Big push to revive the West Cork Schoolgirls soccer scene

Big push to revive the West Cork Schoolgirls soccer scene
The West Cork Schoolgirls squad that competed in the 2019 Rose Bowl one-day soccer tournament at Mounthawk Park in Tralee recently.

A WEST Cork Schoolgirls squad did their clubs and region proud at the Rose Bowl soccer tournament held in Tralee recently.  

Attempts to resurrect a once-thriving West Cork Schoolgirls soccer scene have taken a step forward. Last year, clubs from Bantry Bay Rovers, Castlelack, Clonakilty AFC and Drinagh Rangers competed in monthly indoor Futsal blitzes, hoping to grow interest in the game for girls aged 11 to 13.

Alongside that initiative, Skibbereen AFC have more than held their own since entering the Cork Schoolgirls League. Drinagh Rangers are exploring the possibility of following suit and possibly fielding a team in city league.

Building on those welcome developments, an opportunity to send a West Cork representative side to the inaugural Rose Bowl tournament in Tralee was seized upon by Bantry Bay Rovers’ Donal McGrath.  Assisted by Don Hurley and Mike Doolan (both Drinagh), McGrath took charge of a young and untested squad made up of players from the Bantry Bay Rovers and Drinagh Rangers clubs.  

"The Rose Bowl is a new schoolgirls soccer tournament, launched by the Kerry Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League, to coincide with the 60-year celebration of the Rose of Tralee International Festival. The event was open to U13 schoolgirls and clubs from eight leagues travelled to Mounthawk Park in Tralee for the one-day event which took place at the end of August.

“West Cork was handed a very tricky opening group game against a Clare team that would go on to win the overall tournament,” Donal McGrath told the Echo.  

“There was no shortage of talent, hard work or determination from the West Cork players. A far more experienced Clare side played in a powerful and direct style which saw them ruthlessly finish their chances and record a 3-0 win.

“It didn’t look like the second group game against the Dublin Metropolitan Girls League (MGL) North would be any less difficult. However, by this stage, the West Cork Girls were getting to grips with the demands of the competition.” 

McGrath’s assertion was correct as the WCSL settled to their task and produced spells of excellent football against their more illustrious opponents. The newcomers were unfortunate to be trailing MGL North by a goal at half time.  

“Hopes of a monumental upset were raised even further when an excellent team move sent Carmel Coakley through to fire the ball into the net and level the score,” McGrath recalled.  

“The Dublin side remained composed and, having retaken the lead heading towards the final few minutes, produced a late flurry of goals to seal their win. It was a scoreline that really did not do justice to West Cork’s performance.” 

Next up was a local derby against a talented Cork Schoolgirls side where West Cork produced one of their best displays of the Rose Bowl tournament. A 1-0 loss was scant reward for such a heroic effort but the WCSL schoolgirls were quickly back in action, taking on the hosts, Kerry.

West Cork travelled with 13 available players but faced squads with larger numbers and who were able to utilise their substitutes bench to the full throughout the day. Unsurprisingly, fatigue became a factor as the tournament wore on and Donal McGrath’s side lost out to their Kerry opponents despite another terrific effort.

The Kerry game marked the conclusion of the Rose Bowl’s group stages as West Cork secured a knockout tie against the MGL North. Unfortunately, the Dublin side proved too strong and capitalised on an early goal to overcome their opponents for a second time.

“Despite a somewhat disappointing end to the tournament, West Cork can look back on an excellent experience (with pride),” commented Donal McGrath.  “Each and every one of the players came together in a team that lacked the experience and playing numbers of their more illustrious opponents. Yet, our girls proved that in terms of raw talent, commitment and sheer hard work, they had every reason to be proud of their accomplishments.”  

West Cork U13 Schoolgirls squad: Aoife Collins (Drinagh Rangers), Niamh Collins (Drinagh Rangers), Rebecca Keane (Bantry Bay Rovers), Kelle Doolan (Drinagh Rangers), Aimee Doolan (Drinagh Rangers) Fran Houlihan (Bantry Bay Rovers), Laura Deasy (Drinagh Rangers), Caoimhe Hurley (Drinagh Rangers), Leah O’Shea (Bantry Bay Rovers), Emma Hurley (Drinagh Rangers), Carmel Coakley (Drinagh Rangers), Brenna Guy Nolan (Bantry Bay Rovers) and Kathlyn McCarthy (Drinagh Rangers).

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