BY GER McCARTHY
THE West Cork Schoolboys’ League enjoyed a marvellous Galway Cup campaign by finishing sixth in the Elite U13 age-grade in Galway last week.
Taking part in the prestigious tournament for the first time, the WCSL built on their terrific U14 squad’s 11th-place Kennedy Cup finish earlier this summer by winning three of their five Galway Cup fixtures.
A headline-grabbing triumph over the North Dublin Schoolboys League (NDSL) and penalty shootout win over Kildare were the highlights of West Cork’s five-day campaign and something coaches Dan McSweeney (Bunratty United) and Ian Pickering (Leeside) hope to build on ahead of the WCSL Emerging Talent Programme’s imminent return in September.
‘We are absolutely over the moon with the entire squad’s efforts at the Galway Cup,’ commented Dan McSweeney.
‘Despite the fact everyone is gutted at having lost the Galway plate final in our final game, overall this squad has improved immeasurably over the past 12 months. Things didn’t go our way in the 1-0 plate final loss to North Tipperary but we couldn’t have asked for more from the lads during our week here in Galway.’
Drawn in the highly-competitive U13 Elite grade and a tough opening group, the WCSL began with a magnificent 2-1 defeat of the NDSL. Skibbereen’s Isaac Harte opened the scoring courtesy of a marvellous goal and Ciarán Santry put the seal on a famous 2-1 victory with a well-taken effort.
West Cork followed up that win with an equally impressive 1-0 triumph over Cavan-Monaghan later that evening, Isaac Harte netting his second goal in as many games to make it maximum points from the WCSL’s opening fixtures. A narrow 1-0 defeat to Mervue United saw West Cork finish second in their group and qualify for a plate semi-final against Kildare.
Sullane’s Daniel Kelly handed the WCSL an early 1-0 lead but a Kildare equaliser saw an exciting encounter end 1-1. Penalties were necessary to decide the outcome and Skibbereen goalkeeper Micheal Sheehy emerged as West Cork’s hero, saving three spot-kicks while Jack Kevane, Ciarán Santry and Isaac Harte each converted to cement a 3-2 win.
North Tipperary edged a closely-fought Galway plate final 1-0 but West Cork’s overall efforts and sixth-place finish saw the region’s best U13 players emerge as one of the most talked about teams at this year’s tournament.
‘Our main aim as coaches when we started training these lads over three years ago was to develop a squad where we could bring on any player that wouldn’t weaken the side,’ said WCSL coach Ian Pickering.
‘I’m happy to say that we’ve achieved that goal following our entire squad’s contribution in finishing sixth at the Galway Cup.
‘This past week has proven to be a huge stepping stone in the lads’ development. Being able to dig deep against quality opposition will stand to the players who travelled to Galway and their future looks a lot brighter which is encouraging news for West Cork football.’
The West Cork Schoolboys’ League 2016 Galway Cup squad included Micheál Sheehy (Skibbereen), Dylan McCarthy (Bantry Bay Rovers), Seamus O’Mahony (Ardfield), Daniel Kelly (Sullane), Ciarán Santry (Ardfield), Ciarán Hurley (Lyre Rovers), Sean Lawless (Ardfield), Martin O’Sullivan (Sullane), Jack Kevane (Ardfield), Robbie Minihane (Skibbereen), Robert McCarthy (Castlelack), James O’Neill (Skibbereen), Isaac Harte (Skibbereen), Peadar O’Rourke (Ardfield), Tim McCarthy (Lyre Rovers), Niall Keane (Ardfield), Paddy O’Driscoll (Bunratty United), Conor Daly (Lyre Rovers), Thomás O’Mahony (Skibbereen).