Ahead of their inaugural finals round, we spoke to Eoin O’Sullivan of the CIT Saints about the impact the newly founded ‘The Leeside League’ has had on the three men’s teams based in Cork, Ireland, and the development opportunities that come with having a local winter league.
Which teams are involved in the Leeside League, and what was the idea behind the league forming?
The teams involved are the local men’s teams in Cork; The Leeside Lions, and both University teams in Cork, The UCC Bombers and The CIT Saints. The idea behind setting up this league was that we noted the inactivity of The Lions throughout the Winter, and the lack of competitive games for the Uni’s in the run-up to The Fitzpatrick Cup – so The Leeside League covered those 2 issues. We opted to go with 11-a-side games to get more boys on the field for experience, and also to reduce the running for the older boys!
Can you give us a bit of background on each of the teams?
The Lions are a well established outfit, with a record number of Irish Premierships to their name and are celebrating their 20th year in 2020. Beaten Grand Finalists last year, they are a serious side.
The UCC Bombers are the most decorated University Team outside of Australia, and boast huge numbers every year. Current holders of the Fitzpatrick Cup, and now in their 7th year, UCC Bombers are always strong.
The CIT Saints are the new-kids-on-the-block so to speak, but now in their third year are a serious force to be reckoned with. Winners of the Irish Universities Cup and Cork Colleges Cup last year, CIT are still going from strength to strength.
What has been the highlight of the league so far, on field or off?
I suppose the highlight has been having 60+ guys kicking footys under floodlights in Winter. Of course, hard and entertaining footy is to be seen at each round, and the ”refreshments” at the bar after have their own part to play, but competitive AFL in Cork throughout October & November is great to see. There have been stand-out moments with some great goals kicked, and the commitment of boys to the contest is unbelievable at times, but for me the highlight is still seeing such numbers playing AFL in Cork.
Any standout players so far?
The safe answer would be to say that all players are tracking well, but it’s hard to look past a few gems among each team. The Lions have had good showings from regulars Mattie Cronin & Kristain O Sullivan, as well as James O Shea shooting the lights out in the Lions guernsey; UCC have had James Daly and Rory O Donnell playing out of their skin, and Cathal Curran tearing it up off half-back; and CIT have unearthed some new talent in Andrew O Neill and Eamonn Browne to go with captain Oisin Fitz around the mids. That said, with each new game we see a new name stand out.
Where do you see the future of the league heading?
It’s hard to say really, we haven’t finished our first year yet. But i suppose long-term goals would be the inclusion of a women’s league, adding more teams if and when they get up and running, and seeing similar Winter Leagues elsewhere in Ireland set up so we can have a National Finals Round.
Who are the favourites to be the inaugural winners?
Well CIT & Lions are tied at the top with 3 wins each – Lions out in front on points difference, so their final game against one another could be the decider. With that said, UCC will have a big say too in who are named the inaugural Leeside League Champions, they could well beat one or both teams in Round 3 and put some serious pressure on.
It’s a funny league in that the Lions are obviously experienced players, albeit a bit, ahem, older than the Uni players. But as the weeks progress, the new boys at Uni level are steadily improving, so every game is hard to call.
Any final words?
Heaps of praise must go to the organisers from each club for getting this up and running so smoothly. They have been giving up their own time to book and prepare pitches, umpire games, keep score & time, gather scorers names, update social media, promote the league, etc. And of course the continued support from both UCC & CIT Sports departments is fantastic, the league couldn’t run without them.
Check out The Leeside League on Facebook to see who takes home the flag!