By Ger McCarthy
THE West Cork Schoolboys Inter-League squad finished a creditable 23rd in this year’s New Balance SFAI Kennedy Cup at the University of Limerick last week.
Danny McQueen’s side were unfortunate to not gain a higher placing following a string of impressive displays.
The WCSL recovered from a narrow 1-0 Group 2 loss to North Dublin by delivering superb back-to-back displays on the second day of the SFAI’s most prestigious schoolboys’ tournament.
A deserved 0-0 draw with Limerick District was achieved thanks to a string of fine Adam O’Regan saves and West Cork were quickly back in action, taking on Roscommon in a must-win game later that same afternoon.
Impressively, when the pressure was on, McQueen’s side delivered. Another clean sheet was – taking their record to one goal conceded in all three Group 2 games – pivotal to helping the WCSL break the deadlock with Ardfield’s Darragh Gough finding the net to hand his team a slender interval advantage. Gough rounded off a terrific individual display with an even better strike to solidify a 2-0 victory late in the second period.
Unfortunately, North Dublin’s inability to defeat Limerick District (0-0 draw), having hit the woodwork and wasted a penalty opportunity meant the latter pipped McQueen’s side for second place in the group.
Day three of the SFAI tournament dawned with West Cork facing into a Kennedy Shield quarter-final against Dundalk. Alas, another heroic display with Dunmanway’s Oran McCarthy and Bunratty’s Sam Pickering standing out wasn’t enough to prevent a 1-0 defeat.
That outcome meant a Kennedy Shield placing tie against Munster rivals Clare. A much changed line-up fell behind early on and West Cork’s cause was hindered with injuries to three key players including goalkeeper Sean Parsons, who was playing superbly before being forced off. Clare ran out 4-2 winners with Sam Pickering and James McKnight netting West Cork’s goals.
Day four of the Kennedy Cup saw the WCSL complete their schedule with a 23rd/24th place play-off against a side that defeated them the previous year. This time around, Wicklow were no match for a rejuvenated West Cork.
Drinagh Rangers’ Tom McQueen was rewarded for a productive week in West Cork colours with his side’s opening goal. A brace of goals from club mate Edward Myers rounded off a morale-boosting 3-0 victory.
Yet, the most pleasing aspect of West Cork’s win was the sight of Bantry Bay Rovers’ Ben O’Sullivan making a substitute’s appearance and striking a crossbar to remind everyone present of his undoubted talent.
This year’s West Cork team deserves credit for maintaining a high level of consistency and some of the best goalkeeping and defensive performances of all 32 competing teams.
Goalkeeper Adam O’Regan was voted the Players’ Player of the Tournament while Dunmanway Town’s Oran McCarthy received the manager’s equivalent award.
Results – Kennedy Cup Group 2: NDSL 1 West Cork 0, West Cork 0 Limerick District 0, West Cork 2 Roscommon 0. Kennedy Shield quarter-final: Dundalk 1 West Cork 0. Kennedy Shield: Clare 4 West Cork 2, West Cork 3 Wicklow 0.