HERE we reflect on the West Cork Schoolboys League Kennedy Cup campaign in 2008 at the University of Limerick.
It is 13 years since the WCSL rounded off a productive week with impressive back-to-back victories at the prestigious SFAI tournament. The University of Limerick played host to 32 schoolboys’ leagues from around the country back in June, 2008. That summer, West Cork fielded a talented squad of emerging players that would go on to make their mark in football and GAA circles.
At 14, Bunratty United’s Conor O’Driscoll was one of the country’s most naturally gifted strikers. The Goleen native was snapped up by Cork City and won a U19 Cup with the League of Ireland club as well as being capped by the Republic of Ireland U18s.
Kevin Davis was one of the 2008 West Cork team’s most skillful players. The Skibbereen AFC attacker went on to represent O’Donovan Rossa seniors before and featuring on the Cork senior football panel 10 years after his Kennedy Cup debut.
Lyre Rovers’ Daniel Nyhan represented Cork at underage level before helping Ballinascarthy claim the 2019 West Cork junior A hurling title.
West Cork Schoolboys Coach Conor Uhl would also enjoy great success in later years as assistant manager and manager of UCC, winning numerous Irish University Collingwood Cup titles.
The North Eastern Counties (NEC), Longford and Galway represented the WCSL’s opponents during the opening group phase of the 2008 SFAI Kennedy Cup. West Cork utilised a positive approach throughout their week in Limerick but were repeatedly thwarted by a well organised NEC defence during a high-octane group opener.
Ballydehob’s Tadgh O’Mahony broke the deadlock midway through the second period before a defensive remix-up handed the NEC and equaliser shortly after. No further goals meant the sides had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
Day 2 of the competition produced a pair of shock results as the NEC upset top-ranked Galway 2-0 and West Cork missed an early penalty in a 2-0 loss to Longford. Those outcomes meant the WCSL required a victory over Galway in their final Group7 outing to have any chance of making the Kennedy Cup quarter-finals. Galway built an early 2-0 lead and withstood a ferocious West Cork fightback including a converted Gavin O’Shea penalty to emerge victorious.
Martin Henwood, Conor Uhl and Paddy McCarthy’s side had no choice but to pick themselves up following that disappointing loss. West Cork faced West Waterford East Cork (WWEC) in the knockout phase of the Kennedy Trophy a day after going down to both Longford and Galway.
The WWEC were the better side early on and scored either side of half time. West Cork dug deep and staged a tremendous comeback culminating in Conor O’Neill (Riverside Athletic) and Ian Falvey (Clonakilty AFC) second half strikes. A marvellous Munster derby finished 2-2 and required penalties to see who would progress to the Kennedy Trophy semi-finals. Alas, a tense 4-3 shootout went in the WWEC’s favour to send West Cork into the Kennedy Trophy play-offs.
Creditably, a WCSL squad that had produced flashes of superb attacking football reserved their best displays for their last day on UL’s campus. Kevin Davis scored the only goal of a tight 1-0 win over Carlow before West Cork went goal crazy and left another positive mark on the tournament. A Munster derby with North Tipperary produced six goals and began with a second-minute Conor O’Driscoll opener.
North Tipperary equalised shortly before the interval but O’Driscoll was on fire and nonchalantly rounded the goalkeeper to make it 2-1. The Bunratty forward completed his hat-trick with a fantastic individual effort midway through the second half to put West Cork 3-1 ahead.
A cracking game was far from over however, as North Tipp pulled a goal back to set up a nervous finale. That was Kevin Davis’ cue to confirm West Cork’s victory as the Skibbereen playmaker found the net to copper fasten a richly deserved 4-2 triumph.
That outcome was the least a talented WCSL squad deserved following their week-long exertions. It took a full squad effort to end the tournament on a high with Adam Collins, Brendan O’Dwyer, Martin Scally, Tadgh O’Mahony and Conor O’Neill impressing throughout. Kevin Davis and Conor O’Driscoll were the pick of the rural region’s top performers.
Coach Martin Henwood best summed up the tournament from a West Cork perspective: “Nerves showed in our opening games but once the side grew in confidence we displayed our true potential and played some excellent football.”
2008 SFAI UMBRO Kennedy Cup Results:
Group 7: West Cork 1 NEC 1; West Cork 0 Longford 2; Galway 2 West Cork 1.
Kennedy Trophy quarter-final: WWEC 2 West Cork 2 (WWEC won 4-3 on penalties).
Kennedy Trophy Play-Offs: West Cork 1 Carlow 0, West Cork 4 North Tipperary 2.
2008 SFAI UMBRO West Cork Schoolboys League Kennedy Cup squad:
Liam Cahalane, Alfie Hyland (Drinagh Rangers), Martin Scally, Ian Falvey (Clonakilty AFC), Daniel Nyhan (Lyre Rovers), Conor O’Neill, Niall Kelleher (Riverside Athletic), Tadgh O’Mahony, Bosco Minihane (Ballydehob), Gavin O’Shea, Stephen Casey, Ciarán McElhinney (Bantry Bay Rovers), Conor O’Driscoll, Adam Collins (Bunratty United), Stephen O’Driscoll (Togher Celtic), Brendan O’Dwyer, Kevin Davis, Daniel Rowell, Brian Leonard and Sean Deasy (Skibbereen).