THE West Cork Schoolboys League ended their 2009 SFAI Kennedy Cup campaign on a winning note at the University of Limerick.
It is fair to say that the WCSL endured a roller-coaster week at the SFAI’s most prestigious tournament in the summer of 2009. A difficult opening group phase was compounded by a narrow Kennedy Trophy quarter-final loss before the rural region rebounded in style to claim back-to-back victories.
Pre-tournament preparations were hampered by a string of injuries to key players, resulting in call-ups for younger personnel. Manager Conor Uhl and Head Coach Martin Henwood saw their Kennedy Cup squad decimated by nine long-term injuries between December and June of 2009. As a result, West Cork was unable to field the same starting XI in any of their pre-Kennedy Cup friendlies. A pair of victories over Kerry were welcome boosts prior to losing efforts against Cork, Dublin and Tipperary.
Nevertheless, West Cork set off for the University of Limerick with a squad that contained plenty of attacking talent. Bunratty United’s Conor O’Driscoll and Skibbereen’s Steven McCarthy represented two of the SFAI tournament’s most gifted players. The latter, son of the late O’Donovan Rossa and Cork GAA inter-county forward Mick McCarthy, dovetailed beautifully with Conor O’Driscoll throughout the week. Unsurprisingly, McCarthy and O’Driscoll provided the bulk of their region’s goals.
Emerging Bunratty United star Conor O’Driscoll had a week to remember, culminating in his selection as one of the 15 best overall players at the annual tournament. Even more importantly, O’Driscoll was selected to represent the Republic of Ireland at the Hibernia Cup international tournament in August of 2009.
Underlining the overall quality of West Cork’s Kennedy Cup squad, O’Driscoll and McCarthy, along with Riverside Athletic goalkeeper Gavin O’Leary, were invited to attended Republic of Ireland U13 international trials in Dublin later that year.
Elsewhere, the WCSL was able to call upon a strong Clonakilty AFC and Clonakilty Town contingent. Goalkeeper Niall McCarthy was a safe pair of hands whenever called upon while Josh Henry, Cian Crowley, Jack O’Mahony, Eoin Ryan and Mark Crowley also made their mark.
Along with Steven McCarthy, the Skibbereen AFC club was represented by midfield dynamo Sean Deasy and Owen Collins. Togher Celtic’s Jake Inglis was another individual to shine during his week at the University of Limerick.
The draw for the Kennedy Cup group stage was anything but kind. The Midlands and Cavan Schoolboys Leagues were expected to test West Cork to the limit. Yet, the Dublin District Schoolboys League’s (DDSL) presence meant Conor Uhl and Martin Henwood’s side would be going up against the top seeds and tournament favourites in a ‘David versus Goliath’ clash.
So, it proved as, despite gutsy displays, West Cork lost all three group clashes and a subsequent Kennedy Trophy quarter-final to Drogheda. Admirably, the WCSL continued to produce attractive, attacking football and were rewarded with two wins in their final two outings.
A 4-1 Kennedy Trophy win over Carlow was richly deserved and generated wild scenes of celebration at the final whistle. West Cork built on that encouraging performance to hold a highly regarded Kilkenny team 1-1 before edging the result 7-6 on penalties.
They may not have garnered as many headlines as their predecessors but the WCSL class of 2009 held their own against some of the best schoolboys teams in the country and earned admiration for their positive, attacking approach.
Dylan O’Driscoll (RIP) was one of the young players called up to represent the WCSL at the 2009 Kennedy Cup tournament.
A mere 12-years-old at the time, the Dunmanway Town player was an emerging talent and belied his young age by making a positive impact off the bench in the WCSL’s opening game against the Midlands.
Dylan was loved by every one of his team mates, management team and supporters who travelled to Limerick that summer. The Dunmanway player thoroughly enjoyed his week training, rooming and being a valued member of his region’s Kennedy Cup squad.
The young forward was not overawed by the occasion and had little fear of going up against some of the best Schoolboys League opposition in the country. Dylan tragically passed away on August 16, 2017.
Admirably, Dylan passed on his passion for football to his brother Keith. The younger sibling took his older brother’s words to heart and made a name for himself in West Cork Schoolboys League circles before signing for Cork City and playing a full season of SSE Airtricity U13 League of Ireland football in 2019.
Life is fleeting and although his family and friends miss him every day, Dylan O’Driscoll will forever live in their memories as a smiling, happy young footballer who represented the West Cork region at the most important SFAI tournament of them all.
Niall McCarthy (Clonakilty AF), Gavin O’Leary (Riverside Athletic), Christopher Moynihan (Bunratty United), Josh Henry (Clonakilty AFC), Toby Snashell (Bunratty United), Cian Crowley (Clonakilty AFC), Cathal Newman (Bunratty United), Sean Deasy (Skibbereen), Don O’Driscoll (Drinagh Rangers), Jack O’Mahony (Clonakilty AFC), Steven McCarthy (Skibbereen), Conor O’Driscoll (Bunratty United), Jake Inglis (Togher Celtic), Joe Murphy (Bantry Bay Rovers), Eoin Ryan (Clonakilty AFC), Fionn Hurley (Bunratty United), Mark Crowley (Clonakilty Town), Steven O’Driscoll (Bantry Bay Rovers), Dylan O’Driscoll (Dunmanway Town) and Owen Collins (Skibbereen).