Cork Gala Presentation Night

A wonderful night of celebration for the Ladies By Fr
Liam Kelleher


To see pictures of the night please visit the photo

On Friday last the eve of “Little woman’s Christmas”
close on 400 gathered at Rochestown Park hotel for the celebration
gala dinner to honour Cork’s footballing success in 2006
and what an array of trophies and of course an astounding array
of talent who helped fashion the many successes. Cork captured
the Senior All-Ireland crown for the 2nd year in a row, the Minors
were national Champions as well as the under 14’s, while
the under 16’s won the Munster crown and were thwarted by
Dublin in their bid for 3 All-Irelands in a row.

The various captains paraded the cups before the dinner, Juliet
Murphy Senior, Anita Thompson Minor, Sandra Conroy under 16 and
Denise Cronin under 14. After bishop John Buckley said grace before
meals, everybody tucked into a scrumptious meal. Material needs
satisfied, it was time for speechmaking and presentations. Sharon
O’Keefe MC introduced the speakers and first in line was
National President Geraldine Giles who paid tribute to all involved
in a glorious year. “On behalf of the National Association
thank you for your commitment you have put into promoting our
sport and for those of you who know, many of the players have
given huge commitment as well as helping to raise the profile
of the game, epitomised by the captain herself who was earlier
described as captain fantastic. Thank you for all you have done
and continued success for 2007.’’

Recently elected Co Chairman Tom Luddy from the Mourneabby club
took to the podium to deliver his maiden speech to an anticipating
audience. “ I want to welcome all of you to and I look down
at this absolutely splendid array of silverware, that is here
before us but more important the beauty our ladies portray before
us here and what grace they have bought to the playing fields
all over the country during this past year. They have done us
proud honouring the Cork jersey. We have 55 clubs in our Co board
and they represent about 4,000 players. This participant sport
is the 3rd largest in the country behind Mens hurling and football.
The success achieved by our ladies in winning all Ireland Co and
club titles has helped greatly. You could say they are our showroom,
they are our window. We recently had the underdogs in Pairc Ui
Rinn and there was a marvellous turnout, the biggest ever for
a non male game in Pairc Ui Rinn ever, they raised about €4,000
for the Hope foundation and we thank them for that. So thank you
for showing how our game should be played and thank you for making
us the 3rd biggest sporting organisation in the country. When
we wear the Cork jersey we know we want to win and we are even
a bit disappointed when we lose the toss. We won the Senior, the
Minor, the under 14. We were All-Ireland finalists under 16, we
won the league. We won through Inch Rovers the Inter club title
with Donolughmore Senior and Kildorrery Junior won Munster club

Next in line was that doyen of commentary Michaél O Muircheartaigh,
who was featured in an excellent documentary on RTE on Christmas
day. Michael as usual waxed lyrically and enraptured his captive
audience with his tales of many a day. “I met Charlie McLoughlin
very early. He was well dressed but he said to me right away ‘I
have to go to Nemo, were you ever in Nemo”. I should have
said I was. A great admirer of Christy Ring stood up and said
that Cork never lost the toss while Christy Ring was the captain.
As soon as the referee would throw up the coin Christy would smartly
step in to cover the direct line between the opposing captain
and the landing coin and he’d pick it up immediately and
say to the referee that we are playing that way. He was never
questioned in 25 years. The changes that happened gradually, nearly
always show improvement when you look back. The wonderful parade
of captains beginning with Denise Cronin with an U-14 trophy right
down to Juliette Murphy with the biggest one of all. And in one
sense that was evolution even though they are all very young.
Mick O Dwyer has said that you should forget last year, its gone,
its history, nobody has won the next one yet. And we are a bit
ahead of every one but don’t tell anyone. I met a footballer in
Leitrim the year that Leitrim won the Connaught championship in
1994 for the first time since 1927, when he was the captain. I
asked him what he remembered about getting the cup. And he said
what cup, there was no cup. We went to play them like a ordinary
match, cycling from the different areas, we’d played the
Connaught final. We met for an hour after the game, no cup or
anything and then went home. A lot changes have happened since
1927 if you contrast that to what we have now in 2007. That is
a fantastic change. Looking at a 14 year old walking up there
with a cup, when any of us were 14, I’m talking about the
people who are a little bit older than the players there, would
any of us have the courage to walk up proudly there with a cup
when we were 14 or 16. We wouldn’t. What a place Nemo is.
The facilities there, all you need do is look around you here

