TADHG MacCarthaigh will ply their trade in the Cork LGFA junior B ranks in 2023 after their hard-earned county junior C title triumph.
Claiming any county trophy requires sacrifice, determination, self-belief and luck. Caheragh needed all those elements and more to survive 25-metre kicks in both 2022 junior C county semi-finals and final.
Before those two seismic moments in the club’s history occurred, we need to go back to the previous January when the Caheragh side’s 2022 odyssey began.
‘It all started last January but had been building over the previous two years,’ captain Kate Barry explained.
‘We have been getting stronger and stronger ever since Tony (O’Driscoll), Kieran (Daly) and John (McCarthy) first got involved.
‘A big panel and massive numbers at training for a club like ours led to huge competition for places over the last couple of years. That’s something we never had before. It is what kickstarted 2022 for us. We had that bit more experience too and became more confident playing together as a team. Everything came together for us in the end.’
Tony O’Driscoll and his selectors oversaw a successful county junior C county-winning campaign. An emerging group of young footballers mixed with a few experienced campaigners enabled the West Cork club to improve with each outing.
‘They are a very easy panel to train as they are always willing to learn,’ O’Driscoll stated.
‘We started out trying to put in place a pattern of play as we are exceptionally a small and young team. Developing a pattern that best suited our strengths started to come together towards the end of last year.
‘So in 2022, the players really bought into what we were doing. We played as a team and not as individuals. A lot of younger players got their chance to play at junior level as well. We have a fantastic bunch, on and off the pitch, the way they conduct themselves and the way that they train.’
One of the talents to emerge from Tadhg MacCarthaigh’s underage set-up and make her mark at adult level is Amy McKennedy. The inter-county star was part of the Cork team that narrowly lost an All-Ireland U16 final to Dublin this past season.
Her rise to her club’s adult team and Cork’s U16 starting 15 underlines the strength of Tadhg MacCarthaigh’s youth ranks. ‘It will be good to be part of the club’s junior B team next year as that will be a great challenge for us,’ McKennedy commented.
‘Reaching junior B is something all of the girls have worked very hard for. I think we are deserving of it even though we still have a lot to prove over the next few years.
‘I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of very good Cork coaches like Lisa Walsh and Dominic Gallagher. They taught me a lot about not just the on-pitch things but the right preparation and correct mindset as well. ‘Club is always going to be the number one for me. That’s where I get to play alongside my friends and represent where I come from.’
Tadhg MacCarthaigh needed every ounce of diligent preparation and concentration when the West Cork club found themselves 13 points down to St Michael’s at an early juncture of this year’s junior C county semi-final.
Digging deep, the Caheragh side rebounded brilliantly to force extra-time and eventually win on 25-metre frees.
Lightning struck twice in the decider as Ballinora and Tadhg MacCarthaigh finished level after normal and extra-time.
That’s when they put their semi-final experience to good use and won 5-4 on free-kicks to be crowned county champions.
‘That semi-final going to free-kicks definitely stood to us against Ballinora in the final,’ Kate Barry admitted.
‘We have an awful habit of starting slowly in games and it was the same in the county semi-final. Against St Michael’s, we didn’t panic which was crucial. We knew that we could mount a comeback.
‘The county final was a completely different story as it was so tight all the way through. We didn’t expect free-kicks for the second game in a row and I don’t know if there is any way to properly prepare for them.
‘Look, we have seen what Castlehaven have done in reaching senior. It is phenomenal what they have achieved in such a short space of time. Tadhg MacCarthaigh are building slowly but, hopefully, can also move up to a higher grade in time to come.’
The last word on a county-winning season goes to Amy McKennedy. The importance of the club’s local community and how they got behind this team was crucial to McKennedy and her teammates' success.
‘We might be a small club but everyone knows one another and is always there for each other,’ McKennedy said.
‘There is always a really good vibe around the club. We got phenomenal support all year and there are a lot of people helping out behind the scenes as well. Everyone gets along in the team and there are very few arguments between players and coaches!’
Tadhg MacCarthaigh winning the 2022 Cork LGFA junior C county title shows what’s possible when a small rural club gets things right on and off the pitch. Roll on 2023.