THE West Cork Schoolboys League produced a memorable SFAI Kennedy Cup performance to secure a seventh-place finish in the 2007 tournament.
It was a talented group and included future Cork footballer Dan Mac Eoin and Darren Sweetnam, who'd progress to the Cork senior hurlers before switching to Munster rugby.
Travelling to the University of Limerick on Monday, June 12, 2007, the WCSL hoped to emulate the success of their inter-league counterparts from three years before. That summer of 2004 saw West Cork register its highest finish at the SFAI’s annual tournament by reaching the penultimate round and achieving a top-four (overall) ranking.
Positive performances and results during the intervening three-year period meant West Cork arrived in Limerick in good spirits despite being drawn in a tricky opening group. Mayo, North East Counties (NEC) and the Midlands Schoolboys League were the WSCL’s Group 3 opponents during the first two days of competition.
Mayo was the group’s highest-ranked team and listed as the tournament’s fifth strongest squad according to the SFAI at the time. West Cork (ranked 16th) were eager to put in a solid performance against the Connacht side whilst not underestimating the Midlands (ranked 24th) or NEC’s (ranked 27th) abilities.
Pre-tournament friendly wins over Tramore Athletic and South Tipperary, as well as a terrific display in a narrow 1-0 loss to the Cork Schoolboys League, bode well for the tournament opener against the Midlands.
As one of the Kennedy Cup’s smallest competing leagues, West Cork kicked-off their seventh consecutive tournament appearance with a scoreless draw. James Walsh’s side followed up that solid defensive display with a second 0-0 draw in as many outings against the North East Counties.
Two points from a possible six, West Cork entered their final Group 3 match against a talented Mayo team. Walsh’s players knew nothing less than a victory would suffice and produced the best performance of their week at the University of Limerick.
Kevin Davis (Skibbereen) headed home a Sean Evans (Riverside Athletic) cross to break the deadlock after 10 minutes. Mayo regrouped and netted a deserved leveller to send the teams in tied at the break. West Cork continued to stretch their opposing defence and retook the lead when another Evans cross was guided into the net by Jason Minihane (Bunratty United). Despite increased Mayo pressure, the WCSL made sure of their victory when Gearoid Barry (Lyre Rovers) found the net to round off a 3-1 triumph.
That memorable win earned James Walsh’s side top spot in Group 3 and a place in the Kennedy Cup quarter-finals. A physically stronger Donegal outfit stood between West Cork and a return to the semi-finals for the first time in three summers. Neither side gained the upper hand during a close contest with the Donegal goalkeeper brilliantly denying Eric Crowley (Drinagh Rangers) and Eddie Goggin (Bunratty United).
Alas, a second-half goal was enough to earn Donegal the narrowest of victories despite their opponents producing as good a display as their previous win over Mayo. Crestfallen at having come so close to reaching the semi-finals, a fatigued West Cork lost 2-0 to the Limerick Desmond Schoolboys in the Kennedy Plate semi-final on the second last day of the tournament.
That meant a 7th/8th place play-off against Munster rivals South Tipperary would mark the WCSL’s final 2007 Kennedy Cup outing later that same evening. West Cork’s management team used the fixture to field a much-changed line-up but that didn’t deter Eddie Goggin from opening the scoring courtesy of a fine effort.
South Tipperary were in no mood to accept defeat and promptly scored twice in quick succession to move 2-1 ahead. A tight second period produced one more goal and it was Adam Collins (Bunratty United) who netted it. Collins’ close-range effort earned his side a 2-2 draw so penalties were required to decide the outcome.
A marathon shootout saw West Cork and South Tipperary match each other stride for stride until Eric Crowley stepped forward. Level 7-7 on spot-kicks, the Drinagh Rangers player confidently fired into the back of the net and won the tie for an ecstatic West Cork squad, backroom team and supporters.
From the high of defeating fifth-ranked Mayo to the disappointment of losing 1-0 to Donegal in the Kennedy Cup quarter-finals, it was quite a week for the West Cork Schoolboys League squad at the 2007 tournament. A seventh overall finish was a deserved reward for such a hardworking group who did everything that was asked of them and helped raise the profile of one of the SFAI’s smallest schoolboys leagues.
Jason Minihane, Sean Evans, Josh Lenz Lipitch, Adam Collins, Eddie Goggin (Bunratty United), Darren Sweetnam, Eric Crowley, Danny Allison (Drinagh Rangers), Rudi Henwood, Dan Mac Eoin, Patrick Rossiter (Skibbereen), Daniel Twomey, David O’Brien, Mark Quinn (Togher Celtic), Kevin Cormican, Gearoid Barry (Lyre Rovers), Sean Ryan, John Daly (Riverside Athletic) and Shane Deasy (Clonakilty AFC).
West Cork 0 Midlands 0; West Cork 0 North East Counties 0; Mayo 1 West Cork 3.
West Cork 0 Donegal 1.
Limerick Desmond 2 West Cork 0.
West Cork 2 South Tipperary 2 (West Cork won 8-7 on penalties).