The West Cork ladies footballers had some difficulty in securing a pitch to train on last Wednesday evening. Four days out from their county senior final date with Mourneabbey, it was hardly an ideal scenario to arise.
Macroom, to their credit, came through in providing a pitch for the divisional outfit, an attempted halfway house for the players travelling from Castletownbere and those studying at third-level in Limerick.
West Cork manager Brian McCarthy entered into conversation their search for a training venue on the week of the county final not to illicit a ‘poor them’ response, but to point out the speed bumps that can present themselves when involved with a divisional side.
Logistics, aside, West Cork have it pretty good.
Their pick runs from Clare O’Shea in Beara all the way up to Innishannon where the Kiely sisters, Eimear and Daire, play their club football with Valley Rovers. All three are Cork seniors. There are 10, in total, on Brian McCarthy’s West Cork panel.
It is a side laden with household names, beginning with Martina O’Brien between the sticks and continuing through to Melissa Duggan, Libby Coppinger, and Áine Terry O’Sullivan at the far end of the field.
Even if he was doing his level best to build up the opposition, there was a great deal of truth to the utterance of Mourneabbey manager Shane Ronayne earlier this week when he stated the reigning champions won’t meet a better team all season — inside and outside the county — than West Cork.
“People always say we have a huge, huge pick from all these clubs, but, at the end of the day, we had to look for a pitch on Wednesday to train,” said West Cork boss Brian McCarthy.
“Macroom, in fairness, gave us their pitch and other clubs have been supportive when we have been looking around for pitches.
“The players, I have to say, are so adaptable. All they want is a pitch to train and play on. They are clued in straightaway, irrespective of wherever they find themselves.
“The organising of it is one of the biggest aspects of the job. Any divisional manager will attest to that. But that is what you take on, it is the nature of the beast.”
He added: “I do have to mention the likes of St Oliver Plunkett’s, Clonakilty, Skibbereen, and Cloughduv, who have been very supportive [in providing pitches]. The West Cork board, too, we wouldn’t be where we are without their support. Football is absolutely blossoming in West Cork.”
Today’s final is a repeat of last year’s decider. Sarah Hayes’ injury-time leveller earned West Cork a draw (1-10 apiece) first time out, but Mourneabbey were convincing winners in the replay, scoring a 4-11 to 1-10 victory to complete the five-in-a-row of county championship wins.
West Cork were not even in existence when Mourneabbey annexed their maiden title back in 2014.
They still hadn’t emerged onto the ladies football landscape the following year as Ronayne’s side successfully defended the county silverware. It was 2016 when West Cork came into being, a semi-final reached in their first season.
They again came up short at the penultimate hurdle in 2017, going one better last year. No guessing as to what the goal is this time around.
“As things grew, we knew we were in touching distance of a final. In 2018, the target was to get to the final. This year, the target is winning it.
“Last year’s drawn final is a help because it breeds confidence to know you can go toe-to-toe with Mourneabbey. Now, there is no question but they were the better team in the replay. Mourneabbey go through phases during matches where they really turn the screw and put the game to bed.
“That was the big learning curve for us on the sideline last year. We were there for 95% of the two games last year but we can’t afford to be there 95% of the time this year. We need to be right there with Mourneabbey for 100% of the game and to try establish our game against them.”
Touching on their 3-13 to 1-7 semi-final triumph over Éire Óg, during which Áine Terry O’Sullivan kicked 2-7, McCarthy concluded: “We were far happier with the result than we were the performance.
“We know we have to up our performance by at least 25/30% if we are going to have a chance because it is there in black and white that Mourneabbey are the All-Ireland champions.”