HISTORY will be made when the West Cork Schoolgirls League makes its first-ever SFAI Gaynor Cup appearance in Brinny on Saturday.
The West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League committee’s decision to organise U12 and U15 schoolgirls’ leagues has been one of the region’s sporting success stories of 2021.
Bantry Bay Rovers claimed the U12 schoolgirls title following victory over main title-rivals Skibbereen in their final game. The U15 schoolgirls league has also gone down to the final match of season between Riverside Rebels and Drinagh Rangers.
On the back of those domestic successes, a decision was taken to hold trials to see if there was enough interest in forming and entering a West Cork U15 schoolgirls inter-league team in the annual SFAI Gaynor Cup. Incredibly, 42 players turned up for the West Cork Gaynor Cup assessment trials before a final squad of 23 players was selected to represent their region.
Similar to its Kennedy Cup equivalent, the Gaynor Cup is an annual nationwide tournament involving representative teams from every schoolgirls’ league in the country.
This year’s Gaynor Cup has been regionalised because of Covid. The winners from each provincial group will progress to the national (knock-out) phase of the competition. Subsequent group placings will dictate which additional Gaynor knockout competitions that competing leagues next enter.
Unfortunately, the draw has been anything but kind to West Cork in their first Gaynor Cup campaign. First up is a meeting with one of the country’s strongest squads, Cork, on Saturday, 26th, in Brinny. Cork won the last Gaynor Cup tournament held back in 2019 and will start as one of the favourites to win the competition outright once again this year.
Intriguingly, Skibbereen’s Meabh Collins will line out against West Cork as part of the Cork U15 team this weekend. Skibb have been playing in the Cork Schoolgirls League for the past few years as there was no West Cork Schoolgirls League equivalent for them to compete in until this past season.
Following their opening joust with Cork, the WCSSL face into a second consecutive Munster derby at home to Kerry in early October. An away trip to Tipperary South will be held at the end of that month. West Cork’s final group match is away to Limerick County in mid-November.
The WCSSL’s first year competing at Gaynor Cup level will not be judged by results. Players drawn from the Bantry Bay Rovers, Bunratty United, Castlelack, Drinagh Rangers and Riverside Athletic clubs are making a huge step up in quality and set to face some of the best schoolgirls league players in the country. Yet, win, lose or draw, these young West Cork trailblazers will set the standard for future generations of Gaynor Cup squads to follow.
The 2021 WCSSL Gaynor Cup squad includes Sophie O’Sullivan (Bantry), Aisling O’Sullivan (Bantry), Fran Houlihan (Bantry), Rebecca Keane (Bantry), Ruth O’Sullivan (Bantry), Lucy Hurley (Bunratty), Abbey Sheehan (Castlelack), Carmel Coakley (Drinagh), Emma Hurley (Drinagh), Monica Craig (Castlelack), Oliwia Skrzynska (Castlelack), Caoimhe Hurley (Drinagh), Meabh O’Brien (Riverside), Kellie Doolan (Drinagh), Niamh Collins (Drinagh), Grace McCarthy (Riverside), Erin McCarthy (Riverside), Niamh Wiseman (Bunratty), Ly Burgoyne (Riverside), Aibhienne O’Driscoll (Riverside), Kara McCarthy (Castlelack), Aimee Doolan (Drinagh) and Sinead Crowley (Riverside).