O’DONOVAN Rossa bounced back from their previous year’s county final defeat to deservedly claim the 2021 Cork LGFA junior B title.
Twelve months on from a disappointing county final loss to arch-rivals Castlehaven, the Skibbereen club stamped their ticket to the junior A ranks following a terrific campaign which culminated in a county final victory over Watergrasshill.
Rossa’s triumph was far from straightforward. Derek Tobin’s panel had to overcome Covid-19 lockdowns and a tough championship draw before atoning for their previous season’s frustrations. Yet, their determination to gain promotion to the junior A grade and build on a strong underage set-up delivered success after a Covid-affected start to the year.
‘A lot of our activities during lockdown were player driven,’ O’Donovan Rossa’s Christine Fitzgerald outlined.
‘We conducted a lot of Zoom sessions and each week a player had to come up with a different session. That was great because everyone had different ideas and it worked really well. The management team gave us runs to complete to make sure we kept up our fitness levels. That meant the squad came back to training pretty fit, or so we thought anyway.
‘We were certainly put through our paces immediately after lockdown was over! Our new strength and conditioning coach, Conor Kelleher, made sure we would be ready for the league and county championship.’
The draw for the 2021 Cork LGFA junior B championship pitted O’Donovan Rossa in a qualification group with Rockbán, Midleton and Bishopstown. The West Cork side put up 7-10 in their opening win over Rockbán but lost a close encounter, 2-10 to 3-5, to Midleton in their second outing.
Another big scoring feat, 6-13, in seeing off Bishopstown saw Laura O’Mahony top-score with 2-3. That meant Rossas, Midleton and Rockbán finished level on an identical record of two wins, one loss and six points apiece. Only two teams could go through to the semi-finals so scoring difference came into play which meant the West Cork side finished first (+46) and Rockbán second (-2).
‘I remember that Midleton match, everyone was waiting for someone to make the first move, make something happen, but no one did,’ Cork senior and O’Donovan Rossa stalwart Laura O’Mahony commented.
‘We were waiting and waiting to get going but never did. That loss to Midleton was the kick up the ass we needed to prove why we couldn’t be complacent at any time in the junior B championship. It showed we still had a huge amount of work to do if we were going to have any hope of winning the championship.’
Nemo Rangers were O’Donovan Rossa’s county semi-final opponents but a newfound resilience and playing at home enabled the West Cork side to come out on top. The Skibbereen club were 0-9 to 0-3 ahead at the interval and booked their county final appearance thanks to 2-13 to 0-5 victory. Kate O’Donovan (0-6), Mallaidh O’Neill (0-3), Emer McCarthy and Fionnuala O’Driscoll (1-0 each), Laura O’Mahony, Triona Murphy, Fiona Leonard and Jessica Beechinor were on the O’Donovan Rossa scoresheet that afternoon.
An undefeated Watergrasshill awaited the Skibb side in the 2021 county junior B decider, and were expected to provide O’Donovan Rossa with their stiffest test of the campaign.
‘The squad was in a good place and really looking forward to the county final,’ Kate O’Donovan stated.
‘I remember the last few training sessions coming up to the final, they were really good, really intense and everyone brought their ‘A game’. There was a proper big-match intensity brought to those training sessions before the county final. It stood to us.
‘Everyone was confident heading in to the Watergrasshill game and just wanted to enjoy it.’
O’Donovan Rossa certainly enjoyed their 2021 county final appearance, winning 1-15 to 1-7 and gaining promotion to the junior A ranks. Kate O’Donovan had an afternoon to remember, kicking nine points with Triona Murphy also netting an important goal. Laura O’Mahony and Mallaidh O’Neill (0-2 each), Emer McCarthy and Christine Fitzgerald (0-1 each) also scored on a day Kate O’Donovan will never forget.
‘It was nice to get the nine points alright but the girls are the ones who have to work the ball up to me,’ Kate O’Donovan added. ‘We worked very hard on getting the ball forward, through the channels, in training all year. They had to do all the dirty work and I just got to finish off a few of those moves.’
The O’Donovan Rossa celebrations went long into the night and much of the following week. Those celebrations were well deserved.
Manager Derek Tobin and his team consisting of James O’Mahony, Katrina Conway, Ger O’Brien and Michael McCarthy played a huge role in the club’s 2021 success and preceding years. O’Donovan Rossa’s players were eager to pay tribute to their dedicated management team.
‘Derek really understands his players and his dedication is unbelievable,’ Christine Fitzgerald added. ‘Nobody knows the total amount of hours Derek actually put in to the club, at adult and underage, this year but it must be something unbelievable. He always finds ways to improve his players.’
There is much for O’Donovan Rossa to look forward to in 2022, not least the prospect of a potential junior A championship derby with Dohenys. Onwards and upwards.