THE long wait is almost over for hundreds of young footballers throughout the region as the West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League is gearing up for a return to action next Saturday, June 12th.
Thankfully, all of this summer’s leagues look like going ahead and will be played outdoors including the following age-grades: U11 (mixed schoolboys/schoolgirls’ teams), U12 schoolboys, U12 schoolgirls, U13, U14 and U15 schoolboys, U15 schoolgirls and U16 schoolboys.
‘We have had many consultations with the FAI and SFAI about a safe return to football,’ the WCSSL’s David Hall told The Southern Star.
‘The FAI and SFAI have facilitated us with additional instructions on how to run our U11 League. There will be no cups or shields, just a development league that gives as many fixtures as possible to all the teams involved.
‘With that in mind, our U11 deliverable has been revised for the coming season. That age-grade will now be mixed, schoolboys and schoolgirls, and involve seven-a-side rather than nine-a-side teams. The U11 grade will be organised and run as a development league only.’
Consultations between the WCSSL committee and its clubs have been frequent throughout the past couple of months. Now, a finalised entry-list for multiple age-grades is nearing completion ahead of the publication of a fixture list. Encouragingly, there has been a favourable response to the WCSSL committee’s request for schoolgirls’ teams at the U12 and U15 age-grades.
‘There will be both U12 schoolboys and U12 schoolgirls’ leagues in 2021,’ Hall said.
‘We spoke to all the WCSSL clubs about starting a U14 schoolgirls age-grade. Many of our clubs responded and asked if we could instead facilitate a U15 schoolgirls league as it meant more girls, especially in rural areas, would be able to take part. The West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League committee agreed.
‘As a result of that, we already have four extra girls teams signed up for the coming season. It looks like the WCSSL will be able to run a strong U15 schoolgirls age-grade which is terrific news for helping us promote schoolgirls football in the region.’
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David Hall’s West Cork U13 inter-league squad is busily preparing for their return to SFAI Subway Championship action. There are no confirmed dates for the annual competition that pits U13 inter-league squads against fellow provincial competitors. But Hall and Danny Logan’s team are training twice a week and focussing on a productive campaign.
Ahead of a return to SFAI action, both the West Cork U12 and U13 inter-league squads will travel north of the border on the August bank holiday weekend. Assuming there will be no additional Covid restrictions in place, a panel of 50 U12 and U13 West Cork players will play friendlies in Belfast and Dublin.
‘We are going to take the West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls U12 and U13s squads up to Belfast and will definitely be playing Cliftonville in a friendly next August,’ Hall said.
‘There are two other very strong club sides being lined up for friendlies during the trip as well, we just need to confirm with them.
‘On the way home, our intention is to play a top Dublin schoolboys league club as well but obviously that will all depend on correct Covid protocols being adhered to.
‘The lads had already performed admirably in other friendlies prior to lockdown and most of those games would have been against older U14 teams. The whole idea of going to places like Belfast is to re-emphasise to the players that there are no easy minutes out on the pitch.’
The 2021 West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League U13 Inter-League squad includes Bryan Twomey (Riverside Athletic), Rory Curtin (Castlelack), Donnchadh Hennigan (Dunmanway Town), Sam Logan (Bunratty United), Sam Long (Castlelack), Cillian O’Sullivan (Bantry Bay Rovers), Jack Browne (Kilmichael Rovers), Niall O’Callaghan (Skibbereen), Ryan O’Boy (Bantry Bay Rovers), James Maguire (Clonakilty), Connor Vassallo (Dunmanway Town), Ronan Collins (Skibbereen), Finn O’Mahony (Clonakilty), Tim Sweeney (Kilmichael Rovers), Jerry O’Leary (Clonakilty), James Costello (Clonakilty), Rory O’Neill (Beara United), Adam Barry (Dunmanway Town) and John Mulhall (Bantry Bay Rovers).
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Looking further ahead, the West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League is hoping to run an international Festival of football tournament in West Cork in 2022.
‘Our Festival of Football concept will essentially be an international schoolboys tournament to be held in West Cork,’ David Hall explained.
‘This tournament would act as the West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League’s main preparation heading into the 2022 SFAI Kennedy Cup. We are hoping to involve teams from Northern Ireland,
England, Scotland and Barcelona.
‘I’m delighted to say that we have already secured, in principle, funding from the West Cork Municipal District towards next year’s tournament. We are very gratweful to the West Cork Municipal District for that.’