TEN West Cork players have been selected on this year’s Cork LGFA U16 football panel and will play important roles in the upcoming Munster championship.
The announcement that one third of the 2021 Cork U16 football panel will be made up of West Cork players is a timely reminder of the quality coaching being carried out at club, development academy and inter-county level within the region.
Tadgh MacCarthaigh’s Amy McKennedy and Eleanor Keating earned their place on the Cork squad following consistent performances over the past number of years. The same is true of O’Donovan Rossa’s Lia Hogan, a 2019 U14 All-Ireland winner, and Niamh O’Sullivan who will both be eager to make their mark.
Clonakilty’s Katie O’Driscoll also won an U14 All-Ireland medal in 2019 as did her team-mate Millie Condon. The latter is one of seven Cork U16 football and camogie dual players taking to the field this year. Bandon’s Niamh Cotter and Ilen Rovers’ Leah Carey possess bags of talent and were part of last season’s Cork U14 panel. Castlehaven goalkeeper Ciara Dennehy and Kinsale’s Caoimhe Heffernan will make their Cork inter-county debuts in 2021 and both are deserving call-ups.
Manager Denis Mulvihill is pleased to have finalised his inter-county panel following a series of trials that involved between 250 and 300 participants. The Valley Rovers clubman and his management team have a busy couple of months ahead.
‘We have six weeks until the start of the Munster U16 LGFA Championship,’ the Cork manager explained.
‘There is a lot of work to do and even though you might have an idea of your starting team, things always change. You see different things in training and different players step up to take their opportunity. There are six girls from last year’s U16 panel involved again so that’s a nice core to have.
‘What’s immediately apparent is the fact so much talent is coming through from the underage ranks. Cork will have 16 girls born in 2005 and 14 born in 2006 so that bodes well for next year as well.’
Mulvihill knows the West Cork ladies football underage scene well from his time coaching Valley Rovers’ adult and youth teams. The fact there are ten players from the region lining up at U16 inter-county level comes as no surprise to him.
‘It is fantastic to see so many West Cork girls making the U16 panel but totally deserved,’ Mulvihill said.
‘We have two girls, Amy McKennedy and Eleanor Keating, from Tadgh MacCarthaigh and we have never had girls from that club involved before. They are two strong, talented players and we have ten in total out of the West Cork division. That matches the East Cork division’s representation which has been very strong in producing inter-county players over the last few years.
‘It is good to see all the development work in West Cork starting to pay off. All those girls are there on merit and they have the talent. There is a good blend too, in terms of forwards and defenders plus we have a goalkeeper from Castlehaven, Ciara Dennehy, which is also nice to see.’
The draw for the 2021 Munster LGFA U16 Championship sees Cork taking on Kerry and Tipperary in Group A while Clare, Waterford and Limerick will contest Group B. Each county plays one another once in their respective groups before the top two in Group A progress to the Munster U16 A final. The Group B winners will take on whoever finishes third in Group A in the Munster U16 B decider. The second and third placed Group B teams will contest the Munster U16 C final.
Mulvihill’s side begin their Munster Group A campaign against Tipperary on July 21st before meeting old rivals Kerry on August 4th. This year’s Munster U16 A final is pencilled in for August 21st.
Disappointingly, the Ladies Gaelic Football Association(LGFA) has elected not to run U14, U16 and minor football All-Ireland championships in 2021. That means there will be no All-Ireland semi-final or finals for the winners of the Munster, Leinster, Ulster and Connacht championships. At most, that would have been two additional games for each provincial winner.
‘I was very surprised at the LGFA’s decision,’ Mulvihill admitted.
‘To be fair to Cork LGFA, they have come out very strongly against it. The main view the LGFA had was that we would be using these girls too much at U16 level. The thing is, the Camogie Association is running an All-Ireland series at the U16 age-grade plus a provincial series later on this year.
‘That is the same (U16) age-group, the same age-profile so it is a bit disappointing from the LGFA in that regard. We are still holding out and have a small bit of hope that the decision (not to run an All-Ireland football series) will be overturned. Two more games are all we are looking for, a semi-final and final. Hopefully, someone will see that there is a way around getting that done.
‘Otherwise, we will have a serious fall-off in playing numbers as that will be two years in a row without any U16 All-Ireland inter-county football. That’s just not acceptable.’
The 2021 Cork LGFA U16 squad includes: Áine Hallihan (Lisgoold), Amy McKennedy (Tadgh MacCarthaigh), Amy Sheppard (St Val’s), Aoibhinn O’Neill (Erin’s Own), Ava Barry (Bride Rovers), Ava Fitzgerald (Glanmire), Ava Healy (Killshannig), Brianna Smith (Aghada), Caoimhe Fraher (Nemo Rangers), Caoimhe Heffernan (Kinsale), Caoimhe Richmond (Glanmire), Ciara Dennehy (Castlehaven), Ciara Morrison (Bride Rovers), Ciara O’Brien (Éire Óg), Eabha Curran (Nemo Rangers), Edel Sheehan (Éire Óg), Eleanor Keating (Tadhg MacCarthaigh), Katie O’Driscoll (Clonakilty), Keely Goulding (Rockbán), Leah Carey (Ilen Rovers), Lia Heffernan (St Mary’s), Lia Hogan (O’Donovan Rossa), Liadh McMahon (St Val’s), Lily Murray (Bride Rovers), Millie Condon (Clonakilty), Niamh Cotter (Bandon), Niamh McNabola (St Val’s), Niamh O’Sullivan (O’Donovan Rossa), Orlaith Walsh (Glanmire) and Shauna Sheehan (Éire Óg).