship allied with the strongest Premier Division line-up in over a decade means there is much to look forward to next year. It may take a little longer than anticipated, but the West Cork League will be back in 2021, bigger and better than ever.