WEST Cork club Castlehaven LGFA will be going for three Cork LGFA county titles in a row this year.
It seems like a lifetime ago but Castlehaven’s 2020 Cork LGFA JBFC county title success was a pivotal moment in the West Cork club’s progression.
Having lost out in the 2018 junior C decider to local rivals O’Donovan Rossa, after a replay, ‘the Haven’ rebounded in style by claiming the junior B grade trophy the following year.
Led by inspirational West Cork senior and club captain Siobhan Courtney, Castlehaven had only one goal in mind when last year’s county championship kicked off.
High-scoring victories over Bishopstown, Midleton, Mourneabbey B and old friends O’Donovan Rossa set up a semi-final meeting with Funcheon Gaels.
Another impressive tally, 6-11 to 4-4, saw Dinny Cahalane’s side qualify for the junior B county final.
Their opponents would be none other than O’Donovan Rossa who overcame Watergrasshill in the other last-four encounter.
A repeat of the 2018 all-West Cork county junior C final did not disappoint in front of a large attendance in Dunmanway.
Once again, Castlehaven’s scoring prowess was to the fore as the Union Hall-Castletownshed club registered a merited 5-11 to 3-8 success.
Back-to-back Cork LGFA county titles and promotion to the junior A ranks for 2021 was ample reward for such a hard-working panel and management team. Yet, Castlehaven’s ascension to the JAFC ranks didn’t happen overnight.
“It was an unbelievable achievement to win junior C and B county titles in consecutive years considering where the club had come from,” Castlehaven’s Dinny Cahalane said.
“It is the same group of girls since day one but every year we have added two or three new players which freshens up the panel and increases competition for places.
“We barely had 15 players when we first started out whereas now, there is a panel of over 30 which will drive them on over the next few years.”
Cahalane is the first to admit that his club’s future prospects depend on proper underage structures being maintained.
Thankfully, Castlehaven utilised the LGFA’s Gaelic4Girls initiative to positive effect and are beginning to reap the rewards at both underage and adult level.
“In fairness to all the people involved, our club’s underage structure is in excellent shape,” Cahalane admitted.
“A lot of parents are involved as well as many of our adult squad. Mags O’Regan, Grainne O’Sullivan and Rachel Whelton are just some of the junior players who help out with our underage girls training.
“When our youngsters see those players winning county titles but still making time to go training with them, well, that’s something special. It gives all the young girls in our club a lift.
“There is huge interest in the ladies football club, from adult right down to the youngest of our underage teams, right now. You go back between 15 and 20 years ago and there wasn’t a ladies team let alone any underage girls teams.
“The club tried to setup a team back in 2002, but ladies football was nowhere near as popular as it is these days.
“There was also a lot more people available to help out. From 2015, Castlehaven was in a position to field U14, U16 and U18 teams.
“The adult side of things also began to take off and now, after winning back-to-back county titles, our ladies football club is flying.”
The West Cork club is in such good shape that they were able to field a second adult team in last season’s Cork LGFA 13/15-a-side B championship.
“It was when we had 35 girls out training that we decided to try fielding a second junior team last year,” Cahalane commented.
“Every club is trying to hold on to as many players as possible but unless they are getting regular games then that becomes difficult. That’s what fielding a second team was the right move as it facilitated games for everyone on the Castlehaven junior panel.
“I have to say Castlehaven GAA club have been incredibly accommodating to the ladies club. Pitches have been made available to us when we needed them and that’s down to the communication between the two clubs.”