NEW U12 and U15 Schoolgirls divisions are welcome developments as the SuperValu West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League returns for a new season this weekend.
The WCSSL’s historic name change, incorporating schoolgirls into their league’s title, represented the first positive step to increasing the promotion and participation of schoolgirls football in the rural region.
“Changing our league’s name is the first step we must take to properly incorporate schoolgirls football in West Cork,” WCSL chairman Declan Deasy commented.
“West Cork must be inclusive when it comes to delivering football to young players, boys or girls, throughout the region. We want to get as many girls as possible playing football regularly throughout West Cork. So, our aim, this year as a league, is to get some form of schoolgirls competition going.
“The first step in that process is an important one and that is to change our name to the West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League. We want to give schoolgirls a voice, as well as the schoolboys, be treated equally and enjoy all the benefits of playing competitive underage football.”
The WCSSL’s youngest age grade, U11, will be run as a developmental mixed league involving 11 teams made up of both schoolboys and schoolgirls. This season’s entrants have been split into two groups and with Clonakilty AFC fielding three teams and Castlelack entering two.
A new Schoolgirls U12 League is a most welcome development. Bantry Bay Rovers, Castlelack, Drinagh Rangers and Skibbereen are the entrants for the inaugural campaign in which each side will play one another home and away before league champions are decided.
One of the most interesting features of the WCSSL season is the fact each age grade, from U11 to U16, will play out their respective leagues before any knockout competitions begin. That WCSSL strategy see teams of similar standard, depending on their finishing positions, contesting SuperValu Cup, Shield and Plate tournaments to finish off the 2021 campaign.
The new U12 Schoolgirls League is a good example as the top two ranked sides will then face off in a Schoolgirls U12 Cup final while third and fourth contest the U12 Schoolgirls Shield. All four competing clubs, Bantry, Drinagh, Castlelack and Skibb, have nothing to lose and should produce some cracking encounters. The hope is that other West Cork clubs will follow the four teams initiative and steadily increase the number of participants over the next couple of years.
That’s why five teams entering the 2021 SuperValu U15 Schoolgirls League is another positive move. Initially, the WCSSL committee put forward the idea of trialling an U14 Schoolgirls tier. Most clubs' response was that they would struggle to field teams unless a U15 rather than a U14 age grade could be facilitated.
The WCSSL committee duly complied so Bantry Bay Rovers, Bunratty United, Castlelack, Drinagh Rangers and Riverside Athletic will contest this season’s league trophy. A U15 Cup competition involving all five clubs will follow once the league has concluded.
On the schoolboys front, all eyes will be on the SuperValu WCSSL U14 League as West Cork inter-league squad players ramp up their 2021 Kennedy Cup preparations.
Thankfully, the SFAI has announced they intend to press ahead with their annual Kennedy Cup competition this coming year. The most prestigious schoolboys inter-league competition in the country’s format has yet to be clarified.
2019 was the last time a West Cork Schoolboys and Schoolgirls League team competed in the New Balance SFAI Kennedy Cup. West Cork emerged with one of the best defences in the tournament that summer. An injury-plagued WCSSL squad ended their week with a 23rd/24th place play-off against Wicklow. Drinagh Rangers’ Tom McQueen broke the deadlock prior to Edward Myers doubling his side’s advantage. Myers also arrowed in West Cork’s final goal to cement a deserved 3-0 victory.
Looking ahead, all of this season’s West Cork Kennedy Cup squad will line out for their respective clubs in the 2021 SuperValu U14 Premier League over the coming months. Split into two groups of six, there will be an outright winner in each section. First and second in Groups 1 and 2 will then enter the SuperValu U14 Schoolboys Cup semi-finals. The third and fourth-placed teams will contest the SuperValu U14 Shield while each group’s fifth and sixth ranked teams will take part in the SuperValu U14 Shield knockout tournament.
Group 1: Bantry Bay Rovers, Bunratty United, Castlelack, Clonakilty AFC, Drinagh Rangers and Lyre Rovers. Group 2: Castlelack B, Clonakilty AFC B, Clonakilty AFC C, Kilmichael Rovers and Riverside Athletic.
Bantry Bay Rovers, Castlelack, Drinagh Rangers and Skibbereen.
Group 1: Ardfield, Bantry Bay Rovers, Clonakilty AFC, Dunmanway Town, Lyre Rovers and Skibbereen. Group 2: Castlelack, Drinagh Rangers, Kilmichael Rovers, Riverside Athletic, Skibbereen B and Sullane.
Bantry Bay Rovers, Bunratty United, Castlelack, Drinagh Rangers and Riverside Athletic.