BY DENIS HURLEY
THE newly-formed St Colum’s Ladies’ Football and Camogie Club aims to benefit from a shared knowledge at board level, while the return of Cork star Libby Coppinger is big boost to their on-field hopes.
In November, the amalgamation of the two existing clubs was finalised.
Such a link-up made sense, given the large crossover of players, and it is hoped that the new entity can reap the rewards of the synergy.
‘The football club was established in 2001 and the camogie club in 2009,’ says Eilís Nyhan, the chairperson of the new club.
‘There would have been a lot of combined fundraising undertaken and I’d say about 90 percent of the players were dual players. From discussions with Martin Cronin, who was secretary of the ladies’ football club, we felt that it might be worth looking at a merger.
‘We had an EGM in November and then it went back to the two boards and the overall support was overwhelming. It was probably something that was going to happen at some stage anyway, given that Croke Park are trying to implement the one-club model, so it’s good to be ahead of the curve.’
Courcey Rovers are the only other club in West Cork to have both codes under the one umbrella. Both Colum’s clubs played in the orange and black used by their male counterparts in Kealkill, so there’s not even a need to splash out for new jerseys.
Nyhan estimates that there are about 120 club members across the underage grades and she is hopeful that the momentum can bolster the club’s return to adult football this year.
‘We have a lot of members for such a small area,’ she says, ‘and there have been some very encouraging performances in the football at underage. Last year, they the minor D championship even though nobody was on the age and the county board have graded us at junior B this year now.
‘In around 2012, the numbers for an adult team dwindled, for a variety of reasons and so anyone who still wanted to play had to join Bantry. We’re glad that we can return now.’
Among those who swapped orange for blue was Libby Coppinger, a key member of the Bantry side which won the county junior championship in 2015 and then followed that with intermediate glory last year.
The public health student in UCC is delighted to be back playing for her native club.
‘In my first year minor, there just weren’t enough players for a junior team,’ she says.
‘I went inside to Bantry to play and I really enjoyed it, they were a great bunch of players to work alongside. I always said that I’d love to come back if Colum’s got a team together and I’m looking forward to it now.
‘It will be a change to go from playing intermediate back to junior B, but it should be enjoyable.’
An indirect beneficiary of Coppinger’s ‘transfer’ will be the West Cork divisional side – she would have been ineligible with Bantry gone up to senior – while the upcoming O’Connor Cup with UCC will also ensure that she’s not short of top-quality action.
‘Having the two clubs together as one has to help,’ she says.
‘It was largely the same group of players playing anyway and this will be good to ensure that everyone is on the same page. To be fair, both clubs were always great in terms of looking after the players’ welfare and I’ve no doubt that that will continue.’