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West Cork U15s impress against Burnley and Wigan in friendlies

March 1st, 2023 4:30 PM

By Ger McCarthy

The West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League Academy U15 Schoolboys squad with Republic of Ireland senior international manager Stephen Kenny at Wigan Athletic's ground during the region's mid-term trip to England and Wales.

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FACING Burnley FC and Wigan Athletic academies as well as training at Liverpool FC’s Kirkby facility were three highlights from a memorable West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League Academy mid-term trip to England and Wales. 

The West Cork Academy’s U15 schoolboys squad made the week-long cross-channel trip to take part in a series of friendlies against high-profile opposition last week.

Last year’s SFAI Kennedy Cup (West Cork) representatives built on their magnificent 11th-place finish in the 2022 annual tournament. 

Enhancing the region’s reputation, a string of impressive performances saw West Cork’s U15s draw praise from each of their cross-channel opponents.

Led by head coach David Hall, West Cork’s coaching team of DJ Curtin, Danny Logan, Eamon Bradfield, Tadg Curtin and Adam O’Regan oversaw an unforgettable week for their young panel of players.

First up was a meeting with English League One club Morecambe FC’s Academy. The WCCSL group were reunited with two former coaches as West Cork natives and Morecambe’s Academy coach, Darren Murray, plus Parents Liaison Officer, Sean Spenser, patrolled the opposite side-line. 

Morecambe registered a hard-earned 3-0 victory but there were plenty of positives for West Cork to take into their next outing. 

 

Burnley FC’s indoor 4G astro-pitch domed training facility in Barnfield was the venue for the second match of the tour. A terrific game ensued and one in which the English Championship League club were fortunate to emerge 4-3 winners. James Maguire (Clonakilty AFC), Tim Sweeney (Kilmichael Rovers) and Jack Browne (Kilmichael Rovers) got their names on the scoresheet only to lose out to a last-minute Burnley winner. Considering the quality of the opposition, West Cork had much to be proud of, delivering a second consecutive performance of the highest quality. 

If playing at Burnley’s Barnfield facility was a highlight, then experiencing Liverpool FC’s state-of-the-art Kirkby training facility was an even bigger moment.

On day three of the tour, Knowsley Boys (former club of Liverpool midfielder and Rangers FC manager Steven Gerrard) were the West Cork Academy’s U15 Schoolboys opponents. Having enjoyed a full training session at Kirkby earlier that morning, the visitors produced another stellar effort to see off Knowsley Boys. Ronan Hayes (Ardfield) scored, as did in-form Kilmichael striker Tim Sweeney in a richly-deserved 2-1 win. 

An added bonus saw the West Cork Academy coaches picked up and shown around the entire Liverpool Academy by former red (and Arsenal) player Michael Thomas. The West Cork coaches experienced a busy day alongside Thomas as Manchester United, Blackburn Rovers, Huddersfield Town, Exeter and Stoke City had academy teams playing in Kirkby during their visit.

The West Cork Academy faced English Championship club Wigan Athletic’s Academy at Chorley Stadium on day four of their midterm odyssey. West Cork captain Ronan Collins made a welcome return from a shoulder injury in a game Tim Sweeney maintained his goal-scoring run by scoring from the penalty spot. A 3-1 defeat to a hugely talented Wigan side saw the visiting squad, once again, punch above their weight and push the English Championship club all the way. 

A trip across the border to Wales occurred on day five with West Cork playing a friendly against Welsh Premier League club Flint Town’s Academy. The Welsh Premier League club was where former legendary Liverpool striker Ian Rush began a glittering career.

The West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League Academy U15 Schoolboys squad with Rep. of Ireland senior international player Will Keane at Wigan Athletic's ground during the mid-term trip to England and Wales.

 

West Cork U15s produced their most complete performance of the week, highlighted by a marvellous long-range Tim Sweeney free-kick. The Inchisine club striker’s effort was added to by Adam Barry (Dunmanway Town), Pádraic Hegarty (Drinagh Rangers) and Sam Logan (Bunratty United) during a terrific 4-2 West Cork victory. 

Last Saturday saw a tired West Cork Academy panel and management team graciously accept Wigan Athletic Chief Executive Mal Brannigan’s offer to attend the club’s Championship encounter at home to Norwich City. A tight game may have ended 0-0 but the travelling party got to meet Republic of Ireland international and Wigan striker Will Keane immediately afterwards. Keane took time to speak to the West Cork players before another surprise meeting, this time with Republic of Ireland senior manager Stephen Kenny rounded off a memorable day. 

The West Cork Academy made use of their trip to Wigan's Superstore and took the opportunity to purchase plenty of the Championship club’s kits. A long week saw plenty of tired limbs return home the following day with a lifetime of happy memories to reflect upon. 

‘The main reason for this mid-term trip was to stop a massive outflux of players from West Cork following last year’s Kennedy Cup,’ explained West Cork Academy coach DJ Curtin.

‘As anyone in schoolboys league circles knows, players have ended their time with our West Cork Academy immediately after the Kennedy Cup. 

‘We are trying to change that and make the Kennedy Cup just another stepping stone in a player’s pathway ahead of taking part in additional (academy) tournaments. David Hall was chief organiser and put a huge amount of time and effort into the trip.’

The West Cork U15 schoolboys squad included Aaron White (Ardfield), Adam Barry (Dunmanway Town), Conor O’Brien (Skibbereen), Conor Vassallo (Dunmanway Town), Eric Hicks (Ardfield), Finn O’Mahony (Clonakilty AFC), Jack Browne (Kilmichael Rovers), James Maguire (Clonakilty AFC), Jerry O’Leary (Clonakilty AFC), Joe McCarthy (Skibbereen), John Mulhall (Kilgoban Celtic), Pádraic Hegarty (Drinagh Rangers), Ronan Collins (Skibbereen), Ronan Hayes (Ardfield), Rory Curtin (Castlelack), Ryan O’Boy (Kilgoban Celtic), Sam Logan (Bunratty United), Sean Maguire (Clonakilty AFC), Shane Hallihane (Skibbereen), Tim Sweeney (Kilmichael Rovers), William Doyle (Drinagh Rangers), Sean Platt (Castlelack), Rory Twohig (Lyre Rovers), Matthew Buttimer (Lyre Rovers), Tom Whooley (Ardfield), Charlie Curtin (Castlelack) and Darragh Bradfield (Riverside Athletic). Coaches: David Hall, DJ Curtin, Danny Logan, Eamon Bradfield, Tadg Curtin and Adam O’Regan.

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