AGB Ladies U 14 All Ireland Winners

AGB Ladies U 14 All Ireland Winners

Arklow Geraldines Ballymoney U14 Team created history last weekend when they became the first Ladies team from Wicklow to win the All Ireland Feile title. The event was held in County Cavan and the Division 3 final was in Breffni Park on Sunday 6th July where AGB triumphed over Cahir from Tipperary on a score line of 5-8 to 2-3.

This is a significant triumph and achievement for this dedicated and talented group of footballers. The groundwork was laid down for the victory following on 3 successive county under 12 wins in a row and a clean sweep of all the underage Wicklow county championships from under 12 to minor in 2007 with the bulk of the players from the Feile panel.

Arklow travelled up to Cavan on Friday morning for an afternoon match against host club Castlerahan of Ballyjamesduff. The team would have travelled with huge expectations given their recent triumph in Division 1 of the Leinster Feile. In the National Feile Arklow were in Division 3 and accordingly hopes of mentors, supporters and players were very high.

The Castlerahan encounter eased the team into the competition and Arklow hit the ground running and were 7-7 to 0-0 at half time and ran out eventual winners 10-12 to 0-0. This was a very competent performance with all members of the playing panel participating.

Arklow's free scoring forwards gave an indicator of what was to come with Aife Kavanagh scoring 3-5, Kayleigh Crammond 3-3 and Erinne Murphy 3-2. Shauna Fleming at midfield helped herself to a brilliantly taken goal and Georgina Canavan and Jessie Hurley added points.

The essence of the Feile competition is meeting and mixing with players from other clubs in Ireland and abroad and on Friday night the players marched in the Feile Parade in Cavan town followed by a concert in Breffni Park. The Arklow players were very well turned out on the night thanks to all their sponsors – Brennan Hotels, The Moneybutler and Amergin Consulting Ltd and Margaret Crammond and Chris Farrell.

Saturday is the make or break day in the competition with teams having to play three further games to qualify for the finals on Sunday. Arklow had an early start with their first match against Crosserlough of Cavan at 9.30 a.m.The weather was disappointing with wet and windy conditions adding to the difficulty of playing a series of matches. However the players were superb on the field of play and overwhelmed their opponents by 6-3 to 0-0 at half time and ran out eventual winners 9-6 to 0-1.

Arklow's scorers were Aife Kavanagh 4-4, Kayleigh Crammond 2-1, Erinne Murphy 1-1, Shauna Fleming 1-0 and Aine O'Reilly 1-0.

Arklow's final match in the group stage was against St Bride's from Louth who also had beaten Crosserlough and Castlerahan. This was Arklow's most difficult encounter and at half time the score was Arklow 2-5 to St Bride's 0-2. However Arklow's superior pace and fitness began to tell and they overwhelmed their opponents keeping them scoreless for the second period. The highlight of the second half was the wonderful hat trick of goals scored by Erinne Murphy in the space of 5 minutes. Arklow finished on a score line of 5-10 to 0-2. The scorers were Erinne Murphy 3-2, Aife Kavanagh 1-5 and Kayleigh Crammond 1-3.

Arklow had now qualified for the semi-final and their opponents were St Mary's – the Sligo county champions who had qualified from their section of the Feile. Arklow supporters would have viewed this match with some trepidation as they had gone out at this stage of the competition the previous year. However the team showed remarkable calmness and determination prior to the game and were confident in their own ability. From the throw in they overwhelmed their opponents. Management were delighted and considered that this first 15 minutes football was the best football ever produced by the team. St Mary's had no answer to Arklow's speed, drive and passing movements and when Kayleigh Crammond banged in the first goal after 3 minutes the team was on its way. Arklow led 3-8 to no score at half time and continued to apply pressure in the second half to run out eventual winners on a score line of 6-13 to no score. The game was a personal scoring triumph for Erinne Murphy who bagged 4-5 with Kayleigh Crammond 2-4 and Aife Kavanagh 4 points.

At the end of that day Arklow were in a position to achieve their aim and had qualified for an All Ireland Final in Breffni Park on Sunday.

