WEST CORK made history by capturing their first Cork LGFA senior football title in 2020.
Brian McCarthy and Anne O’Grady’s divisional side were made to work hard for their success, coming through four difficult assignments before edging reigning All-Ireland club champions Mourneabbey in the decider.
The rural division began their campaign looking to bounce back from consecutive 2018 and 2019 county final defeats to Mourneabbey. One of Covid-19’s knock-on effects were separate club and inter-county calendars and this scenario benefitted a West Cork panel made up of numerous Cork players.
An opening group A match away to arch-rivals Mourneabbey provided an early test of McCarthy and O’Grady’s squad’s credentials. The North Cork club enjoyed the better start despite being shorn a host of first-team regulars and led 0-11 to 2-3 at the break.
A terrific second half appeared to be going Mourneabbey’s way when Cork’s Ciara O’Sullivan kicked a late point. Beara’s Áine Terry O’Sullivan had other ideas, however, floating over a free and missing another effort prior to a 0-16 to 2-10 draw.
St Colum’s Kealkill was the venue for West Cork’s next outing against an up-and-coming Éire Óg. The host club’s Cork inter-county dual star Libby Coppinger took centre-stage on that occasion, netting both goals in a convincing 2-15 to 0-9 win.
Four points from a possible six earned West Cork a county semi-final berth. Aghada were the division’s opponents in the last four at Cloughduv. It proved a torrid evening for a young Aghada outfit however, as West Cork racked up nine goals en route to a one-sided victory. Fiona Keating had an evening to remember, netting five times with Áine Terry O’Sullivan (2-8) and Libby Coppinger (1-4) also featuring heavily on the scoreboard.
Mourneabbey’s equally emphatic semi-final defeat of Éire Óg meant the senior grade’s top two teams would meet in a county final for a third consecutive year.
CIT was the venue for what proved to be an enthralling encounter. The scores were level, 3-8 to 2-11, heading into the final quarter when Valley Rovers’ Daire Kiely scored a marvellous goal to add to earlier efforts from her sister Eimear and Libby Coppinger (two).
It proved the final’s decisive score as West Cork held on for a 4-9 to 2-13 victory and the division’s first senior title amid wild celebrations.
“West Cork is a division but we are also a club,” Daire Kiely said.
“We are all best friends on the team and get on great. It is great to finally win it for Brian (McCarthy) and the rest of the management team. It is a great feeling.” “We are really glad that we got to showcase our football like we did in the county final,” Eimear Kiely added.
“It was tight last year but we have finally put that to bed now. I knew there was a county in us so we are just delighted now that we finally did it.
West Cork’s success at senior level was mirrored by the region’s clubs during a momentous season. Clonakilty defeated Glanmire for the intermediate crown while Valley Rovers (who play ladies football in the West Cork division) saw off Douglas to become junior A champions. Add in Castlehaven’s county junior B final win over local rivals O’Donovan Rossa and the depth of footballing talent emerging from the West Cork region has never been stronger.
As for West Cork captain, Áine Terry O’Sullivan, overcoming Mourneabbey to claim the John Hurley Cup was made all the sweeter having lost to the All-Ireland and Munster club champions the two previous years.
“I don’t know how the management stuck with us after the last couple of years to be honest!” O’Sullivan said.
“Last year’s final was over by half time but this year, we were that bit more mature as it was our third county. Thankfully, we now have something to show for it. There is some fantastic talent coming through in West Cork there is a good future there.”
2020 will be remembered for many reasons. Yet, it will always be the year that West Cork ladies football finally conquered the senior grade in Cork. There may not have been any supporters present to witness the division’s county final success at CIT but nonetheless, the management and players delivered one of the sporting year’s most memorable moments in dethroning Mourneabbey.