Emerging Talent Programme will cater to West Cork's best male and female players

'Getting a West Cork Schoolgirls League group to the Gaynor Cup would be the ultimate goal'
Emerging Talent Programme will cater to West Cork's best male and female players

The 2016 West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League Kennedy Cup squad that came through the region's Emerging Talent Programme and represented their region at the University of Limerick.

THE creation of new schoolgirl age grades is welcome for the West Cork Schoolboys’ and Schoolgirls’ League’s Emerging Talent Programme.

A newly-named West Cork Schoolboys’ and Schoolgirls’ League will promote football for young girls throughout West Cork. The WCSSL committee’s decision, passed by club delegates, is also good news for the region’s ETP, says head co-ordinator, DJ Curtin.

“There was never a question as to whether the league should change their title, but now that they have, it is absolutely fantastic,” Curtin said.

“We have seen growth in the number of girls looking to get involved in our ETP over the last few years. A lot of WCSSL club’s underage teams are fielding girls who want to play football, but would probably prefer to play in an all-girls league.

“Now, there is a real opportunity to provide a platform for young females, no matter where they live in West Cork, to train and play competitive, schoolgirls’ football.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to organise any ETP trials last year and that prevented a huge amount of young boys and girls from getting a chance to join our U11 or U12 inter-league squads,” Curtin said.

It is frightening when you think about it, but most of our ETP players have missed out on almost two years’ worth of training on the pitch. There are a couple of girls still playing on our U13 inter-league squad.

“Those girls are more than capable of holding their own and amongst some of the top emerging talents in West Cork.”

The creation of any new schoolgirls’ league and cup competitions will depend on adequate playing numbers, plus the requisite amount of coaches to oversee their development. Yet, long-term, there is no reason why the WCSSL should not aspire to fielding an inter-league girls’ team at the annual Women’s FAI Gaynor Cup, the schoolgirls’ equivalent of the SFAI (schoolboys) Kennedy Cup tournament.

“Getting a West Cork Schoolgirls’ League to the Gaynor Cup would be the ultimate goal, but I would say that it is a long way off,” Curtin said.

“Ultimately, the responsibility falls on us, as ETP coaches, to encourage enough girls to start playing football and then provide proper coaching for any West Cork squad that ends up competing at the highest level, including the Gaynor Cup. If we can put the structures in place within West Cork, hopefully, girls will respond and come out to play. From there, it is a case of growing the numbers and, hopefully, one day have a squad and team of coaches capable of competing at Gaynor Cup level.

“I am not saying there will be an 11-a-side schoolgirls’ league in West Cork straight away,” Curtin said. “If we can start with five- or even nine-a-side games, to begin with, and grow it from there, provided there is enough support, anything is possible.

“The most important thing, right now, is to try and get as many West Cork schoolgirls playing football as we can. If the appetite is there, then sometime in the future, it is incumbent on the WCSSL ETP to, one day, provide the coaching platform to develop a Gaynor Cup squad.”

Parents will be as important as coaches in encouraging their children to return to the playing fields once the HSE and government all-clear is given. West Cork’s ETP is no different and relies on their players’ parents for support and encouragement.

The 2016 West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League Kennedy Cup squad that came through the region's Emerging Talent Programme to compete at the annual tournament.
The 2016 West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League Kennedy Cup squad that came through the region's Emerging Talent Programme to compete at the annual tournament.

“Football talent is the same, whether it is a boy or a girl,” Curtin said.

“When those children get to ETP level, no matter how good they are, nothing functions without the help of their parents or guardians. So, parents are vital and know exactly what their boys or girls want. Again, if the ETP can put the proper schoolgirls’ coaching structures in place, then I don’t see why parents won’t come out and support any of our future initiatives aimed at getting more girls out playing football.

“As the saying goes, ‘if we build it, they will come...’ It will be a step-by-step process, but, certainly, creating, developing, and delivering an ETP schoolgirls’ programme is something that, in time, can happen here in West Cork.”

The WCSSL Emerging Talent Programme is eager to restart, as another lengthy level-5 lockdown comes to an end. Decisions on when, and how many training sessions will be organised for each of the ETP’s inter-league squads, are yet to be confirmed.

Our Kennedy Cup U14 squad have kept going throughout the lockdowns, thanks to their coaches, Áine O’Donovan and Sean Spenser.

“They have been holding multiple online Zoom calls and even a few online training sessions as well. We haven’t heard anything about whether or not this year’s Kennedy Cup is going ahead. We will continue preparing until we are told otherwise.

“David Hall and Danny Logan have been working incredibly hard with the West Cork U13s and using a lot of online sessions, as well as individual training plans, to keep that group going. As with the Kennedy Cup, we have no word on if, or when, this year’s SFAI Subway Championship inter-leagues are going ahead.”

Irrespective of when the WCSSL Emerging Talent Programme returns, the prospect of adding an increasing number of schoolgirls is positive news for football in West Cork.

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