BRIAN McCarthy knows the size of the challenge ahead of West Cork in Saturday's county senior football final at CIT (4pm) – but he’s not frightened of it.
Mourneabbey are the best team in Cork ladies’ football, their consistency speaks for itself, but the West Cork manager is confident that the divisional team can send shockwaves through club football.
‘This is a huge challenge but we will be up for it,’ he says.
‘These are the games that we want to be involved with. We’re taking on a team that has won four titles in a row and is going for their fifth. They are the best club team in Cork so that’s our challenge, to beat them.
‘But we are good enough. We always said that if West Cork got its act together then the players are good enough to get to a county final and now that we are there, we feel we are good enough to win.’
McCarthy, along with Denny Enright and Anne O’Grady, have developed this team over the past three seasons. They lost semi-finals in 2016 (against Mourneabbey) and 2017 (against St Vals), but now they’ve taken the next step and qualified for a county final. That was important in the team’s development.
‘This is an indication of what’s happening in club football in West Cork, and the clubs and coaches deserve huge credit,’ McCarthy says.
Picking from ten clubs across the division, this West Cork team is constantly evolving, losing its Bantry contingent in 2016 and its Kinsale players last year, as both clubs went up to senior. When West Cork and Mourneabbey last met in 2017, the divisional side won 5-12 to 0-13 – but it’s a different team now.
‘When we played them last we had the Kinsale players on board,’ McCarthy explained.
‘What we have done this year is build on last year, but Mourneabbey will have their research done on us like we will have on them. We know what to expect – a ferocious battle against arguably the best team in the country considering they consistently reach All-Ireland semi-finals and finals.’
Key to a West Cork win in Saturday’s final at CIT will be matching a Mourneabbey team that will be driven on by sisters Ciara and Doireann O’Sullivan. McCarthy knows this.
‘If we start on Saturday like we did against Éire Óg last Saturday then we are in trouble and the game will be over by half time. Mourneabbey will start all guns blazing and we need to match that and impose ourselves on the game early,’ he says.
‘You have to match Mourneabbey’s determination and their football know-how. Tactically, they are very aware and our in-game management needs to be at the highest level if we want to win. This is where our more experienced players need to guide our younger players.’ Even for West Cork’s more seasoned players, Cork stars like Martina O’Brien, Melissa Duggan, Áine Terry O’Sullivan, Libby Coppinger and the returned Niamh Cotter, playing in a senior county final is a new experience. Their role is key, as is a management team that has tweaked its attacking football philosophy from 2016 to suit its needs.
‘As we have progressed year after year we look at the players we have and we put a system in place that works to our strengths,’ McCarthy explains.
‘That might not be as open and as attacking as the first year but we have a system that works for each individual girl and that they are comfortable in that system, to get the max out of them. If we have to play slightly defensive at times, we’ll do that. If we have to be very attack minded, we’ll do that. We don’t get together as much as a club like Mourneabbey can but we make the best of our circumstances.’
McCarthy is confident that West Cork’s best will be good enough on Saturday.