THE West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League has been handed a tough draw in the revamped 2021 SFAI Kennedy Cup.
Traditionally held for a week every summer in the University of Limerick, the SFAI Kennedy Cup will go ahead later this year but in a much-changed format.
Covid-19 put paid to last summer’s tournament where 32 schoolboys leagues from all over the country were scheduled to take part in an intense five-day get-together at UL.
Recently, the SFAI held a draw the 2021 edition of the prestigious tournament involving eight regionalised groups. Four (graded) schoolboys leagues were placed in each group to face off against each other in a round-robin format.
At the conclusion of the group phase, draws for the Kennedy Cup quarter-finals (all first-placed group teams), Kennedy Bowl quarter-finals (second-placed group teams), Kennedy Shield quarter-finals finals (third-placed group teams) and Kennedy Trophy quarter-finals (fourth-placed group teams) will take place.
West Cork has been drawn in Group E against Clare, West Waterford East Cork (WWEC) and Cork. No easy fixtures but plenty to look forward to for WCSSL head coach Áine O’Donovan, her management team and players.
‘We are really happy that the SFAI Kennedy Cup is going ahead,’ O’Donovan said.
‘Lorne Edmead, Ross Smyth, Sean Spenser and I have been working together with this group of West Cork players for over a year now. Everything got cancelled last year so we are delighted to have dates and opponents to plan for now.
‘We have played a few friendlies but, for me personally, nothing beats a competitive fixture. That’s what every player wants, especially at Kennedy Cup level, albeit in a different format. The competitive side is where you want to be.’
This year’s Kennedy Cup will not take place during an intense week at its usual single location in UL. The new regionalised format has not diminished excitement levels within West Cork’s squad.
‘Every one of the West Cork players wants to make the match-day squad since the fixtures were announced,’ O’Donovan said.
‘Now our players have goals to work towards. Every player will want to be the best they can be when we start against Clare in early September. The players will want to come home with three points and sitting on top of the table following that first weekend.
‘The draw has given the management team and players a focus. We know what we have to do. Hopefully, by the end of October, West Cork will be top of their group. Then it is a case of driving on for the knockout stages of the Kennedy Cup. That would be a massive achievement for the lads especially how they have applied themselves during all the lockdowns.
‘The lads have been a brilliant bunch to work with since we were allowed return to the training pitches. Now we need to move on to the next stage. Come September 11th or 12th, all the past year’s work will lead up to that first game.’
West Cork kick off their Kennedy Cup campaign away to Clare on September 11th or 12th. Two home fixtures will follow, beginning with the visit of WWEC on October 2nd or 3rd before finishing off with Cork’s arrival on October 23rd or 24th.
‘Whatever about the two other Munster teams, Clare and the WWEC in our group, having our local rivals Cork come to West Cork will be a special occasion,’ O’Donovan said.
‘You would hope that the West Cork soccer community will get behind this year’s Kennedy Cup squad. Obviously, the Cork game is our last group match. We hope the lads will be able to perform on the day as it will be a big occasion for them.
‘Cork are renowned as a top team but West Cork can perform well against anyone. They are a very hardworking squad and we hope they get plenty of support for both our Kennedy Cup home fixtures after all the effort they have put in this year.’
The 2021 WCSSL Kennedy Cup squad includes Jack Hennigan, Jack Coomey, Adam Sexton, Adam O’Donovan, Dylan Heaton-Jones, Luke Murphy, Paddy Collins, Mike Crowley, Fintan O’Brien, Mark McCarthy, Alex Coughlan, Danny O’Donovan, Olan Murphy, Jamie Dullea, Rory McCarthy, Jason Murray, Eoin Keohane, Euan Lehane, Gearoid Coughlan, Matt Daly, Luke O’Sullivan and Ogie Walsh.