Gaynor Cup ‘a great experience’ for talented young Cork soccer players

Cork didn't make a major impact on the tournament this season but the emphasis was on development
Gaynor Cup ‘a great experience’ for talented young Cork soccer players

The Cork squad that took part in the Gaynor Cup at UL.

FOR the first time since 2019 due to Covid restrictions, the University of Limerick was delighted to be back hosting the five-day Gaynor Cup on the campus recently.

Gaynor Cup is the girls’ counterpart to the famous Kennedy Cup and is one of the biggest weeks of the year for girls soccer.

MGL South were crowned champions of the tournament with a win over Midlands in the final.

The representative side from the Midlands were by no means outclassed, despite not being one of the pre-tournament favourites. So while it was a great final, it was a disappointing one from a Cork perspective.

It was a disappointing finish in terms of placing for the Cork girls Gaynor Cup squad who failed to qualify for the cup, bowl, shield and plate but slight margins proved to be the difference. 

Beating Inishowen in the trophy final, finished off what was a superb experience for all involved.

Recently I caught up with manager John O’Kelly who O’Kelly believes it was a fabulous experience.

“This was my first ever Gaynor tournament and it exceeded all expectations, it was an amazing tournament to be involved in for the week,” said O’Kelly.

“We arrived in Limerick on Bank Holiday Monday, June 6 where the team were split into groups of five with one mother per house on the UL campus. We had a full schedule until the end of the tournament the following Saturday. 

"Our itinerary was organised with military precision by Helen Noonan, a woman who never stops and has been involved in the Gaynor tournament for the last 15 years.

“It was a very professional set up, we played seven matches in total during the week with two games played on the Thursday and Friday so preparation was key in terms of having kits ready, team sheets that allowed adequate rotation of players to prevent injury, allow for recovery and to ensure the girls had game time.

We had a squad of 20 girls and were allowed to play nine subs in every match. We had a very strong squad so rotating players didn't affect us.

"Ray McCarthy from Avondale and Scott Forrest from Blarney, two fantastic coaches, were a huge help to me in my decision-making during the week and also during our training sessions building up to the tournament.

“We had daily team meetings, sometimes twice depending on how many matches we had, and I felt preparation was spot on.” 

Joy for Cork in the Gaynor Cup after a goal by Anna O'Brien.
Joy for Cork in the Gaynor Cup after a goal by Anna O'Brien.

The Cork side kicked off their Gaynor campaign with a game against Limerick Desmond. This was a heavy 4-0 defeat. This was followed with a surprising loss to Kerry. But with other results going their way, a win in the next game against South Tipp would have put them through to the next stage. 

They were 3-1 up and things looked bright but a great second half display from South Tipp ended Cork’s chances, which sent them on the path to the trophy competition.

For O’Kelly, he couldn’t have asked for any more from his players.

“We had some very exciting matches during the week and I think we all agreed that South Tipp was the game of the tournament, finishing 4-4. We were brilliant that evening and the girls left everything on the pitch. 

"There were people leaving other matches to watch ours and the atmosphere was unreal. We were going mad for the team afterwards, they were so upset after South Tipp got a penalty in 'Fergie Time' to make it 4-4. 

"It was our second match that day, losing 1-0 to Kerry that morning from a free that took a wicked deflection, and our keeper Sophie didn't have a chance to save it.

“Kerry would have been happy with a draw. I think after these matches the girls couldn't do anything wrong, they were getting stronger and stronger. We beat Meath 2-0 in the trophy quarter-final on Friday morning to progress to the semi-final Friday evening against Cavan/Monaghan where we comfortably beat 7-0. 

"The final Saturday morning saw us beat Innishowen 3-0, it was fantastic for the girls to take home some silverware!

“It was still a great experience for the girls overall. It was great to see the games streamed live with updates from other matches and interviews by Full-Time Productions allowing family and friends to watch from all over the world and giving the players memories to look back on."

There was a strong blend of players from a host of clubs in the panel.

The team was made up of girls from 13 different clubs in Cork and it was nice to see them mix so well and making friends for life. 

"I believe a lot of these Cork girls will get called for the schools U15s team from their performances at the tournament. 

"They all have a bright future ahead and soccer for girls is going from strength to strength.

“I would like to thank Helen Noonan, Brian Murphy and the CWSSL committee for giving me this opportunity to show what I can do.”

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