O’DONOVAN Rossa’s impressive underage structures and experience of reaching a Cork LGFA county final bodes well for the west Cork club’s 2023 aspirations.
2022 ended with O’Donovan Rossa as JAFC county runners-up. Their conquerors, eventual Munster LGFA champions and All-Ireland junior finalists Naomh Abán, proved too strong by winning 4-6 to 1-10 at CIT.
Yet there were enough positive moments in that county championship run to suggest Rossa’s are capable of bouncing back.
Last year’s JAFC group victories over Dohenys, Douglas and Beara, coupled with a narrow 3-15 to 4-8 loss away to eventual champions Naomh Abán, underlines that view.
“I think Naomh Abán are an exceptional side and were just too good for us on the day,” new O’Donovan Rossa LGFA junior manager James O’Donovan told the Echo.
“They improved (after that county final) as the (Munster) championship went on and got to an All-Ireland final.
“We gave them a good rattle in the group game and were leading by five or six points at one stage down in Ballyvourney. Look, we just didn’t do enough on the day of the county final itself.” O’Donovan Rossa’s players were left to watch as their junior A county final vanquishers went on to enjoy a memorable season.
There were lessons to be learned following that county final loss. If Naomh Abán could generate enough momentum from winning a county, adding a provincial title and reaching an All-Ireland decider, then why not O’Donovan Rossa?
That scenario first requires annexing a Cork LGFA junior A county title. Easier said than done amid another quality field this coming year.
Yet the goal for James O’Donovan and his players has to be going a step further than they managed in 2022.
“After coming so close last year, the main target for O’Donovan Rossa has to be winning a county final,” the west Cork LGFA club’s manager admitted.
“There are some very good teams playing in the junior A grade this year though. The reality for us and a lot of other teams is we just don’t know what kind of team we will have for the county championship until it comes around.
“It is the same for a lot of other junior A clubs. They could be stronger or weaker depending on who is available and who’s away. That’s the reality facing every club. No one will know what state their team is in until we get into it.”
On a more encouraging note, O’Donovan Rossa is blessed with a terrific underage structure. Year after year, all the training-ground work being carried out between the west Cork club’s youngest age-grades up to U21 continues to reap dividends.
As a result, Skibbereen is well represented on Cork LGFA’s 2023 panels.
Allie Tobin, Aoife O’Driscoll and Éabha O’Donovan have been in excellent form for the Cork U16A footballers. The west Cork club’s Ella Hayes and Holly Brickley have performed equally impressively for the Cork U16Bs.
Add in Cork senior, and superb club ambassador, Laura O’Mahony, and its clear O’Donovan Rossa has both a bright immediate and long-term future.
Another positive is the fact the Skibbereen club’s U21s reached the last four of this season’s Cork LGFA U21B county championship.
A terrific 1-15 to 3-8 victory over Fermoy was followed by a quarter-final defeat of Valley Rovers. Kinsale may have proved too strong in the penultimate round, winning 4-9 to 0-10, but O’Donovan Rossa’s ability to build steadily through their age-groups is vital to hopes of future success.
“It goes back to all the work that has been done within O’Donovan Rossa’s LGFA underage and junior setups,” James O’Donovan added.
“There are quality players coming through. We have three players on the Cork U16A and two on the Cork U16Bs this year. Having Laura O’Mahony on the county's senior panel is a huge boost for everyone within the club as well.”
The O’Donovan Rossa juniors kick-started their new season with a Division 2 county league victory over a depleted Mourneabbey.
That was the first step in a long road attempting to return to another JAFC county final.
Under James O’Donovan, Derek Tobin, Ger O’Brien, James O’Mahony and Karina Conway’s stewardship, O’Donovan Rossa’s juniors are ready to meet that challenge.