Recently it was International Women’s Day and to celebrate West Cork sportswomen’s incredible achievements in recent times, KIERAN McCARTHY counts down the region’s top 10 current stars. From a world champion to an Irish record holder, this shows why the west’s women are the best around
10. MARIA NAGLE – developing into one of the top road bowlers in the country, the Rosscarbery woman won the All-Ireland intermediate title in 2019 and will compete in the senior ranks this year. The UCC student has won All-Ireland underage titles on the way up, as well as a gold medal in youths at the 2016 Europeans. Maria has already earned her spot on the Ireland team for the 16th European Bowling Championships in Germany this May so the 20-year-old will look to make her mark on the international scene again.
9. DEIRDRE GOGGIN – the Goleen woman has been one of the top jockeys in local road-trotting and harness-racing for the last number of years, and she was bang in form again in the recent road-trotting season. In a male-dominated sport, Deirdre is consistently in the winner’s enclosure and she is a former Jockey of the Year Award winner. The experienced Deirdre is one of the best in the business and her haul of late includes a double at home in Goleen when she won the leading jockey award.
8. ENYA BREEN – the Skibbereen woman (20) is the youngest player in the top ten and she’s here to stay. The rising rugby star made her Ireland senior debut in last year’s Six Nations and has four caps to her name. UL student Enya is regarded as one of the brightest prospects in Irish women’s rugby with Munster Women’s head coach Laura Guest explaining: ‘She has a bit of everything – great balance, superb strength, plenty of pace, good footwork and more than anything else at that level, she has a brain.’ Enya will get better and better with Munster and Ireland, and can inspire a wave of young West Cork women to follow in her footsteps.
7. LIBBY COPPINGER – the St Colum’s club woman is the jewel in West Cork’s dual crown as she splits her time between football and camogie. It’s not easy being a dual player at the highest level but Libby makes it work. Cork camogie boss Paudie Murray felt Libby had her best year yet with his side last season, and already this year she’s impressing for the Cork footballers, scoring a crucial goal in a Division 1 league win against Mayo. Hard-working and industrious, she covers plenty of ground for both Cork teams, and juggles the demands of both codes.
6. MELISSA DUGGAN – she only started playing football at U14 level, her underage inter-county career consists of one season at minor, and yet Melissa is one of the best defenders in ladies’ football. This is only Melissa’s fourth season as a Cork senior but she’s already one of the most important players. The Dohenys star (23) picked up her first All-Star award last year, was named 2019 Munster Ladies Footballer of the Year and helped her club to county junior B glory.
5. DENISE WALSH – the former European silver medallist (2017) looks likely to miss out on the Olympics this year, but there can be no overlooking what the Skibbereen rower has achieved in recent times. The 27-year-old is a former world single scull finalist and has been the country’s top women’s lightweight sculler in recent years. In a time where Gary and Paul O’Donovan dominated headlines, Denise made sure she represented rowing’s women on the international stage.
4. ORLA FINN – the two-time All-Star forward from Kinsale is one of the best footballers in the country and has been for several years. She was joint top scorer in last season’s championship and her form is key for Cork this summer as they chase down the top prize. The complete forward, the 28-year-old is fast, can kick off either leg, intelligent, has great vision and is calm in all situations. Orla’s mind-set helps to set her apart too – she has an insatiable desire to play every game. A class act on and off the field.
3. ORLA CRONIN – ‘As a centre forward she has the best movement that I have seen in that position, and I include hurlers in that’ – the words of Cork senior camogie manager Paudie Murray recently. UCC student Orla is only 24 years old, already has four All-Ireland senior medals, and she is getting better every season. The best centre forward in camogie right now, the Enniskeane woman is on an upward trajectory. Back in 2017, she was player of the game in the All-Ireland final, and it’s baffling how she hasn’t won an All-Star yet.
2. LILY DE LA COUR – We don’t use the term superstar lightly, but Lily is a superstar in the world of kickboxing. The Bantry woman has won every medal there is to win, including World and European gold at junior and senior levels, which is a phenomenal achievement. A former winner of the West Cork Sports Star of the Year Award, Lily (25) is a terrific ambassador for West Cork on and off the mat. For what she has achieved, she deserves more recognition nationally because we’re dealing with one of the country’s best-ever kickboxers.
1. PHIL HEALY – it has to be the Ballineen bullet, the fastest woman ever in West Cork. The 25-year-old queen of Irish athletics holds the 100m and 200m outdoor national records and the 200m indoor record too – and she is getting faster and faster. Phil is in a good position to qualify to represent Ireland in the 200m at the Tokyo Olympic Games. The Bandon AC star is also the fastest European woman over 200m indoors this year and she wants to take that speed into the outdoor season.