CASTLEHAVEN'S third consecutive Cork LGFA junior championship success arrived at the end of another successful domestic season for West Cork clubs.
They will be talking about last Saturday’s Castlehaven and Dohenys’ JAFC county decider at MTU for many years to come.
The two west Cork sides couldn’t be separated after normal (1-8 to 1-8) and extra-time (1-12 to 1-12) before an even more dramatic 30-metre free shootout.
Mairead Crowley (Dohenys) and Rachel Whelton (Castlehaven) were the only successful kickers before sudden death was required.
Dohenys’ Ruth Collins looked to have won it until one of the referee’s assistants deemed Collins to have crossed the ‘kicking line’ which, under LGFA rules, meant the free couldn’t stand.
Aileen Santry sent her effort over the bar for the Haven and when Dohenys missed their final kick and it was their opponents who celebrated claiming the 2021 junior A title.
It was a cruel blow for a Dohenys team, led brilliantly by Melissa Duggan throughout, that went toe-to-toe with their divisional rivals throughout an emotion-sapping afternoon. It is also no way to lose a county final or any other county championship match for that matter.
Yet, this weekend’s Munster junior A championship opening round meant there appeared to be no wiggle room for a replay. In fairness to Castlehaven, they were the first to admit Dohenys should not have lost in the manner they did.
“I don’t know really, we are delighted to win, obviously, we are ecstatic and there are loads of us in tears but it is horrible for Dohenys,” Castlehaven captain Siobhan Courtney commented.
“It is an awful way for a game to end. We are on the winning side and we are delighted but it is an awful way for a game to end.” “It is absolutely horrible for Dohenys and very unfair the way it was decided to be honest,” added the Haven’s Aileen Santry.
“I know there is Munster championship next weekend but they (county board) could have done something. Dohenys are an absolutely brilliant team and I am sure they will be back again next year.”
It won’t be of much solace to a broken-hearted Dohenys team but they were one of the top two, along with Castlehaven, teams once again in this year’s junior A grade. Only points difference prevented the Dunmanway club from reaching the previous season’s semi-finals.
Dohenys clearly belong at this grade and will be back challenging once again next year.
Keith White’s side will have another west Cork club for company in the 2022 JAFC. That’s because O’Donovan Rossa won this year’s junior B title and gained promotion to the junior A competition. Victory over Watergrasshill in the county final and Nemo in the semi’s was attained by an emerging Skibbereen side that through a group containing Midleton, Rockbán and Bishopstown.
Make no mistake, this is an O’Donovan Rossa outfit capable of making an impact in the JAFC next year. Derek Tobin has built an impressive panel including the likes of Cork senior Laura O’Mahony, Christine Fitzgerald, Kate O’Donovan, Triona Murphy and Lisa Harte. Rossa’s meeting with Dohenys will be one to savour next year.
And what of Castlehaven? A third consecutive Cork LGFA county success is a phenomenal achievement. Dinny Cahalane and his backroom team have guided a huge panel of players to junior C, junior B and now junior A county triumphs and there is no reason the West Cork club cannot achieve similar glory at intermediate level.
Any team that can boast the combined talents of goalkeeper Emma O’Callaghan, defenders Aideen Santry and Noreen O’Sullivan, midfielders Siobhan Courtney and Alice O’Driscoll will fancy their chances of impacting at intermediate level. That’s before an exciting forward-line containing Grainne O’Sullivan, Katie Cronin, Mairead O’Driscoll comes into view.
Castlehaven is a club on the rise in Cork ladies football but only too aware that another step up in preparation, training and execution is necessary to survive let alone make progress at the intermediate grade.
Elsewhere, Rosscarbery reached an intermediate semi-final but came up short to county runners-up Glanmire. Ross are perennial challengers at this level and that’s unlikely to change in 2022. At senior level, Clonakilty’s first year in the top tier proved a positive one.
Although they failed to win a championship game, the future remains positive for a young panel that suffered a 1-point loss to Kinsale, drew with St. Val’s, lost to Éire Óg and a county B semi-final to Inch Rovers.