THE West Cork contingent have made their presence felt on the Cork senior panel during the early rounds of the Lidl National League Division 1 campaign.
There was disappointment at the postponement of last Sunday’s Division 1 clash at home to Mayo and an opportunity to extend Cork’s undefeated start in this year’s league.
Three wins out of three, Ephie Fitzgerald and his squad were no doubt looking forward to taking on Mayo yet instead, the weekend’s awful weather rendered both Cloughduv and Mallow’s pitches unplayable.
Despite that postponement, Cork are in the healthiest of positions heading into the second half of the league campaign. There are still issues to address, such as mentally switching off for short spells in each of the three games to date, but it is early days in what should be a long and hopefully fruitful campaign.
This year’s senior team is slowly starting to take shape albeit with 26 members of the panel used thus far. A host of younger players are grasping the opportunity to shine while more experienced campaigners have also staked their claim.
All-Star defender Róisín Phelan’s return has seen the Aghada player and five-time All-Ireland winner emerge as Cork’s standout performer in this year’s league. Composed under the high ball and ferocious in the tackle, Phelan, along with Fermoy’s Aishling Hutchings have bolstered the spine of the Rebels’ defence.
Cork’s midfield pairing of Hannah Looney (Aghada) and Maire O’Callaghan (Mourneabbey) have been equally impressive and dovetailed nicely in the centre of the pitch.
From a West Cork point of view, former senior divisional player and current Kinsale star Orla Finn has enjoyed a terrific start to the year. 0-6 against Westmeath, 0-5 in the win over Tipperary and a similar haul against Dublin, Finn has delivered in all three of her league appearances.
A word too for Orla Finn’s clubmates Caoimhe O’Callaghan and Sadhbh O’Leary who are pushing hard for a regular starting berth following impressive cameos since the beginning of the year.
West Cork senior Áine Terry O’Sullivan has enjoyed a positive start to her campaign. Beset by injures in 2019, O’Sullivan has benefitted from a healthy start and played well alongside Orla Finn plus Nemo Rangers’ Saoirse Noonan. The Beara player enjoyed her most profitable afternoon away to Tipperary in the second round of the league by racking up 2-1 in an eight-point victory.
As mentioned earlier, Cork’s half-back line has been anchored superbly by Aishling Hutchings with Doheny’s Melissa Duggan and O’Donovan Rossa’s Laura O’Mahony starring on either wing. Considering the intense competition for places in Cork’s back division, West Cork natives Duggan and O’Mahony have done their future prospects no harm at all thanks to a string of consistent performances.
Clonakilty’s Martina O’Brien remains Cork’s number one goalkeeper and one goal conceded in in three outings is testament to the shot-stopper’s experience plus a well organised defence.
St Colum’s versatile dual star Libby Coppinger is another West Cork stalwart eager to make her presence felt on this year’s senior football panel. Used sparingly due to additional camogie commitments, Coppinger has started all three league games for Ephie Fitzgerald and should feature even more as the year progresses.
An ability to take on defenders as well as linking midfield with attack underlines why Libby Coppinger’s skill set represent useful weapons to the Cork setup.
Another group of West Cork players hoping to make their mark before the conclusion of the National League campaign include the Kiely sisters. Eimear and Daire are two of the most highly regarded players to emerge from the West Cork region over the past couple of years.
The Valley Rovers players will be anxious to impress their senior manager as the season progresses and possess the requisite pace and tenacity to impact from the substitutes bench or in the starting line-up.
Rosscarbery’s Sarah Hayes and Beara’s Clare O’Shea are another two young defenders who look certain to be a part of the Cork senior setup in 2020 and beyond.
Hayes has been one of West Cork’s most consistent players in the senior club championship over the past number of seasons. O’Shea is regarded as one of the West Cork region’s top 20 youth prospects for the coming year.