FUTSAL takes over this week as The Mardyke Arena was the venue for the Women’s South Regional Indoor Soccer qualifiers.
UCC, SETU Waterford and MTU Cork took part in one of three venues across the country with UCC topping the group and reaching next months National finals which will be held in Galway.
Stephen O’Keeffe’s UCC side overcame Waterford, MTU Cork and UCC B, finishing on top with nine points which will now see them represent the South region area in the finals next month.
The talented side which boasts a number of National League players got off to a great start with a 7-0 win over UCC’s second team with goals from Jesse Mendez, Shaunagh McCarthy, Aoibheann Donnelly, Aoife Slattery, Riona Crowley and Reidin Kimber O’Shea.
Up next was a local derby against MTU which again saw UCC win comfortably on a scoreline of four goals to one. Aoibheann Donnelly, Abi Willenbring, Aoife Slattery and Caoimhe Mulcahy helping their side to their second win of the day.
MTU suffered two more losses against UCC B and SETU Waterford and therefore it came down to the final game to see who would progress to the finals.
So while UCC and Waterford enjoyed two wins from two, it meant the final game between the two sides would decide who would finish on top.
Both sides had plenty of experienced players from National League teams such as Cork City and Wexford and the standard was high throughout. UCC began at blistering pace with Aoife Slattery opening the scoring. Three further goals by Jesse Mendez, Shaunaugh McCarthy and Abi Willenbring secured a four-goal victory for the hosts which saw their side progress to the national finals.
WSCAI executive committee member and UCC B team manager Rob Oldham was delighted with the standard of the qualifiers and he spoke about the rise in participation for the game of Futsal.
“Futsal was a growing interest up to 2019 before Covid hit,” said Oldham.
"Thankfully, mainly through the interest of the Euros, we’ve seen huge growth and interest once again on the pitch however Futsal has been a bit slower obviously because it’s played indoors. People are still conscious when it comes to Covid however we are happy with the rise in the game at the same time.
"There are still a few colleges who lack administration staff and some current workers who aren’t familiar with the Futsal game, but we as a committee are working hard to highlight it as much as we can. Futsal at third level has proven to be a fabulous competition that really brings on players' technical ability as well as fitness.
“It’s one of three competitions that the third level colleges offer, league cup and Futsal.
“This week we held three qualifiers in three different venues: eastern qualifiers in Dublin, western in Galway and here in Cork.
“With the Euros televised last year it has brought massive interest, for example SETU Mayo don’t have enough numbers to field for 11-a-side soccer so they entered five-a-side Futsal and this we hope will eventually increase to a full 11-a-side team.”
Oldham has been on the committee since 2015 and has seen massive growth in the women’s game however he still feels they lack the support they need.
“I was delighted with the standard one how here at the excellent facilities of the Mardyke. You can clearly see the National League experience with shows in fitness and technical ability.
“Here in colleges we do prioritise league and cup but Futsal should be something we will focus more on because I believe you would see a significant improvement in players if they played Futsal from an early age.
“Our problem at the moment is that we don’t have a lot of support. We would like support from the FAI but the funds just aren’t there were told. I’m saying that we are very grateful for the support from David Doyle in the FAI as he has always helped us as much as we can.
“We have a great committee who will continue to grow the game as much as we can.”