EAST Cork club Aghada will be eager to build on an encouraging 2020 Cork LGFA SFC campaign when the action finally restarts later this year.
Aghada ladies senior football manager Cathal McAllister is entering his second year at the helm and on the back of encouraging second campaign in the top club tier.
Under McAllister’s tutelage, the Rosteallan-based club reached the last four of last year’s senior championship only to come up short against eventual county champions West Cork.
Despite a semi-final heavy defeat, there was much to admire in Aghada’s effort and refusal to throw in the towel against West Cork. Those attributes augur well for a squad that has enjoyed plenty of county and All-Ireland success in the recent past.
“At senior level, our biggest attribute is our never-say-die attitude,” Aghada LGFA’s manager told The Echo.
“Granted, we were well beaten in last year’s senior semi-final by West Cork. In fairness to our girls, a lot of other teams would have bowed their heads and given up but the way they kept coming forward and kept trying to get scores was heartening.
“Being a senior football club is very important because all the younger players look up to that team. To be fair, Aghada’s players give back to the club by helping out with underage training whenever they can.
“We would have three or four seniors helping out every week and that is vital to keep the club going in the right direction. A lot of the young girls coming up through the age-grades should be aspiring to play senior with Aghada.”
“We are lucky to have such a good underage setup within the club because without that you won’t have players coming through,” Cathal McAllister admitted.
“We have a fantastic academy and start the girls out at the age of five. That might seem like a very young age to be starting out but those girls absolutely love it.
Aghada’s academy trains all the U5s to U8s every Saturday morning (pre-Covid) and also field girls teams at U10, U12, U14 and 1U6 as well.
"Things were going really well before all the lockdowns but we hope to get back on the pitches as soon as it is safe.
“As for coaches, the club has a decent academy structure in place and we are lucky to have them across all our underage teams. Every club faces the difficulty of recruiting new coaches each year but luckily enough, Aghada is doing well in that regard right now.”
Cathal McAllister is framiliar with the current Aghada senior setup having coached many of the players since their U10 days.
The pathway from underage to senior is never easy but Aghada have reaped the benefits of nurturing a dedicated group eager to make their mark in this year’s senior championship.
“We struggled in our first year up at senior but improved during 2020 and ended up making the county semi-finals,” McAllister added.
“The pandemic would have stood to us in that we had access to all of our inter-county players because of the split season. This club became All-Ireland LGFA junior champions in 2017 and followed that up by winning the county intermediate title the following year.
“I suppose most people would know of our more experienced players like Emma Farmer, Roisin Phelan and Hannah Looney. They have represented Cork at senior and we now have Sarah Leahy pushing for a place in the senior inter-county team as well.
“Aghada won a U16 A county title a few years back when we beat Kinsale after a replay. That was an important moment for ladies football in the club.
The majority of that U16 squad have progressed on to the senior panel.
“So, it requires a real team effort when it comes to winning anything, no matter what the club. That’s why developing our younger players remains a priority. Finding the next generation of Hannah Looney’s and Emma Farmer’s is crucial to Aghada’s future success.”
The East Cork club showed what they are capable of by reaching last season’s Cork LGFA SFC semi-finals.
A repeat of that effort and their never-say-die atttude should see Aghada reach the business end of the championship once again in 2021.