THE SuperValu West Cork Schoolboys League is set for some major changes.
Last week, a WCSL Committee and delegates meeting outlined a host of upcoming changes to the existing structures of the rural region’s underage football leagues.
West Cork was one of the few underage football organisations to move to a summer calendar season a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, a global pandemic intervened and meant the new format had little opportunity to properly bed in.
A decision to run the league’s 2020 cup competitions in reduced one-day blitz formats proved a massive success. Cup winners were crowned in each age-grade from U11 to U16 and three rounds of league fixtures completed prior to the country’s first set of lockdowns.
Since then, as with every other schoolboys league in the country, West Cork has had to halt all training and matches under HSE and government Covid-19 guidelines.
Yet, behind the scenes, the league’s committee has worked hard during the enforced downtime and begun laying the foundations for future developments. The West Cork Schoolboys League envisages these changes will have both a lasting and positive effect on their players, coaches and supporters.
The first and perhaps the most important transformation is the decision to change the league’s name.
“We have decided to change the league’s name to the West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League,” WCSL Secretary David Hall told.
“This is not being done just for the sake of a name change. As part of the league’s new set of deliverables, there will be new formalised schoolgirls competitions introduced, depending on playing numbers, for the coming season. We do envisage girls competitions taking place sometime later this year. There is an EGM taking place on April 1 where the league’s official name will become the West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League (WCSSL).”
A date for the safe return of WCSL football to the West Cork region remains unknown. Governing bodies, the FAI and SFAI, will be guided by whatever directives are issued by the HSE and government over the coming weeks. West Cork is remaining positive however, and hopeful that a successful return to restricted and non-contact training might allow the possibility for league and cup fixtures to take place sometime soon after.
“Obviously, we will be guided by HSE and government guidelines as well as whatever the FAI decides the best course of action is for a safe return to schoolboys and schoolgirls football,” David Hall commented.
"We are looking very carefully at all the current trends at the moment. The likelihood is that children might be allowed to go back training, initially, in small pods or groups but only after April 5.
“It is equally important to note that the league is still going day-to-day on all of this so any dates are dependent on how well the virus is being suppressed.
“Based on last year’s return to play protocols, in which there were no positive cases recorded for any underage footballer in Ireland let alone West Cork, there should be approximately 90 days between the suggested return to training and playing competitive fixtures.”
The WCSL Committee is well aware of the eagerness of its clubs and players to get back playing football as quickly as possible. West Cork’s cautionary approach is the correct one, however, and they are not committing themselves to any specific dates. Ultimately, how well the Covid-19 virus is suppressed over the coming weeks will determine if and when underage football can restart.
With that in mind, WCSL clubs will have an opportunity to make sure all required Covid-19 protocols are in place, including the completion of an upcoming Child Welfare course, before any on-field training or matches can resume.
“The league is anxious to continue making sure all of our West Cork clubs are child welfare compliant,” Hall added.
“There are statutory obligations at every club regarding child welfare and we, the WCSL Committee, take that very seriously. All our club’s Covid compliance officers will need to be in place before our return to play protocols kick in.
"That means both child welfare training and Garda Vetting. The FAI’s Ray Claffey has agreed to run a West Cork (only) Child Safety 1 Course in April in which all WCSL club delegates can attend.
“Essentially, we lost a full season during 2020 so it is absolutely vital that every club has the correct infrastructure in place before any child returns to play.”
The West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League are making radical but important changes to their structures and deliverables. A hardworking committee has engaged with the region’s clubs over a wide range of topics over the last 12 months.
Adding Schoolgirls to the title of the league represents an important and historical step. That’s because a huge number of young female footballers live in the West Cork region and the opportunity to play regular, competitive matches has the possibility to quickly grow playing numbers. The WCSL is looking for someone to fill the important committee role of PRO and will be addressing that issue in due course.
Whatever happens over the coming weeks and months, the West Cork Schoolboys League has already laid the foundations for enhancing young footballers’ playing experiences into the next decade and beyond.