IT has been a memorable year for O’Donovan Rossa’s footballers who captured the Cork LGFA junior B county title a year after finishing runners-up in the ultra-competitive grade.
Beating Watergrasshill to capture the 2021 Cork LGFA JBFC county championship represented an important milestone for O’Donovan Rossa’s squad. The Skibbereen club lost to local rivals Castlehaven in the previous year’s decider and were desperate to get back to another final and reach the junior A grade.
Kate O’Donovan captained Rossa to victory over Watergrasshill. The captain played a pivotal role by contributing nine points (three frees) of her side’s winning total in the final. Yet, it took a full panels' combined efforts to eradicate the memory of their previous year’s disappointment.
“With any team, any county final loss just drives you on to do better the following year,” Kate O’Donovan commented to the Echo.
You only have to look at O’Donovan Rossa’s group stage results to appreciate the small margins between success and failure. Drawn in a qualifying group alongside Midleton, Rockbán and Bishopstown, O’Donovan Rossa finished joint-top with the first two mentioned clubs on six points apiece.
It came down to points difference between three evenly matched sides but Rossa’s did enough to secure top spot and a semi-final with Nemo Rangers. The benefit of having come through such a tough opening phase benefitted the West Cork side as they registered a convincing 2-13 to 0-5 win over the Trabeg outfit before toppling Watergrasshill in the JBFC decider.
“When you are up against good teams, it definitely improves you and prepares you for the knockout rounds,” the O’Donovan Rossa captain admitted.
“Playing the likes of Midleton, Rockbán and Bishopstown only makes you better. It was definitely important O’Donovan Rossa had those challenges before going on to play Nemo and eventually Watergrasshill.
"It just shows you how tough the junior B grade is and there was nothing much between any of the teams.
“There wouldn’t be much point to winning all your group games easily before getting to the semi-finals or a final. We had to go out and win a battle every game this year. Every player had to bring it on the day.”
Led by Derek Tobin, O’Donovan Rossa’s management team proved every bit as important as their players in achieving county junior B glory. Kate O’Donovan is quick to pay tribute to the people, off the pitch, who helped Rossa’s gain championship success in 2021.
“Our management team were absolutely super and I can’t praise them enough,” O’Donovan added.
“We were lucky to have Derek Tobin, James O’Mahony, Michael McCarthy, Triona Conway and Ger O’Brien on the sideline this year. Derek, James, Michael and Triona have been there with us since day one. They know this team inside out and all our strengths and weaknesses.
“Ger came on board this year and brought new ideas and it was great to have a new opinion on things as well. So, we had a mixture of trainers who knew us very well and a new trainer in Ger and it worked out really well. I have to praise all the fitness, strength and conditioning work Conor Kelleher did with us as well.
“We trained three nights a week. It was a long-term goal of ours to reach the county final. I know we were in lockdown from around last February but the girls made sure we held Zoom calls every Friday night as well as working on our strength and conditioning. It was the management team that kept everything going though so they deserve a huge amount of praise for that.”
Promotion to junior A comes at a time two other West Cork clubs, Castlehaven and Dohenys, remain in the hunt for county honours in that particular grade. O’Donovan Rossa should have little fear of making the jump to a higher tier as evidenced by their substantial improvement over the past 12 months.