THE West Cork Schoolboys Inter-League is looking towards 2021 with renewed optimism despite the most unprecedented of seasons.
No one quite knows what to expect over the next couple of months.
Hopefully, a gradual easing of cases numbers due to the global pandemic coupled with a nationwide vaccine rollout will permit a return to schoolboy’s inter-league action.
When possible, the West Cork Schoolboys League’s Emerging Talent Programme (ETP) has continued under strict HSE and government guidelines.
Large squads continue to be put through their paces by qualified FAI coaches plus additional sessions overseen by coaches such as Cork City Women FC’s Ronán Collins.
The SFAI governing body is not able to announce when their provincial Subway Inter-League Championships will begin next year.
That is hardly surprising considering another imminent lockdown but thankfully, outdoor non-contact training in pods of 15 can continue. That means the West Cork ETP can proceed with their U11, U12, U13 and U14 squads eager to build on encouraging displays over the past 12 months.
David Hall’s WCSL U12 Inter-League squad began their Subway Munster Championship with a scoreless draw away to Clare in Tulla this time last year.
Following that, West Cork travelled to the University of Limerick and defeated Limerick District United 1-0 courtesy of a John Mulhall strike.
A 3-0 defeat at home to a talented Kerry would be Hall’s side’s last SFAI competitive action of a season curtailed by Covid.
On the same day, a WCSL U12 Development team drew 1-1 with their Kerry counterparts thanks to an Adam Barry effort.
West Cork were due to face Limerick County (away) and Cork United (at home) until those and all the other SFAI U12 fixtures fell victim to a lockdown.
What is clear is that last year’s U12’s, who will be 2021’s U13s, possess an abundance of talent and are capable of bringing SFAI silverware to the West Cork region.
This year’s WCSL U11 Inter-League squad are another group expected to make big progress over the next 12 months.
The region’s youngest ETP panel was finalised in October 2019 before weekly training sessions and regular friendlies against Cork Schoolboys League club’s halted last March. Despite that setback, Head of the West Cork ETP, DJ Curtin, was delighted with the U11’s efforts and sees huge potential within a talented squad.
2020 was supposed to the year Shane Hurley oversaw the West Cork U14’s at the annual Kennedy Cup in the University of Limerick. Unfortunately, the SFAI’s most prestigious schoolboy’s tournament did not go ahead, denying one of the region’s most talked-about and highly regarded squads. This group of players had already secured the Blackpool Cup trophy at U13 inter-league level and were expected to make a major impact at the 2020 Kennedy Cup.
Thankfully, despite missing out on the week-long tournament at the University of Limerick, Hurley’s players were at least able to compete in a new Munster U14 Inter-League competition. West Cork underlined their class by winning the Munster Plate trophy despite getting off to a disappointing start. Eli Reynolds found the net for the WCSL, but that goal wasn’t enough to prevent a 2-1 loss at home to West Waterford East Cork in Lyre.
Encouragingly, West Cork bounded back from that disappointment to register a fully deserved victory away to Clare in their next provincial outing. Tom O’Connor, Prince Iyallah and Timothy Cullinane each got their names on the scoresheet in a 3-2 success. That outcome meant victory over North Tipperary at the Baltimore Road in Skibbereen would secure a place in the knockout stages.
It proved a profitable afternoon for the hosts as Lyre Rovers’ Timothy Cullinane broke the deadlock following a lapse in the North Tipperary defence. Cullinane netted his and West Cork’s second before Charlie McShane scored a cracking goal to wrap up a 3-0 win prior to half time. A solid defensive effort display to Limerick County in Charleville earned the WCSL a 0-0 draw in their next inter-league clash before Covid intervened.
A full five months of inactivity would pass before Shane Hurley’s squad travelled to Celtic Park in Killarney for a showdown with Munster rivals Kerry. The Munster U14 Plate trophy was on the line and the visitors got off to the perfect start. Clonakilty AFC’s Prince Iyallah headed in a James Hurley free to make it 1-0 after 2 minutes.
Kerry hit back instantly, as Josh Bowler was afforded too much time and space to equalise. Timothy Cullinane restored West Cork’s lead with a superb effort after 26 minutes. Once again, the home team rebounded with Callum Cronin netting a marvellous long-range effort to take the final to extra-time.
A cracking game was still level at 2-2 heading into the second period of extra-time when an own goal plus a second Timothy Cullinane strike cemented a richly deserved 4-2 West Cork victory.
2019-20 West Cork Schoolboys U14 Inter-League squad : Billy Curtin (Castlelack), Eoin Hurley (Drinagh Rangers), Tom O’Connor (captain, Bantry Bay Rovers), Prince Iyallah (Clonakilty AFC), Tom Browne (Kilmichael Rovers), Brian Horgan (Drinagh Rangers), Charlie McShane (Ardfield), Eoin Bowden (Bantry Bay Rovers), Luke Shorten (Drinagh Rangers), Timothy Cullinane (Lyre Rovers), Eli Reynolds (Bantry Bay Rovers), Caolan O’Driscoll (Drinagh Rangers), Cillian Twohig (Lyre Rovers), Eoin O’Brien (Bunratty United), Ben McCarthy-Shields (Clonakilty AFC), Christopher Cronin (Bantry Bay Rovers), Phillip Harrington (Bantry Bay Rovers), Adam Lordan (Drinagh Rangers), Des Kenneally (Clonakilty AFC), Ciaran Foley (Kilmichael Rovers).