Meet the talented West Cork sportswomen who can grab the headlines in 2021

January 21st, 2021 3:30 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Ireland sprint record holder Phil Healy is closing in on the Olympics in Tokyo.

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Here are the West Cork sportswomen we think can grab the headlines in 2021


ENYA BREEN (RUGBY): The 21-year-old, who lives in Castletownshend, is regarded as one of the brightest talents in Irish women’s rugby and, heading into her third year at international level, she wants to keep improving. The Women’s Six Nations and World Cup qualification are two huge targets this year.

AOIFE CASEY (ROWING): The Skibbereen rower – daughter of Rowing Ireland lightweight coach Dominic Casey – is in the mix to get into the Irish women’s lightweight double that has the chance to qualify for this summer’s rescheduled Olympic Games. The last-chance Olympic qualification regatta is due to be held in mid-May. Casey competed in the Irish double alongside Margaret Cremen at the 2020 senior European Championships.

MEGAN COLLINS (ROAD BOWLING): The Crossbarry road bowler has come desperately close to winning the women’s senior county championship title in recent years, so could 2021 be her breakthrough year at the highest level? She has pedigree having conquered both U18 and intermediate along the way.

LIBBY COPPINGER (FOOTBALL & CAMOGIE): An unfortunate injury just before the inter-county season kicked into gear last October meant we never got to see could the St Colum’s woman take her terrific form from the county senior football championship with West Cork into the All-Ireland championship. One of Cork’s last remaining dual stars, it’s always a challenge to give enough time to both codes, so it’s a credit to her that she has juggled both so well in recent years. A defender with Cork camogie and a forward with Cork football, potentially a big season awaits.

NIAMH COTTER (FOOTBALL): A back injury suffered early in 2020 meant the Glengarriff woman never got up and running fully last season with the Cork footballers so she’ll be eager to prove her worth this year. In form she’s a big asset to the Rebels, adding a physicality that they need, so she’ll be hoping for an injury-free run to force her way back into the starting 15.

ORLA CRONIN (CAMOGIE): The standout Cork camogie player last season up to the All-Ireland senior semi-final, the Enniskeane star will want to drive on again this year and take the next step. She has the ability to become one of the top ten players in the country, and that looks to be within her reach. If she can build on last season’s form and become even more influential, Cronin’s stock will continue to soar.

CHRISTINA DESMOND (BOXING): Having missed out on her first chance to qualify for the Olympics the Cill na Martra boxer still has a second chance to book her tickets to the Games this year, all going well. Her pedigree is unquestionable, having won two national titles in 2019, and the talented southpaw has the ability to make an impact again in 2021.

MELISSA DUGGAN (FOOTBALL): The Doheny clubwoman’s remarkable rise in recent seasons now sees her regarded as one of the finest footballers in the country. An All-Star defender who does her talking on the pitch, each season she becomes more important to Cork and if the Rebels are to end Dublin’s dominance, then Duggan will be at the heart of the title challenge.

JOAN HEALY (ATHLETICS): The 28-year-old sprinter already has the qualifying time to represent Ireland in the women’s 60 metres at the European Indoors in Poland in March, if they go ahead. Before that, the Irish indoor championships are pencilled in for February 20th/21st. Joan is also hoping to qualify the Irish women’s 4x100m relay team for the Olympic Games, with the World Relays in Poland in May the key event. There is also the national outdoor championship and the European Athletics Team Championships to look forward to. It’s shaping up to be a busy year.

PHIL HEALY (ATHLETICS): The Ballineen bullet is on target to represent Ireland in the 200 metres at the summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, provided they get the green light. There’s also the possibility that she could qualify for the women’s 400 metres, but the 200 is her priority. Phil is qualified to run in the 400m at the European Indoors in March, and before that has the Irish indoor championships next month. It’s a big year for the 26-year-old queen of Irish sprinting.

LYDIA HEAPHY (ROWING): The Leap woman, who won a European U23 gold medal in 2020, is in the mix to make the Irish women’s lightweight double that has a chance to qualify for the summer’s Olympics. Another target for the Skibbereen rower would be the push for medals in the lightweight single.

EMILY HEGARTY (ROWING): The Skibbereen rower is another who has the chance to represent Ireland at this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo. Part of the Irish women’s heavyweight group, the Irish women’s pair boat is already qualified and the hope is the Irish women’s four will also qualify, which would increase the UCC student’s chances of going to the Games.

FIONA KEATING (FOOTBALL & CAMOGIE): One of the rising stars of Cork GAA, the dual star (19) will be keen to build on her progress last year that saw her win county senior football (West Cork) and camogie (Courcey Rovers) titles, as well as be involved with the senior county football and camogie teams – and she featured in the senior championship for Paudie Murray’s camogie side.

LAURA SHEEHAN (RUGBY): Just last week the Urhan woman signed for Exeter Chiefs Women’s team as she looks to step up her bid to be involved with the Irish women’s senior rugby team in their World Cup qualification bid this year. The speedy winger has four senior caps to her name.

MARIA NAGLE (ROAD BOWLING): The 2019 All-Ireland women’s intermediate road bowling champion has a very impressive and trophy-laden CV behind her, and this year, her first foray at senior level, will be watched with interest. Can the Rosscarbery bowler make an instant impact at the highest level? It’s tough at the top, but Nagle could prove a tricky opponent.

NICOLA TUTHILL (ATHLETICS): The youngest on this list, but here by merit after her heroics in 2020 saw the Bandon AC athlete, as a 16-year-old, win senior gold in the women’s hammer at the national championships. It was her first senior national title and she won in style, by setting a new personal best in the women’s hammer and smashing the Irish U18 women’s hammer record. She will hope to build on that this year.

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