Ladies football in Cork benefitted from split season approach

Standard was high in all LGFA grades in 2020
Ladies football in Cork benefitted from split season approach

Clonakilty's Jenny Quinn collides with Glanmire's Ellen Twomey in the Intermediate Ladies Football Championship final at Kilmichael. Picture: Gavin Browne

2021 will herald the most competitive Cork LGFA club championships for over a decade thanks to the quality of promoted teams.

10 adult championships produced county winners of the highest calibre in Cork over the past twelve months. 

The introduction of separate club and inter-county calendars allowed teams full access to their Cork players which proved pivotal to the higher graded county champions.

The junior A championship is regarded as one of the most open competitions in the Cork LGFA’s list. 

Last year was no exception with so many evenly-matched teams involved. It was difficult to choose an overall winner from Dromtarriffe, Abhainn Dalla, Naomh Abán, Douglas, Dohenys and Valley Rovers until the latter gained momentum and lost only once en route to becoming junior A county winners.

Free of inter-county duties, Cork seniors’ twin-sister act of Daire and Eimear Kiely played their part in guiding Rovers to the final. Valley’s were far from a two-player team however, with a host of Cork U16 and minors enabling the Brinny club overcome a talented Douglas in the final.

 Katie Lynch, Valley Rovers, ahead of Aoife Kelleher, Douglas. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Katie Lynch, Valley Rovers, ahead of Aoife Kelleher, Douglas. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Valley’s have since progressed to the Munster JAFC semi-finals and will relish the opportunity to go up against Glanmire, Donoughmore, Rosscarbery, Bantry Blues, Beara and Araglen Desmonds Buí as part of a high-quality intermediate championship field in 2021.

Clonakilty were perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of a Covid-19 enforced calendar alteration. 

The West Cork club began the Cork LGFA intermediate championship as one of many outsiders for the title. That’s hardly surprising when you consider Glanmire were expected to emerge with top honours.

Yet, the Brewery Town’s squad contained current Cork goalkeeper Martina O’Brien as well as experienced inter-county players such as Moira Barrett, Clare and Áine O’Leary, Ciara Ryan plus up and comers Meabh O’Donovan, Millie Condon and Katie O’Driscoll. 

Similar to Valley Rovers, Clonakilty’s ability to hold regular training sessions involving 30 players made a huge difference and enabled the West Cork side to win the championship and gain promotion to the senior grade.

Moving up to the county’s top tier will not be easy, especially with the likes of West Cork (divisional), Mourneabbey, Éire Óg and Aghada eager to build on their past season’s efforts. Any of the other established senior clubs likes Kinsale, Bride Rovers, Inch Rovers (senior B and junior champions), St Val’s and Fermoy will also test the newcomers resolve.

Clonakilty’s ascension to the senior ranks is a welcome addition however, and JJ Deasy’s side showed that, on their day, they are capable of taking a scalp. A cracking senior club championship awaits.

Nemo Rangers claimed the 2020 junior C title on the back of an unblemished group record before facing off against Carrigaline in the county final. A 6-9 to 2-8 defeat of the latter put the seal on Nemo’s notable campaign which yielded 26 goals and 65 points.

Cork LGFA and Cork City Women’s striker Saoirse Noonan played her part in Rangers’ success. 

Noonan and her team mates will need to reproduce a similar effort as part of an impressive county junior B line-up. Nine clubs took part in this past season’s B championship which saw Castlehaven, Watergrasshill, O’Donovan Rossa and Funcheon Gaels reach the last four. An all-West Cork final took place between Castlehaven and O’Donovan Rossa in which the Union Hall-Castletownshend club claimed their second county title in as many years.

This year’s junior B championship is expected to be just as tight with Nemo Rangers’ addition. Rossa’s will be eager to follow their rivals into the junior B grade but expect the Skibbereen side, 2020’s other county semi-finalists, Midleton and Courcey Rovers to have a say in the junior B title’s destination.

Castlehaven’s reward for reaching the junior A grade is an opportunity to win an historic Cork LGFA three-in-a-row. Far from an easy task considering the Haven’ will be up against fellow West Cork club Dohenys and a Douglas side determined to gain promotion to the intermediate grade.

St Michael’s and Rockbán served up a thrilling county junior D final won by the former. An emerging Michael’s team will relish the chance to go head-to-head with Carrigaline, Erin’s Own, St Colum’s, Mallow and Tadhg Mac Carthaigh in 2021. Replacing St Michael’s in the D grade are junior E champions Naomh Fionnbarra who showed they are capable of building on their undefeated 2020 campaign.

A final decision on the line-ups in each of the Cork LGFA grades will be confirmed after the first county board meeting of the New Year.

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