VALLEY ROVERS 2020 Cork LGFA county junior A title success came about after years of dedicated work at underage level.
The Brinny club claimed the junior A crown following defeats in the previous two finals at the hands of Glanmire and Donoughmore.
A talented squad including inter-county duo Daire and Eimear Kiely, Lisa Lynch and Michelle O’Regan plus a clutch of Cork U16 and minor graduates topped their intermediate championship group.
Valley’s suffered a solitary loss at the hands of Douglas en route to the county final. Rovers gained revenge for that defat at the hands of Douglas however, overcoming their great rivals 2-17 to 2-3 in the decider.
Valley Rovers coach and Cork U16 manager Denis Mulvihill paid tribute to the squad’s maturity and determination to bounce back after consecutive county final defeats.
“This team has been knocking on the door at junior level for the past three years,” Mulvihill admitted.
“Before that, we were successful at U21 by winning A, B and C titles over a three-year period. We were equally successful at U16 and minor during that same timeframe. There is no doubt that a good crop of players has come through at the right time even though they are still very young.
“We are looking forward to the year ahead and competing in the intermediate grade. The squad also has a Munster JAFC semi-final to prepare for as well. Hopefully, that goes ahead, and we can win it and make a bit of history for the club.”
Valley Rovers were not favoured to end their junior A title drought at the beginning of the 2020 championship. Despite going close on two previous occasions, Rovers still had to integrate a lot of raw, young players to the adult fold. Creditably, Valley’s defied the odds and went on to claim the junior A trophy.
“At the start of the year, we were definitely going after that junior A county championship,” Mulvihill admitted.
“We didn’t have a league campaign to worry about with the way the whole Covid-19 pandemic panned out. It was a case of going straight into championship mode which certainly helped. It meant our preparation was shorter but much more focused.
"That definitely helped our championship preparations even though it meant a reduced amount of game time.
“We got better as the championship went on even though we were poor the first day out against Douglas. We just hit top form the day of the county final and, to be fair, there wouldn’t have been many teams that could have lived with us that day in Ballinora.”
Not content with finally annexing that elusive junior A county title, Valley Rovers built on their success by travelling to Waterford and knocking Tramore out of the Munster LGFA championship. An upcoming provincial semi-final has sharpened Rovers players’ minds and appetite heading into the New Year.
“The potential for success has always been there with this particular team,” Mulvihill added.
“Our county final victory gave the girls a huge boost of confidence heading into Munster. We are back non-contact training and in little pods now but the girls’ hunger for success is still there. There is a much bigger belief within the squad and they are just looking forward to getting going once again next year.
“As well, Daire and Eimear Kiely reaching an All-Ireland final with the Cork seniors is a massive boost for the club. Daire and Eimear have always been super players for us. The more the Kielys play with Cork the better they get.
"All along they would have been in the forwards for us (Valley Rovers) but with Cork they are more attacking half-backs. That has helped our style of play. All the younger girls within the club look up to them.
“We are fortunate in that we have had a number of other girls selected on Cork underage inter-county panels over the last number of years. There are quite a few Valley Rovers players coming through the Cork U16 and minor ranks and hopefully, they will go on to represent their county at senior level like the Kiely’s have.”
Next up for Valley Rovers is a Munster LGFA semi-final meeting with Dromcolliher-Broadford from Limerick.
The Brinny club will enter that game as underdogs but possessing enough talent to cause an upset and build on a memorable 2020.