Sport

Local stars put schoolgirls’ soccer on the map in West Cork

January 10th, 2022 11:43 AM

By Ger McCarthy

The West Cork U15 squad that lost 3-0 to Kerry in the 2021 SFAI Gaynor Cup at Brinny.

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GER McCARTHY chronicles an historic year for schoolgirls’ soccer in West Cork

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THE biggest shake-up in the history of West Cork schoolboys and schoolgirls’ soccer occurred at last April’s WCSSL Committee meeting.

A decision to change the league’s title to the West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League (WCSSL) was a profound moment. It set the tone for a hugely important year in the equal promotion and coverage of schoolgirls’ soccer alongside their male counterparts.

A return of the U12 schoolgirls’ age-grade coupled with the introduction of a new U15 schoolgirls’ grade were welcome developments.

UNDER-12: Three U12 schoolgirls’ competitions involving four clubs – Bantry Bay Rovers, Castlelack, Drinagh Rangers and Skibbereen – produced plenty of excitement and ample amounts of drama. Bay Rovers won the U12 league title with only five points separating first and fourth at the conclusion of the campaign. The Bantry club had three points to spare over second-placed Skibbereen in a season Michaela O’Sullivan, Claire Healy, Sara Murphy and Amy O’Donovan each found the net. Sophie Daly, Maggie O’Donoghue, Emma Harrington and Donna French were members of a talented squad that lost only one league fixture. Skibbereen made up for the disappointment of missing out on league honours by claiming the U12 Schoolgirls Cup. Keelin Gough (2) and Hannah O’Driscoll scored in a 3-0 cup final win over Bay Rovers. Aoibheann Goulding and Kayla Hodnett combined for ten goals in the season Holly Humston, Rebecca Deasy, Ava Brownie and Annie Hurley also scored for Skibb.

The Skibbereen squad that won the 2021 U12 Schoolgirls Cup.

 

Drinagh Rangers proved too strong for Castlelack to win the 2021 U12 Schoolgirls Shield. Niamh Daly, Áine Collins and Kate Collins were on target during Rangers’ impressive victory. Grace Kingston, Hannah Collins, Ciara Hodnett, Keelin McCarthy and Sophie O’Donovan also stood out for the Canon Crowley Park side this past year. They may not have lifted any silverware but Castlelack’s first season at the U12 age-grade was a big success thanks, in part, to Erin Coomey, Emer Collins, Evanne O’Sullivan, Niamh Harrington, Ciara Harrington and Isabelle Cahalane’s combined efforts.

UNDER-15: The 2021 SuperValu West Cork Schoolgirls U15 age-grade proved just as successful as its U12 counterpart. Drinagh Rangers outlasted Riverside Rebels, Bantry Bay Rovers, Castlelack and Bunratty United to become league champions. It all came down to the final league fixture of the season on December 11th where first-placed Drinagh had a two-point lead on second-placed Riverside Rebels. Castletownkenneigh was the venue for a league decider that Rangers edged 1-0 to become champions. Carmel Coakley scored the Canon Crowley Park side’s all-important winner after 24 minutes. An undefeated record of seven wins and one draw from their eight league outings saw Rangers crowned champions. Carmel Coakley netted 20 goals in all competitions, while Emma Hurley contributed 16 strikes. Kelle Doolan, Aime Doolan, Rachel Morgan, Julia Coakley and Aine Collins also weighed in with some important efforts.

The 2021 U15 Schoolgirls Cup winners, Riverside Rebels.

 

Despite losing out on league honours, Riverside claimed the 2021 SuperValu U15 Schoolgirls Cup following a terrific run in the competition. The Rebels defeated Drinagh 4-2 in the quarter-finals before knocking out Bantry Bay 5-3 in the penultimate round. Extra-time was needed to decide the U15 Schoolgirls Cup final in which the Rebels edged Bunratty United 2-1. Ella Mai Griffin scored for United but Aoibheann O’Driscoll and Ciara O’Driscoll efforts secured the trophy for Riverside. Bantry Bay Rovers proved competitive throughout the season, thanks in part, to Sophie O’Sullivan’s 20-goal personal haul. Leah O’Shea, Leah Keane, Aisling O’Sullivan, Lauren Connell, Fran Houlihan and Katie Triggs Sharkey were also on target. Kara McCarthy finished as Castlelack’s top scorer with six goals in a season Lucy Hurley found the net seven times for Bunratty United.

GAYNOR CUP: Perhaps the most significant step forward for West Cork schoolgirls’ soccer was the decision to field a U15 inter-league team in the 2021 SFAI Gaynor Cup. Similar to its Kennedy Cup equivalent for U14 schoolboys, the Gaynor Cup is an annual nationwide tournament involving representative teams from every schoolgirl league in the country. 42 players turned up for the West Cork Gaynor Cup assessment trials before a final squad of 23 players was selected to represent the region.

David Hall was in charge of West Cork’s maiden U15 inter-league campaign. West Cork were handed a tough opening group after being drawn against Cork, Kerry, South Tipperary and Limerick County. The squad had only been together as a squad for a few short weeks ahead of their opening game against Cork in Brinny. The home team put in a commendable display before losing out to their more experienced opponents.

A 3-0 loss at home to Kerry in their second outing saw West Cork produce a much-improved performance. Top seeds and eventual group winners South Tipperary proved too strong in Cahir, registering a 6-2 win despite West Cork’s Sophie O’Sullivan and Emma Hurley finding the net.

West Cork made history in their final group outing by claiming their first-ever Gaynor Cup point courtesy of a 2-2 draw with Limerick County. Emma Hurley and Sophie O’Sullivan goals handed West Cork a 2-0 lead. Unfortunately, two late goals saw Limerick County grab a 2-2 draw.

West Cork finished off their first inter-league season in Longford. An understrength West Cork produced a battling display before going down 5-0 in the Gaynor Trophy semi-final. The 2021 West Cork Schoolgirls U15 inter-league squad will go down in history because they put their rural region and schoolgirls’ league on the national football map. A squad of young trailblazers have set the standard for future generations of West Cork Gaynor Cup players to follow.

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