THE Southern Star’s 2019 West Cork League Team of Year is dominated by Premier Division champions Dunmanway Town plus a sprinkling of some of the region’s most consistent players.
Picking a 16-man panel to best represent one of the most intriguing West Cork League season’s is a subjective task at best. Having consulted a selection of West Cork League managers and reviewing ten months of Southern Star match reports, the following is the newspapers’ selection for 2019.
Strikers – Mark Cronin was the first name on the team-sheet and a worthy captain following such an influential season in Ballydehob colours. Cronin was the creative spark that helped his side come within a penalty shootout of a first-ever West Cork League Premier Division crown and used all his experience to make those around him perform to a higher level.
Quite simply, Cronin’s dead-ball expertise coupled with his ability to play as an out and out striker or creative midfielder means you could not select a Team of the Year without him.
There were plenty of talented suitors to occupy the second striker’s role but few individuals scored as often or as freely as Durrus’ Championship-winning Shane Shannon. The 23-year-old formed an effective partnership with Shane Sweeney during Durrus’ campaign, showed he belonged when facing his Premier Division defences and is player to watch out for in next season’s top tier.
Midfielders – This year’s Team of the Year has a five-man midfield anchored by Ballydehob’s Tim Regan. The experienced campaigner’s ability to close down the opposition and drop back to protect his defence marked Regan out as one of the WCL’s most consistent players.
Also in central midfield, Durrus’ Peter Thornton and Drinagh Rangers’ Keith Jagoe earn deserved berths following their respective contributions throughout lengthy campaigns. Despite not retaining the Premier Division title, Jagoe was a constant ball of energy in the heart of Drinagh’s midfield while Thornton’s ability to retain possession and knit defence with attack made him indispensable to Durrus.
Dunmanway Town’s Barry O’Donovan and Cathal O’Donovan occupy either flank having each excelled during the closing months. The former utilised his pace to good effect but his versatility in multiple positions made a huge difference to John Buckley and Andrew Healy’s squad. Cathal O’Donovan enjoyed a fantastic year in a Dunmanway senior jersey, popped up with some important goals and maintained a high level of consistency throughout the second half of the season.
Defenders – Dunmanway Town’s Stephen Keohane and Aidan O’Donovan played pivotal roles in helping their side claim West Cork League glory during 2019. Keohane’s addition to an already talented back four was one of the main reasons Dunmanway edged their rivals for the title.
Aidan O’Donovan’s ability to play as either a left back or central defender saw the Dunmanway Town stalwart emerge as a key figure in his side’s success. Alongside the Mohona club duo stands Ballydehob’s David Roycroft. One of his club’s standout defenders, Roycroft proved a huge asset when repelling set-pieces and helped the Rathravane-based outfit come within a whisker of a league trophy prior to claiming the Gareth O’Driscoll Premier Cup.
Goalkeeper – A difficult decision came down to either Stephen Daly (Dunmanway Town) or Donal Casey (Durrus). Casey was selected based on his consistency and contribution to his club’s treble-winning campaign. To be fair, Stephen Daly is just as talented and was a vital member of his team’s title-winning success but in this instance, Casey gets the nod.
Substitutes – Togher Celtic’s Johnny Kelly was a hugely influential figure in helping Togher Celtic claim the Beamish Cup and could play in midfield or up front. Durrus’ Dan Murray was unfortunate not to earn a starting place considering how well the defender played in 2019. Drinagh’s Barry O’Driscoll (T) formed a superb partnership alongside JJ Collins and could slot in across any of the defensive positions. Mark Buckley’s unselfishness meant the Dunmanway Town striker did not score the goals some of his performances deserved en route to becoming a Premier Division champion.