BANTRY BLUES ladies football continues to go from strength to strength as evidenced by the West Cork club’s 2019 minor C county championship success.
The Blues capitalised on their West Cork U15 and U16 triumphs before embarking on a successful Cork LGFA county C minor championship campaign. Philly Spillane oversaw Bantry minors this past year and he, along with Anne O’Grady, looked after the three (U15, U16 and minor) panels, guiding a talented group of female footballers to glory.
“The way it has worked is that I have overseen the Bantry minors for the last four or five years with Anne O’Grady helping me out, and I, in turn, have helped Anne out with the U15 and U16s”, Spillane told the Echo.
“The two of us have looked after those three teams. That’s the way it’s been for the last while and thankfully we have had a bit of success this past year. Our minor county victory came on the back of our U16’s winning the West Cork. Those girls went all the way to a U16 county final only to be beaten by Glanmire in Clonakilty.
“Add to that our U15’s beating Ilen Rovers in the West Cork final about a month before we played our minor county semi-finals and final and it has been a brilliant year for ladies football here in Bantry.”
An ability to get the best out of their younger age-groups enabled Philly Spillane and Anne O’Grady to promote a plethora of talented youngsters into the minor ranks.
That, allied with the Carbery club’s superb training facilities helped Bantry reach their peak at the right moment before going on to claim a minor C county trophy.
“We are fortunate to have had such a big squad of U15 and U16 players which helped us when it came to the minor county championship,” Philly Spillane admitted.
“Bantry had 32 players togged out for both the drawn county final and replay. We just couldn’t turn them away, but it is all about getting the girls out playing and success brings success. Having said that, Bantry didn’t have the best run of form in this year’s Cork LGFA minor county league. We won three, lost two and didn’t qualify for a West Cork final by missing out on one of the top two league positions.
“We had to play a minor county qualifier and defeated Gabriel Rangers to make it through.
“Dromtarriffe were our county quarter-final opponents and turned out to be one of our toughest games of the year above in Dromtarriffe.
“That game went right to the wire and there was nothing in it, but we managed to win it by a couple of points. It was played two weeks after winning the West Cork U15 so there was a great spirit and drive within the (minor) squad, and we needed it.”
Numbers were solid at Bantry Blues’ training sessions throughout the year which was hugely important as they were able to hold meaningful sessions with close to 30 players togged out each week. The club’s new facilities were a huge help too and allowed the squad to hold numerous training sessions at the most important time of the season.
Getting to a county final required overcoming Killavullen prior to lining out against a highly regarded Naomh Fionnbarra outfit.
Switching from their regular 15-a-side to 13-a-side in the county decider represented a difficult adjustment. Thankfully, Bantry had enough time and access to their training facilities to overcome that obstacle.
The Blues cruised into the county final following a one-sided win over Killavullen. Leah Barry netted five goals in a game Caitlin O’Mahony, Zara Barry, Megan McSweeney, Kate Keevers, Kate McCarthy, Eve O’Sullivan, Ella McCarthy and Ella Downey also featured prominently. Disappointingly, an all-West Cork minor county decider failed to materialise when Naomh Fionnbarra ousted Castlehaven in the second last four encounter.
“We played Killavullen in the minor county semi-finals at home in Bantry and won that handily enough in the end,” Spillane noted.
“In the final against Naomh Fionnbarra, we were absolutely delighted to come away with a draw the first day having scored a late goal to take it to a replay.
“The gap between the drawn final and replay gave us a great opportunity to regroup as we held two training sessions which kept us sharp. In the replay, we got off to a slow start and let them build a five-point lead. We came back into it though and were only three down at half time.
“A few tactical changes helped turn the replay in our favour. We lost Leah Barry to injury, but we were able to call upon Ella Downey who came off the bench and scored an important goal.
“It was fantastic to win (the county), and the girls fully deserved it for all the work they put in.
“Two West Cork titles and a county minor is not a bad return for the past year.”
Bantry Blues minor county winning squad: Sara Kelleher, Tara Delaney, Michelle Bishop, Sally O’Donovan, Kate McCarthy (captain), Liadh Barry, Kate Keevers, Ella McCarthy, Caitlin O’Mahony, Leah Barry, Megan McSweeney, Zara Barry, Eve O’Sullivan, Elaine O’Flynn, Mary O’Shea, Lauren Manning, Aoife Kingston, Lainey Barry, Cliodhna O’Shea, Ella Downey, Rachel O’Donovan, Eliza Gatkowska, Sarah French, Daisy O’Donoghue, Ciara Barry, Katie Russell, Kelly Daly, Aisling Stock, Rebecca Harrington, Emily Breen, Cara Kelly and Shauna O’Sullivan.