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OFF THE CENTRE CIRCLE: Injuries and emigration the bane of Beara and Bantry 

October 20th, 2021 3:16 PM

By Ger McCarthy

Bantry Blues' Eve Murphy and Beara's Ciara Hanley in a battle for possession during a championship clash las year. Photo: Paddy Feen

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Beara and Bantry Blues have suffered unexpectedly disappointing Cork LGFA seasons but possess enough raw material to bounce back in 2022.

It has already been quite the season for West Cork clubs across the Cork LGFA adult grades. At the top, Kinsale have reached a county senior A semi-final for the first time in the club’s illustrious history. Clonakilty’s first year up at senior has resulted in a productive league campaign and three battling championship performances plus the prospect of a positive run in the senior B compeition.

Valley Rovers and Rosscarbery are through to this weekend’s county intermediate semi-finals, Castlehaven and Dohenys look set to battle it out for the junior A crown and O’Donovan Rossa are already through to the 2021 county junior B decider.

Tadhg Mac Carthaigh (junior C) and Bandon (junior E) are also experiencing positive campaigns along with a host of the region’s other ladies football clubs further down the ranks.

That’s what makes Beara and Bantry Blues struggles all the more difficult to comprehend against the backdrop of such positivity and improved West Cork club performances and results.

Two ladies football clubs with proud histories and who have recently fielded inter-county players like Niamh Cotter, Clare O’Shea and Áine Terry O’Sullivan (all Beara) plus Emma Spillane and Eve Murphy (Bantry Blues) are experiencing troubling times.

Southern Star Sports Editor Kieran McCarthy recently spoke to Beara LGFA secretary Mary Power about the club’s decision to re-grade from intermediate to junior A for the 2022 championship.

Yet, that decision meant no club football for Beara’s ladies in 2021. By their own admission, Beara have struggled for form at intermediate level and would have re-graded but for a preventive ruling. Beara were not allowed re-grade for the previous three years because they possessed three county players even though their availability to their club was extremely limited.

Bantry Blues’ struggles at the same grade have proven just as frustrating. Back in 2020, the Blues defeated Beara (2-11 to 0-4) and only lost out on an intermediate semi-final berth following gut-wrenching losses to both Rosscarbery (2-8 to 0-10) and Donoughmore (0-13 to 2-6).

Drawn in Group 2 of this year’s championship, a chastening 4-7 to 2-0 defeat at the hands of West Cork rivals Rosscarbery was followed by an inability to field a team in their final group game away to Araglen Desmonds Buí.

There were mitigating circumstances, not least the unavailability of a host of influential Bantry players. Inside the past six months, the Blues lost the services of Eve Murphy (Cork senior), Lucy Cotter and Mairead Dullea to cruciate ligament injuries. Other starters such as Rachel Murphy, Ellen O’Sullivan and Leah Murphy moved abroad while another mainstay, Amy Dineen, was out injured.

Any ladies football team would suffer with the combined loss of so many experienced players and Bantry is no different. Too many absentees along with that growing injury-list meant Bantry were simply struggling for adequate playing numbers and had little choice but to hand Araglen Desmonds Buí a walkover, effectively ending their season.

So, it has been a frustrating conclusion to this year’s campaign for Bantry Blues LGFA’s management, players and supporters. Yet perhaps this is the wake-up call the club needed to regroup and move forward with purpose. There are too many dedicated people, on and off the pitch, involved with Beara and Bantry ladies football clubs for that not to happen next year.

It is also worth noting that, despite their setbacks at the intermediate grade, Bantry managed to successfully field a second and much younger team at junior level this year. Bantry Blues B completed all their fixtures in the Division 2B League and Championship offering fresh hope for the club’s long-term future. Beara’s and Bantry’s underage setups are also in a healthy state and should provide a new generation of players over the coming years.

Amalgamations with local clubs going through similar predicaments have been mentioned in the recent past yet amounted to nothing. Modern-day mergers have proven successful for some West Cork GAA and Camogie clubs but only time will tell if such moves are feasible between local LGFA setups.

There is little doubt that the return to normality from Covid’s unexpected grip is beginning to have an effect on rural towns including Castletownbere and Bantry.

Gone are the days of ladies football squad midweek training sessions with 20 players togged out and replaced by an increasing number of students heading back to college and others returning to their places of work outside the county bounds and beyond. Dwindling numbers allied with mounting injuries is making life increasingly difficult for clubs throughout the region.

Yet, there is every hope that next year will be better with fewer restrictions and the availability of previously injured and absent players. Beara and Bantry Blues LGFA have certainly earned the right to put 2021 behind them and return to former glories.

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