CORK finished off their Munster U16 A LGFA campaign in style by defeating Kerry to become 2021 provincial champions.
Mallow was the venue for Denis Mulvihill’s side’s last outing of the season as the Cork U16s put a difficult couple of Covid-affected years behind them and deservedly claimed Munster silverware.
The final score of 7-11 to 2-4 was a fair reflection of a game that Cork dominated from the opening whistle. Lia Hogan (2), Áine Hallihan (2), Edel Sheehan, Eabha Curran and Ciara Morrison found the net for the winners.
Unlike their camogie and GAA counterparts, the LGFA has remained steadfast in its decision not to run All-Ireland semi-finals or finals for any of their underage competitions in 2021. That meant Cork’s entire U16 A provincial campaign consisted of a round-robin competition with Tipperary and Kerry before defeating the latter in a final.
Three games, considering all the time and effort that the panel put in trialling, preparing and training, is a desperately poor return in any code. The question still remains, why was it ok for Cork’s camogie minor players, including dual minors, to complete their All-Ireland series but not ladies football?
“The girls knew this Munster final was probably going to be their last game of this year and were geared up for it,” Cork LGFA U16 manager Denis Mulvihill told the Echo.
“To be fair, they put in an awful lot of work and were prepared for the game itself. Look, they played extremely well on the day. Some of the movement and transition of play from the backs to midfield and then the forwards was just one of those days when a lot of stuff went right.”
The fact Cork knew there would be no All-Ireland LGFA series did not detract from what was a superb performance and fitting, albeit far too early, end to their season. Their 2021 Munster success was the culmination of a lot of hard work spread out over an even longer period due to Covid.
“It seems such a long time ago now when we were talking to the girls on Zoom pre-Cork U16 football trials,” Mulvihill admitted.
“We sent out work plans to close to 300 U16 players just so that they would all be properly prepared whenever the trials did come around. That was to give everyone a fair chance and make sure they had a bit of work done at home before they came to the trials.
“It has been a long road to September as the U16 inter-county season would normally be completed in July. Having said that, we were glad to have it. The disappointment of not being able to contest and All-Ireland has really sunk home the last three or four weeks.
“The closer it got to the Munster final, the less chance that a U16 All-Ireland was going to happen. There was no backing down from Croke Park which is unfortunate. The girls were well aware of that going into the Kerry game.”
Denis Mulvihill’s U16 success completed a clean sweep of Munster LGFA titles following in the footsteps of Joe Carroll’s Cork minors and Lisa Walsh’s Cork U14s.
So, it is fair to say that the underage ladies football inter-county scene is in rude health despite not having any All-Ireland series in 2021.
“There are 14 girls on this year’s Cork U16 football panel available to us again next year. The other 16 will be going for minor trials at the end of October and the start of November,” Denis Mulvihill concluded.
“There are some quality players coming through once again this year and I would see some of them making the minor panel and even making the starting team. There are some super athletes there. We also had seven dual Cork U16 players this year.
“Please God we will get back to a more normal structure next year.”