THE Skibbereen Community School ladies U16.5 footballers recently qualified for their second successive Lidl Munster LGFA PPS Junior C championship final.
They secured their appearance in this year’s Munster schools final after they defeated Coláiste Choilm Ballincollig by 8-15 to 3-6 following their recent semi-final encounter played in Ahiohill.
Team coach Ella Ryan said she was delighted with their performance against their Ballincollig counterparts.
“We had a big win against Coláiste Choilm. It was a very strong team performance. We have enjoyed a lot of big wins throughout this year’s campaign. We have defeated school teams from Macroom, Clonakilty, and Bantry in the qualifiers,” she said.
The Skibbereen Community School ladies U16.5 footballers are now scheduled to play Mercy Secondary School, Mounthawk from Tralee in the Munster final. No date or venue has been fixed due to mock examinations currently taking place in both schools. The winners of this year’s Munster final will also advance to play in an All-Ireland series after the provincial finals.
Ella, who formerly played with Inch Rovers, now plays her club football with Kinsale brings huge coaching and football knowledge to the team. She is anticipating a very tough game against the Kerry school team.
“They are a very good team. They are well established and very strong. They are a typically strong Kerry team. We will prepare as well as we can and try to produce our best on the day.
"They knocked us out in the senior championship this year. They beat us by a point. In the semi-finals stages, they defeated St Anne’s Secondary School Tipperary who beat us in the 2020 Munster final.”
Due to the Covid pandemic, last year’s Munster football championship was not held. The Skibbereen Community School ladies U16.5 footballers who contested the last final held in 2020 will be hoping for a change of fortunes this year.
The West Cork team will be able to call upon the services of eight players who played in the 2020 Munster final. Ryan is hoping this experience will help.
“It is a great achievement to reach the Munster final. There was no competition held last year due to Covid. It is the second successive season we have reached the Munster final.
"We were beaten by St Anne’s in the 2020 final which was played in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. We have eight players from the 2020 panel who are still members of this year’s panel. That experience will be a huge help.
“We have a very strong team. We have six members of this year’s Cork U16 panel. We had four players on last year’s Cork U14 panel.
"It is great for the players to represent their county. They are very good ambassadors for their clubs and the school.
"A good few of the players also won All-Ireland glory with the Skibbereen Area team in the Community Games in 2018,” she added.
This season represents Ella’s fifth season coaching football teams in the school. She is joined on the coaching ticket by Anna Ward and Ger Carey.
“They are a huge help. They are doing invaluable work with the players. Ger is a great link with the various club teams and coaches which is so important.”
The corridors of Skibbereen Community School are buzzing with excitement ahead of the Munster final. The GAA coach said the school team reaching two successive Munster finals is further proof of the thriving ladies football scene in west Cork.
“There is a great buzz in the school. There is definitely a cultural shift in the school. Everyone in the school is behind the players. It would be great to bring success to the school.
"It is great to see ladies football flying in Cork. I think all the success the Cork senior ladies had resonated with these players. They want to replicate their success. This generation of players has so many role models to choose from.”
The Skibbereen Community School ladies football team is made up of players from a host of different club teams in the locality.
“All the clubs are doing great work with the players. The various club coaches have invested huge time in training these players and they deserve great recognition. We are carrying on the good work of the club coaches.
“All the various club teams are doing so well in the different age groups in the locality as well which is a big help to the school team. All the clubs are on the way up and have bright futures ahead. The players are getting used to winning and competing in the top grades,” she added.
Ella said she loves working with the talented Skibbereen Community School players who are so ‘dedicated’ and keen to keep improving.
“The players are very dedicated. They have worked so hard. Even during Covid, we held an in-house tournament. They are great to train. They are very good to work with. They want to improve.
"Our players are very talented. We have a very strong panel. They are playing as a team now more so than ever. They have huge respect for this competition. They are hungry for success.”