At this stage the backs had not been tested as only 3 points had been conceded over the 2 days of matches. The full back line of Michelle Forde, Hannah Tew and Vivienne Walsh were confident and masterful and dealt comfortably with and repelled all attacks that they had to deal with. The half back line were very strong and fast and Calvin Swart, Katie Kindlon and Danni Kaye were letting very little ball get passed them. Arklow's strength and dominance was predominantly coming from the midfield partnership of Naomi Roche and Shauna Fleming. Their mobility and intensity of play gave Arklow a huge stranglehold in all the games they played and meant that all their opponents were struggling. This dominance also resulted in the Arklow forwards being provided with a huge amount of excellent ball throughout the matches.

It was the style and craft of the forward line that was drawing the attention of opponents and neutrals alike. Centrehalf forward Aife Kavanagh was pulling the strings dominating this sector and spraying ball around to find her colleagues and linking up with Kayleigh Crammond and Erinne Murphy in particular. Arklow half forwards of Gemma Doyle and Aine O'Reilly showed great pace on the wings and were keeping the game very open. However the speed and scoring power of Kayleigh Crammond and Erinne Murphy was such that opponents were unable to cope. Jessie Hurley worked very hard in the corner selflessly providing ball to the other forwards.

The replacements in the backs – Cliona Byrne, Joy O'Brien, Beth Murphy and Sinead Arthur were solid and dependable when called on. In the forwards Georgina Canavan was very dangerous and took her scores well with Paula Maher and Megan Swart working the ball well and linking up with fellow forwards. Megan O'Brien was very comfortable when called upon in goals as was Shauna Devereux. Arklow's intercounty wing back Emma Marshall played a restricted role on Saturday due to injury as team medics struggled to manage her injured hamstring.

Arklow's opponents in the final were Cahir from Tipperary. Cahir have a superb history in the Feile competition having triumphed in 2004 and were beaten finalists in Division 3 in 2007. Following Saturday's results Arklow's supporters would have expected a highly competitive final as Cahir had averaged over 35 points in each of their group games and had beaten Clan na Gael Roscommon 6-2 to 1-2 in the semi-final. It was expected that Cahir would threaten the Arklow defence as indicators were that the forwards were in great scoring form.

The final in Breffni Park is a day that will live long in the memories of all players of the playing panel and hundreds of supporters. An estimated crowd of 3 thousand to 4 thousand people attended the park to witness the 10 All Ireland Feile Finals and the All Ireland individual skills competition.

Arklow received a timely boost with the news that Emma Marshall was fit to take her place on the starting line-up and was deployed to manmark Cahir's chief scoring forward. Arklow elected to play with the wind. The midfield pairing of Shauna Fleming and Naomi Roche got a good grip on the game and captain Aife Kavanagh grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and got a superb goal after 2 minutes. Arklow were on their way. Kayleigh Crammond chipped in with a further goal in the 8th minute – a thundering drive from 14 yards out and Aife Kavanagh lofted over a further 4 points without reply. The score was 2-4 to no score with half time approaching but just on the half time whistle Kayleigh Crammond put daylight between the teams and added a goal leaving the half time score 3-4 to 0-0.

At half time the management prepared the Arklow girls for an anticipated Cahir onslaught when aided by the wind. But the Arklow girls set out their intentions in emphatic style within 10 seconds of the restart with one of the most superb points of the day. Shauna Fleming won the throw in, transferred a long pass to Erinne Murphy who slipped a quick hand pass back to the onrushing Aife Kavanagh who slotted the ball over the bar from 30 yards out. It was almost possible to see the Cahir girls deflate and the Arklow players went for the jugular. Playing fast, efficient football into the wind they ran Cahir off the pitch and added a further 2-2 without reply in the next ten minutes with a cheeky goal from Erinne Murphy, Aife Kavanagh a goal, Kayleigh Crammond 1 point and Shauna Fleming with an outstanding and breathtaking long range point from over 35 yards.

Arklow took the foot off the pedal and Cahir managed to exert some pressure and with 5 minutes to go were awarded a penalty that went wide. On the next attack Arklow's defence was breached for the first time and Megan O'Brien was unable to prevent a very good shot from reaching the net. Cahir added 3 further points and a consolation goal in the last second of the game whereas Arklow added 1 point in that period from Aife Kavanagh. The referee blew the final whistle and Arklow had achieved their goal of an All Ireland Title.

