Clonakilty upset the odds in 2020 to take intermediate honours back west

Clonakilty upset the odds in 2020 to take intermediate honours back west

Clonakilty's Martina O'Brien and Meabh O'Donovan celebrate after defeating Glanmire in the Intermediate Ladies Football final at Annhala. Picture: Gavin Browne

THE Cork LGFA county finals delivered standout individual displays and more of the same is expected in the 2021 club championships.

No team can expect to triumph in a county decider without a couple of key players delivering on the day it matters most.

Each of the past season’s LGFA county winners were thankful to individuals for scoring important goals, conjuring up important saves or producing player of the match performances to get their team over the line. 

Whilst no side can expect to lift to win a county trophy without a year-long squad effort, the following competitors wrote their names into the history books during their biggest matches of the season.

St Michael’s got their hands on the Cork LGFA county junior D cup but only after a titanic battle with Rockbán. 

The winners edged the result by five points but it was midfielders Hayley Ryan and Katelyn Hickey’s influential roles that ensured Michael’s left CIT with the trophy.

Dovetailing superbly in the middle of the pitch, Ryan and Hickey denied Rockbán time and space and were involved in setting up the bulk of corner-forward Kate Leneghan’s 1-5.

For Naomh Fionnbarra, 2020 was the end of a 12-year wait for county glory. The Ballingeary/Inchigeela outfit outlasted neighbours Macroom to claim the junior E title thanks, in part, to Rhóna Ní Bhuachalla.

The former Cork inter-county player made her presence felt in Naomh Fionnbarra’s path to glory, remaining undefeated in their qualifying group before seeing off Kilshannig in the last four. 

A 2-13 to 3-9 defeat of Macroom earned Naomh Fionnbarra victory in the final. Down eight points at one juncture, it was Ní Bhuachalla’s reliable free-taking and extra-time winner that saw Naomh Fionnbarra earn promotion to the junior D ranks.

This past season’s senior B final between Inch Rovers and St Val’s saw another former Cork footballer make her mark. Annie Walsh showed she had lost none of scoring abilities in a floodlit final.

An eagerly anticipated matchup that saw Cork All-Star and multi-All-Ireland winner Bríd Stack tog out for St Val’s before heading to Australia to play for AFLW side Greater Western Sydney Giants as an international rookie.

Yet, it was Annie Walsh’s ability to find space, win frees and knit defence with attack as well as delivering 9 points (0-5 from frees and six consecutive scores during the second period) that earned Inch Rovers success.

Clonakilty were not expected to triumph in a high-quality Cork LGFA intermediate championship. Yet, the Brewery Town upset the form book and qualified for a showdown with Glanmire.

A Clon team backboned by Cork goalkeeper Martina O’Brien saw the All-Ireland winning shot-stopper play a key role in guiding her team to the final. 

Yet, a large squad containing plenty of experience turned to an emerging talent for some of their most important scores en route to facing Glanmire.

17-year-old Orlaith Deasy finished the year as a Cork City Women’s U17 National League champion. 

Deasy added to her growing reputation by scoring both of Clonakilty’s goals (one from the penalty spot) in a 2-8 to 0-11 defeat of Glanmire in the intermediate final.

Deasy wasn’t the only Cork City player to generate headlines in the past season’s county LGFA championships. Nemo Rangers dominated the junior C grade from start to finish, remaining undefeated en-route to overcoming Carrigaline.

Saoirse Noonan finished the year as Nemo’s top scorer, a 12-month period in which the forward also represented Cork City in the FAI Women’s Cup final and went all the way to Croke Park with Ephie Fitzgerald’s Cork seniors. 

Despite losing both of those games, earning club success with Nemo means Noonan will be a player to watch out for in the upcoming 2021 junior B championship.

In the 2020 senior football decider, a third consecutive meeting of Mourneabbey and West Cork didn’t disappoint at CIT’s grounds. The latter triumphed following a high-scoring game and a clash in which Libby Coppinger played a key role.

The St Colum’s and Cork inter-county dual star produced one of her most impressive displays in a West Cork jersey, contributing 2-3 and proving a menace to the Mourneabbey back-line whenever in possession. 

Coppinger found the net with a rasping drive following a slow start from the rural division before netting an even better effort after 32 minutes.

On a day West Cork had to withstand a ferocious Mourneabbey onslaught, Coppinger’s tireless work rate and 9 points proved pivotal to the county final’s outcome.

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