WEST Cork will be well represented on the Cork LGFA U14, U16 and minor set-ups following announcements of the county’s panels for the upcoming campaigns.
The winter months saw hundreds of girls from all four divisions and every corner of the county put through rigorous trials before final panels were announced for the Cork U14, U16 and minor grades.
Such is the level of interest in ladies football inside the county bounds that there will be two U14 and two U16 Cork LGFA panels in action this coming year.
JJ Deasy is back at the helm of the Cork U14 ‘A’ squad. The Ibane Ladies representative oversaw last year’s tremendous run to an All-Ireland final with Kerry. Páirc Uí Rinn was the venue for one of the best games of 2022 where the Munster rivals played out a pulsating contest in front of a huge attendance. The Kingdom edged the result 5-12 to 5-10 after extra-time but West Cork native Deasy is back for another tilt at All-Ireland U14 glory.
‘It was fantastic to be a part of that final last year. Obviously, it would have been nice if Cork had won it but, look, you live and learn,’ Deasy said.
‘This is our (management team) second year with the Cork LGFA U14s so we have more confidence about what we are doing and how we are going about things.
‘Last year we played a round-robin format in Munster before taking part in the blitz series once we got to the All-Ireland stage. The Munster U14 championship is changing to a blitz format for the coming year. I’m a fan of the blitzes because each county has to use a minimum of 20 players. That means Cork uses anything between 25 or 26 players every time we go out. Everyone on the panel gets ample game time which is the most important thing at this age-grade.
JJ Deasy’s squad includes six West Cork LGFA representatives. Kinsale’s Anna Kelleher and Hannah Deasy will be joined by Amy McCarthy (Castlehaven), Carla O’Regan (Ilen Rovers), Cliona Harte (Ibane ladies) and Gemma O’Sullivan (Rosscarbery ladies) this year.
Cork’s Munster U14 LGFA dates are yet to be confirmed. Stage one of the provincial (blitz) series should be completed in March. Stage two is pencilled in for April along with each of the U14 age-grade’s Munster finals. The All-Ireland series will follow immediately after.
At the U16 inter-county age-grade, Cork LGFA will be led by new manager Kieran O’Shea from the Ballygarvan club. A series of trials involving over 400 players from across the county was finally whittled down to 30 players last week.
Three O’Donovan Rossa representatives, Allie Tobin, Aoife O’Driscoll and Éabha O’Donovan will line out for the Cork U16 As. The Skibbereen trio are joined by another three from Kinsale, Maisie O’Callaghan, Caoimhe Horgan and Catherine Murphy. Kate McEntee (Valley Rovers) and Kate Carey (Ilen Rovers) have also made it on to this year’s U16 panel.
A second Cork LGFA U16B panel was also announced last week and includes Ella Hayes, Holly Brickley and Maeve O’Sullivan (O’Donovan Rossa), Shona Cronin (Valley Rovers) and Ellen Connolly (Castlehaven).
‘We are just focussing on our first match in the Munster championship against Limerick,’ Cork LGFA U16A manager Kieran O’Shea commented.
‘It is a case of taking one game at a time. We have a very talented and committed group of players but we are looking at the long-term picture. The hope is that some of these U16s will eventually go on to represent Cork at senior level.
‘We play Limerick on Sunday, February 26th, and have training sessions and challenge games organised between now and our first Munster LGFA championship game.’
Cork minors will be eager to repeat last year’s marvellous All-Ireland LGFA minor final success, a 1-16 to 1-8 defeat of Galway. Joe Carroll oversaw the Rebels' All-Ireland triumph but a new manager, Jamie Cronin, is in place for the upcoming Munster and All-Ireland minor championships.
He has named a panel of 30 players with plenty of experience from last year’s All-Ireland success.
There will be a sizeable West Cork presence in this year’s minor squad with Amy McKennedy (Tadhg MacCárthaigh), Katie O’Driscoll, Millie Condon, Síofra Pattwell (all Clonakilty), Leah Carey and Maebh Collins (Ilen Rovers) and Niamh O’Sullivan wearing the red jersey in 2023.