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The Beara squad that competed in the 2019 West Cork LGFA U14 Féile competition at Clonakilty GAA's Ahamilla complex.
The Beara squad that competed in the 2019 West Cork LGFA U14 Féile competition at Clonakilty GAA's Ahamilla complex.
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Féile cancellation is a massive letdown for U14 players across Cork

THE 2020 Féile tournament cancellation has come as a massive disappointment to clubs, players and supporters throughout the country.

West Cork was on the cusp of kicking off its U14 Championships and the regional Féile qualifiers were also just around the corner before Covid-19 occurred. The timing couldn’t have been worse for clubs eager to get their campaigns up and running.

Yet, the cancellation of all activities is completely understandable according to West Cork LGFA PRO and Cork U14 selector Brian Cotter.

“In fairness, most sporting bodies, including the LGFA, led the line when realising how serious things were and immediately cancelled their activities,” Cotter told The Echo.

“The GAA family, camogie, Gaelic football, basketball, soccer, rugby and all the other sports said this is the right thing to do. Let’s put a pin in it. We will get back playing but it is just a matter of when. It was better to be cautious rather than flippant about the situation and it was the right call to cancel sporting activities.”

Unfortunately, the annual West Cork and County Féile U14 tournaments were included in the list of LGFA sporting activities that had to be cancelled. The draw had already taken place with nine of the region’s clubs set to compete in a one-day tournament in Clonakilty at the beginning of March.

This year’s Group A would have seen Beara, St Colum’s, O’Donovan Rossa, Bandon and host club Clonakilty facing one another. Group B was set to contain Valley Rovers, Bantry Blues, Castlehaven and Ilen Rovers.

“The draw for our West Cork qualifiers was made on a Tuesday night and then the complete shutdown of all operations was confirmed only a couple of days later,” Brian Cotter stated.

“Everything else now depends on how long the Covid-19 shutdown goes on for. The bottom line is that both the regional and county Féile tournaments cannot be run off this year.

“This news will come as a huge disappointment to everyone involved in Féile. It is a fantastic competition and an opportunity for girls to play other clubs in different counties and provinces. Once the shutdown is over, the competition will come back bigger and stronger than ever in 2021.

“Féile is open to all clubs to enter but Cork only sends one team to the All-Irelands. Generally, it is weighted towards U14 A teams. Yet in the West Cork region, B and C teams like Beara and St Colum’s have always used Féile as a way of getting extra games for their teams.

“The format of the competition being 10 minutes a side doesn’t lead to massively one-sided games. Féile is exactly what ladies football should be; competition, games, playing time and positive interaction between clubs. It is a long day, but it is always great to see so many West Cork clubs embracing it.”

Nine entrants had signed up for this year’s West Cork Féile with clubs drawn from Beara to Valley Rovers. Not that it needs reinforcing but, clearly, Féile remains something special for all the participating clubs.

“There was going to be a good spread of teams in West Cork had this year’s Féile gone ahead,” Cotter added.

“In terms of grading, we had five A teams, three B teams and a team competing in the C grade as well. We had also seeded the tournament in such a way so that there wouldn’t be a monopoly of A teams in one particular group.

“Going on last year’s competition, Bantry Blues and Beara had entered as B teams but took some scalps thanks to the shorter games. That’s why a good start in all your games is so vital. Bantry went all the way to the (West Cork) semi-finals and put Bandon to the pin of their collar before losing out by a couple of points.

“Féile will always be a great opportunity for teams that may not play against one another on a regular basis. That is why it is such a brilliant competition. Everyone will miss it this year but under the circumstances there wasn’t a lot else the GAA or LGFA could do”.

Hopefully, PRO Brian Cotter and the West Cork LGFA community will once again embrace Féile next year and create another set of special memories.