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Finally, the West Cork senior ladies' footballers have scaled their Everest

September 25th, 2020 8:20 AM

By Ger McCarthy

West Cork’s Sophie Hurley, Laura Barr, Fiona Keating, Moira Barrett and Meabh O’Donovan celebrate the famous win.

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THE scenes of raw emotion on CIT’s pitch 15 minutes after the final whistle underline the importance of West Cork’s county senior A success.

Manager Brian McCarthy stood with his arms aloft and fists pointing to the heavens. A broad smile elicited a cocktail of emotions – satisfaction, delight, happiness, relief, but above all, pride. It has been a long and sometimes bumpy road but McCarthy and his squad got there in the end. In McCarthy’s own words, they finally got over the line.

Long-time selector and ladies’ football advocate Anne O’Grady was surrounded by the entire West Cork squad. The Bantry Blues stalwart reminded each player of the day she stood in Croke Park and told the powers that be that ladies’ football is alive and well in the region. The West Cork LGFA was and is here to stay. That statement was greeted with the loudest roar of the day.

West Cork’s other management team members – James O’Mahony, Michelle Dullea and Darren Kelly – may not have been involved as long as McCarthy and O’Grady but their contribution has been just as important. The opportunity to celebrate with the players was gladly accepted.

The Kiely sisters quietly embraced and celebrated a second county final success in a matter of weeks following on from an equally emotional Valley Rovers’ junior A triumph over Douglas. Valley’s Niamh Hurley and Grainne Dart O’Flynn were part of that and Saturday’s success too. Their time on the West Cork starting fifteen is coming.

Dohenys’ Melissa Duggan said no to an interview, then agreed to talk, then was unable to stop talking during the interview before jumping in on her squad’s celebratory team photo. Madness but the happy kind.

O’Donovan Rossa’s Laura O’Mahony leapt on unsuspecting club mates Lisa Harte and Sharon Stoutt whilst screaming with delight despite missing the final because of injury.

One of the team’s unsung heroes, Castlehaven’s Siobhán Courtney, was equally ecstatic. Courtney will line out against O’Donovan Rossa in Saturday’s all-West Cork county junior B final, but last Saturday it was all about her division and celebrating the happiest of victories.

Goalkeeper Martina O’Brien was trying to make sense of it all. Clonakilty winning this year’s intermediate title means O’Brien, Alison Moriarty, Moira Barrett and Meabh O’Donovan will not be able to represent West Cork next season. O’Brien’s influence will be sorely missed by the West Cork panel, both on and off the pitch, in 2021.

But Saturday was a day for celebrating all the hard work O’Brien and West Cork put in to finally get one over their great rivals and All-Ireland champions, Mourneabbey.

There is that word again, ‘finally’.

Captain Áine Terry O’Sullivan used it repeatedly in her after-match interviews and acceptance speech when receiving the John Hurley Cup. Few players have travelled as many miles on behalf of the West Cork division than Beara’s O’Sullivan. Clare O’Shea and Christina O’Sullivan know all about that having also represented Beara and West Cork with distinction over the past number of years.

The captain’s tight grip on the cup suggested she didn’t want to let go of the trophy let alone the feeling of becoming a senior county championship medal winner. No one did or does.

Fiona Keating scored five goals in the semi-final win over Aghada to help West Cork reach the county decider. The Courcey Rovers stalwart also played her part in Saturday’s win, her unselfish work-rate off the ball helping West Cork to victory. Another beaming smile reflected Keating’s feelings.

St Colum’s Libby Coppinger was grinning from ear to ear and laughing loudly alongside Maggie Coppinger. The most evocative memory of an historic county final may end up being that photo of Libby rising from the ground, fists and teeth clenched in the direction of a couple of Mourneabbey defenders having netted a brilliant goal.

Rosscarbery’s Sarah Hayes and Cliona Maguire posed for a photo with the cup. Bandon’s contingent, Sarah Buckley, Sophie Hurley, Laura Barr and Emma Tarrant, stood together and waited for their turn with the trophy. Everyone was smiling and trying to soak in the moment.

The Bantry Blues players were amongst the loudest celebrators. Emma Spillane has been there, done that with Cork. This was different. This was a different kind of special. The half-back was in the wars throughout the county decider but emerged victorious following heart-breaking defeats the previous two years. Bantry’s Eve and Rachel Murphy have also made their presence felt at senior club level this year. They, along with Spillane, deserved this moment.

There was blanket coverage of Saturday’s county final by numerous newspapers and radio stations not to mention a live stream on the Irish Examiner website. It’s worth remembering that Southern Star sports editor Kieran McCarthy was the person who put the West Cork ladies on the front page of the region’s sports supplement five years ago, in 2016. They have remained there ever since.

It has been a long and tumultuous journey but The Southern Star has been there every step of the way, reporting, interviewing and highlighting this remarkable group’s achievements.

Many players, not present on Saturday’s winning panel, paved the way for this county final success. Their contributions will not be forgotten.

The sun was setting as the West Cork management and players finally made their way off the CIT pitch, down the tunnel and into the night.

A momentous day came to an end but the positive ramifications of West Cork’s county final victory will be felt for years to come. What a day and what a journey.

Finally, they got over the line.

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