Ladies football goes from strength to strength in West Cork region

Three county titles were collected in 2021 by teams with the ability to push on again next season
Ladies football goes from strength to strength in West Cork region

The O'Donovan Rossa panel that won the 2021 Cork LGFA Junior B county championship following a terrific victory over Watergrasshill in the county final.

IT was another productive year for West Cork LGFA clubs competing in the Cork senior and junior championships with Valley Rovers, Castlehaven and O’Donovan Rossa ending 2021 as county winners.

Valley Rovers, who play in West Cork underage competitions and whose players have represented the region’s division at adult senior level, were crowned Cork intermediate champions following a marvellous season that culminated in defeating Glanmire in October’s IFC decider.

Denis Kiely’s side lost to Glanmire and defeated Donoughmore in the group stages but that was enough to qualify for the county semi-finals. A 1-10 to 1-10 draw with Araglen Desmonds Buí necessitated a replay in which Rovers emerged 2-10 to 1-10 winners. Those two tough encounters stood to Valley’s who saw off Glanmire 1-8 to 0-9 in the final.

Lucy Callanan, Michelle O’Regan, Eimear Kiely and Daire Kiely played key roles in Valley’s campaign and Rovers appear well equipped to hold their own at senior level. An understrength Bantry Blues failed to qualify from their intermediate championship group while another west Cork club, Rosscarbery, lost out to Glanmire, 3-7 to 2-4, in the county semi-finals.

One of the matches of the year took place in MTU on November 13th where Castlehaven needed a sudden-death 30-metre free shootout to see off west Cork rivals Dohenys following a pulsating junior A county final.

The Haven topped the round-robin championship table before overcoming Douglas in the semi-finals. Second-placed Dohenys were too strong for Naomh Abán in the other last-four encounter, running out 3-4 to 0-9 winners. The 2021 junior A county final produced enough drama to last a season. It was 1-8 to 1-8 at the end of normal time and 1-12 apiece after extra-time.

That meant a 30-metre free shootout was needed. A replay wasn’t a possibility - even though Castlehaven sportingly floated the idea - as the Munster junior A championship began the following weekend. Mairead Crowley (Dohenys) and Rachel Whelton (Castlehaven) were the only successful kickers before sudden death.

Dohenys’ ninth kicker, Ruth Collins, stepped forward and split the posts to seemingly win the tie. The Dunmanway club’s celebrations were immediately cut short however, as Collins was deemed to have crossed the ‘kicking line’ which chalked off the score. Aileen Santry sent her effort over the bar and when Dohenys missed their final kick, Castlehaven were champions.

O’Donovan Rossa made up for the disappointment of losing the 2020 JBFC county final by defeating Watergrasshill 1-15 to 1-7 to lift this year’s trophy. The Skibbereen club gained promotion to the junior A ranks with Kate O’Donovan playing a starring role in the final. O’Donovan scored nine points on an afternoon Triona Murphy’s goal also proved pivotal. O’Donovan Rossa will relish the challenge of making an impact at junior A.

Mourneabbey ended 2021 as deserving county senior champions but there was plenty to admire in the West Cork division’s clubs competing in the same grade. None more so than Kinsale (who play in West Cork underage competitions and whose players have represented the region’s division at adult senior level) after reaching the senior A semi-finals for the first time in the club’s history.

Drawn in Group 2 of the opening phase, Kinsale edged Clonakilty by a point but were beaten by Éire Óg. The former needed to avoid defeat in their final outing at home to a St. Val’s team with All-Ireland winners Bríd Stack and Briege Corkery amongst their ranks. A superb Sadhbh O’Leary goal brought Kinsale back into a game they trailed for much of the 60 minutes. Down 1-11 to 2-7 with only a few minutes remaining, a dramatic finale saw Orla Finn convert a late free and Kinsale held out for a 2-8 to 1-11 draw.

That outcome earned Kinsale a date with Mourneabbey in the last four of the championship. Alas, horrible weather conditions and a more experienced opponent saw the latter win out, 1-18 to 1-10. 2022 should be another profitable season for Kinsale however, with the likes of Sadhbh O’Leary, Faye Aherne, Dara Tyner, Aoife Keating stepping up and Orla Finn continuing to excel.

POSITIVE

Clonakilty’s first year up in the senior ranks proved a positive one with the Brewery Town unlucky to lose 2-6 to 1-10 at home to Kinsale in their championship opener. A terrific performance in their second outing saw the west Cork club earn a creditable draw away to St Val’s. Unfortunately, Éire Óg proved too strong in Clon’s final outing.

Entry into the senior B championship saw JJ Deasy’s side put in another commendable display before going down 2-10 to 1-7 to eventual champions Inch Rovers. Emerging talent Orlaith Deasy, Millie Condon, Katie O’Driscoll and Sinead O’Donovan are just some of the young players who have benefitted from competing in the county’s top ranks this past year. Clonakilty will certainly be a much stronger proposition in 2022.

Another west Cork club, Tadhg Mac Carthaigh, had a terrific year and were unlucky to lose to eventual junior C county champions, Carrigaline, by a single point in the penultimate round. Muintir Gabriels played consistently in a tough junior D grade. Bandon reached the junior E county decider following a magnificent campaign only to lose narrowly, 4-6 to 3-12, to Macroom. Clann na Gael competed in the same competition and were unlucky not to reach the semi-final stage. Likewise, Ibane Gaels who won two of their four JGFC championship matches during the past season.

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