There was great joy and celebration as Captain Aife Kavanagh was presented with the trophy by Geraldine Giles, President of the Ladies GAA.

All the panel contributed greatly to the success and will take great personal pleasure from the achievement. Hannah Tew as full back was rock solid throughout the tournament and provided stability and confidence to the entire team. Emma Marshall did a great job in man marking the Cahir danger player until forced to retire with a recurrence of her hamstring problem. Calvin Swart gave a marvellous display at wing back throughout and was particularly stylish in the final. Naomi Roche had a tremendous final and put in a supreme effort, driving herself into the ground for her team. Aine O'Reilly was decisive and nippy in the half forward line and had her best game ever for Arklow. Jessica Hurley was confident and classy and a constant thorn in the left side of Cahir's defence where she was well supported by Gemma Doyle. Michelle Forde was excellent in her defensive duties and managed to mop up a lot of attacks. Katie Kindlon worked tirelessly throughout the entire match stopping a lot of the Cahir attacks and launching the ball down to the Arklow forwards. Shauna Fleming gave a masterful display at midfield through the tournament and particularly the final where she effortlessly covered every inch of the Breffni Park pitch. Her individual score from a distance has to be one of the highlights of the day.

Arklow's day of triumph was not over as their captain Aife Kavanagh was representing the club in the individual skills competition. Having won through her 2 earlier rounds she was the Division 3 representative in the overall final between Division 1, 2, 3 and 4 that took place in Breffni Park one hour after the match against Cahir. Aife Kavanagh performed magnificently completing the course in the quickest time and incurring the fewest faults. This individual triumph in winning the All Ireland Skills sealed the day for Arklow. This was a wonderful year for the young Arklow girl who also captained her county team in their Leinster Championship endeavours and led her club team to the Leinster Division 1 victory earlier in the summer. This is the first time ever a girl or boy from Wicklow has won the skills competition since its inception in 1994 and the Roll of Honour of previous winners includes a number of All Star winners.

The Arklow team brought the trophy back to their host club Castlerahan in Ballyjamesduff and were well received by the host club families a measure of the friendships generated in this competition – one of the essential principles of the Feile.

Arklow headed home. News of the triumph spread through Arklow. Members and supporters had been kept well informed of the team's progress by web texting and the Arklow website was regularly updated by Brian Doyle and Dave Brennan. With military precision and within hours a fitting welcome was organised by the committee for the victorious team. With the co-operation of the local Gardai the team was whisked through the town in a motor cavalcade and delivered to the Courthouse in Arklow where they were greeted by town councillors and hundreds of joyous supporters and well wishers. The team was paraded led by the local pipe band down through the Main Street and over the bridge and were roundly applauded by onlookers and supporters. It was a marvellous sense of spontaneous delight and pride. The parade proceeded to the Arklow Bay Hotel where they were received by team sponsor Brian Brennan. The girls were immediately awarded guest of honour status at the Arklow Seabreeze Festival launch and were congratulated by Arklow Mayor Nicky Kelly. The celebrations continued until late when the exhausted champions returned home to their beds concluding a memorable weekend in their lives.

Mention must also be made of the girls who travelled as part of the team panel but were not able to play in the Feile. Sarranah Kavanagh was injured in a challenge match against Salthill earlier in the year and was forced to withdraw from the playing squad. Isabelle Geoghegan and Holly O'Brien both trained with the under 14 panel but due to the restriction in numbers to 24 players were unable to compete. Thankfully the club managed to arrange for all 3 players to be hosted by the Cavan club and the girls fully participated in all events as team panel members over the weekend.

It was very fitting that the celebrations concluded in the Arklow Bay Hotel as the proprietor Brian Brennan has been a very enthusiastic supporter of the ladies' juvenile set-up since its commencement in Arklow 4 years ago. The assistance has been both personal and financial. In particular the players were very moved and motivated when Brian presented them, before the Feile, with a photograph and message of good luck from the girls living in the Arklow Ireland Children's home in Sri Lanka.

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