WHEN the referee blew the full-time whistle in Tallaght Stadium, after their FAI Cup final loss to Peamount, some of the Cork City players sank to the floor.
Their Women’s National League season wasn’t to have its dream conclusion. The scoreboard read: Cork City 0, Peamount United 6.
As each day passes and that defeat retreats further into the past, it should become easier to reflect on it as a terrible day, a terrible second half during a good season for the club.
With vaccines being readied, we can, hopefully, in 2021, resume as normal.
The Women’s National League (WNL) and Cork City were impacted by the virus. City began pre-season training in January, but because of lockdowns, restrictions, and huge uncertainty, their season didn’t kick off until August 8.
When it did finally commence, they couldn’t have opened with two tougher games. Firstly, they travelled to Shelbourne, who would finish second in the table, before then hosting Peamount United, who would finish first and win the cup.
Following 3-1 and 0-3 losses, respectively, in those games, it seemed like it was going to be another tough campaign for Rónán Collins’s side.
But despite their youthful profile, Cork City showed immense character to rally and win their next four games: Away to Bohemians and Treaty United (which had to be rearranged twice, because of a storm and Covid-19) and then at home against Athlone Town and DLR Waves (the latter was also rearranged because of Covid-19 related issues).
Cork City had their season back on track before they faced another tough challenge, away to Wexford Youths, a side they often struggled against.
Four wins in a row became five as City made a huge statement of intent by picking up the three points at Ferrycarrig Park. That was thanks to goals from Saoirse Noonan and a stunning strike from Éabha O’Mahony, who has since been nominated for the WNL young-player-of-the-year award.
Then, a week later, came win number six in succession as the Leesiders again saw off the challenge of Bohemians to progress to the semi-finals of the FAI Cup.
After two months of winning, Cork City lost narrowly at home to Galway, before they were then humbled away to Shelbourne in the first fixture of phase two in the league, which saw the top five split from the bottom four for another round of games.
Another 3-0 reversal against Peamount followed, before a 2-2 draw with Wexford and a 2-1 win over Galway in Bishopstown ensured City would end the league campaign in fourth, their highest finish in 10 years, despite some up-and-down performances.
That top-four berth was a target for the team before a ball was kicked in 2020 and another huge objective was achieved when a 2-0 win against Munster rivals, Treaty United, secured their return to the FAI Cup final for the first time since they lifted the cup back in 2017.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be the glorious finale the club had hoped for. After a determined first-half display, Cork City returned to the dressing room at half-time level with Peamount, but by full-time, they had conceded six without reply.
Their 15 games, in all competitions, this year yielded just two clean sheets and they conceded 32 goals, four of those coming in the last 15 minutes last weekend.
Cork City were only involved in one draw this term, and they won eight and lost six, and, hopefully, City will become more consistent and not swing so much from victory to defeat.
While this campaign showed how far they have come, it also showed how far they still have to go, if they want to become a force to be reckoned with in Ireland.
But in a dark year for many people associated with Cork City, the women’s side brought a number of bright moments, even though they still have room to grow, as we, hopefully, head towards a more normal 2021 and the pandemic recedes.