Kernow Football Alliance are celebrating a weekend of unparalleled success which saw their inclusive teams go unbeaten against some of the country’s best opposition, writes Tom Howe.
Kernow FA, who have represented Cornwall on the international football stage since 2018, sent a squad to take on Derby County a day before entering a disability tournament at Doncaster Rovers’ Eco-Power Stadium.
After an early start, the weekend began with a series of games against Ability Counts League and Cup holders Derby County Community Trust at Belper Leisure Centre, with Kernow winning all four of their outings.
The highlight, however, came an hour’s trip up the M1 in Doncaster, where Kernow’s two teams, joining more than 50 others from around the country, each won their respective competitions in style.
“It was a fantastic weekend of football for Kernow inclusive,” manager Simon York told Cornwall Sports Media. “We started off early in the morning, with the lads leaving Cornwall at 3.00 am. Stuart Asquith, head of disability and manager of Derby’s teams, gave us a very warm welcome. The players were given gifts of a Derby County drinks bottle and bottled water by the opposition players which was a great sign of respect.
“Both Kernow and Derby split into two six-a-side teams. We won 5-1 against their Prem side and 8-3 against their League team. In the second game we played Prem ability players against each other and League versus League, winning 5-0 and 6-1 respectively.
“It was a fantastic set of matches, played in with highest respect and sportsmanship whilst remaining competitive throughout. Future games are being discussed, including a possible reverse fixture being played in Cornwall.
“A huge thank you must go to Stuart and his team, including Karen who was coaching, refereeing and helping out and who made our lads feel so comfortable. We stayed at The Whistle and Flute where we were welcomed with open arms by Julie and her staff. For many of our players it was their first time away as a team and were made to feel so relaxed.”
After a night of team bonding, Kernow’s players laced up their boots for another day of competition on the Sunday, organised by the Club Doncaster Foundation in conjunction with Club Doncaster Titans.
“We were surprised by the amount of teams there,” admitted York. “There were 16 pitches I believe with a minimum of four teams in a group. During the warm up, the quality on show was evident. We knew it would be a challenge but that it would also be very exciting and the players were raring to go.
“We enjoyed two fantastic opening wins of 6-0 for the Premier ability team and 12-2 for the League, a game during which each player scored a goal, including our goalkeeper and substitutes. Those wins helped to settle any nerves that we had. Skem Aces went on to hold our Prem team to a 1-1 draw but, despite that, they went on to win their remaining fixtures in the group as did our League team.”
The winners of each group and the best runners-up then proceeded into groups of five, with Kernow’s Prem team beating Sheffield (3-0) and Wheatly (6-0) as well as drawing 0-0 with Skem Aces.
They beat Sherwood Colliers 5-0 in their semi-final before winning 6-0 against Bradford in the final and lifting the trophy.
Rounding off a successful day, Kernow’s League team ran out winners over Liverpool Transplant (2-0), Barton (4-0), Halifax (2-0) and Wrexham (4-0) before going on to beat Lincoln 4-0 to make it two from two for the Cornish.
It’s not all about results on the pitch though, with York explaining the experience of the weekend as a whole and the friendships created as a result are of more importance to him.
“Massive praise must go to Martin Taylor, head of Doncaster Titans Inclusion, and Doncaster FC,” he said. “This was possibly the best competition I have been to and the best ran, player grading groups were amazing and the facilities and communication were beyond expectations.
“From the moment we all met up and arrived at Derby it was like meeting up with family or best mates. Everyone was so pleased to see each other. In all my years in football I have never experienced anything like it. You would think the team had played together for years.
“I am hugely proud to manage this team of lads. We go from strength to strength, pushing ourselves with outstanding results. We will look to continue to grow at upcoming competitions in London, held by Crystal Palace in early September, and during a tour to Spain later that month where we will play against some outstanding La Liga Genuine teams, some of whom are professional.
“It’s great to be able to showcase disability football and Cornwall on an international level, incorporating a wide range of disabilities in one team. Hopefully we will learn a lot from our Spanish counterparts and build relationship and partnerships for years to come. We look forward to seeing Deportivo Tenerife come to Cornwall down the line for a reverse fixture.”