First Final

The football All-Ireland of 1887. When the decision was taken
that year to play an All-Ireland final it was received enthusiastically.
They made a draw and then they had to decide where to play the
match. They had no pitch of their own in any county in Ireland.
‘Twas a major problem. You could play them all in Cork at the
moment. You could play them in Kerry, Limerick or anywhere. But
in 1887 there were none. A very good landlord by the name of Lord
French. He owned a hugh estate in Dublin at the time. He gave
all his land at the disposal of the GAA for the All-Ireland championship.
‘Twas the first time the term was used. The first game ever played
was between a Limerick team and a team from Meath. Lord French
offered a Man of the Match award. If you think that’s a new thing
invented by RTE its not, it was invented by the British. The Man
of the Match award went to Malachy O Brien, a little man in the
Limerick team and his wonderful prize was dinner with Lord and
Lady French. Next year it might be dinner with Charlie and Lady

I’ll move onto another stage, the stage of communication.
2007 begins tomorrow in Wicklow. Wicklow had just one match in
2006. I think that was victory over London. They are playing Carlow
who weren’t much above them in the order of merit at the end of
the year. There’ll be a big crowd. It’ll get great coverage.
When Limerick played the first All-Ireland nobody knew the result
of the game until someone who was at the game came home. You have
to admit it is a fantastic development with the radio and television,
and mobiles. The last aspect of the wonderful of evolution I’ll
touch on is the evolution in this country of ladies sport. In
many ways the best development that has happened in Ireland in
the last 50 years is the great continuing development of ladies
sport demonstrated by Ladies football. It was unheard of but the
idea was there that sometime it would come. It came in the 70’s
and look at what it is today. It counts for 30,000 coming to all-ireland
finals. And five years ago I made a prophecy that a time will
come that All-Ireland finals in both ladies football and camogie
will be all ticket affair like the mens finals. Thats the day
that I look forward to when we have all the people in Ireland
on equal footing on coverage.

Away back in 1953 after Kerry winning an all-ireland, they do
when an odd one, they won one of those in 1953. It was about the
time that players were beginning to be interviewed. Players wouldn’t
speak to you before then, they wouldn’t speak to the media. They’d
be too shy really. Or they’d be too humble. The first time
it was ever attempted to interview players, I think it was in
1952. There was a man sent down to Cork to try to interview two
Cork hurlers before a hurling all-ireland final. He was well received,
watched them in training and was brought in for tea and sandwiches
after training. They were all chatting away until he produced
this gadget and said that he’d like to talk to a few. The
same man told me he never in all his life witnessed such a quick
dispersal of people. Suddenly they all had important business
that needed attention and they disappeared out the door . He returned
to Dublin with his machine blank. Players have changed their attitude
as well. They are more confident. They know what they are talking
about and their are willing to talk. The likes of Christy Ring
would be a little bit hesitant before they’d talk to anyone.
But it was beginning to turn. And in 1953 a Kerry footballer agreed
to be interviewed by the Sunday Press, about what was it like
to win an all-ireland final. And he built up a wonderful picture.
A special carriage from Tralee for the team to Dublin. A bus to
meet them at Kings bridge. They were staying in a big hotel. A
bus into Croke Park then on Sunday. To look out the field and
see 80,000 people was fantastic. The time came to go out and march
behind the Artane boys band. They learned how to march. One whole
night of training in those days was devoted to marching. They’d
bring in the local band and a man from the army to teach the people
how to march. And they;d all be thrilled. The left foot would
start it off and so on. The player said that proudly marching
behind the Artane boys band was heaven on earth. But then he happened
to look up at the Hogan stand and he saw women there. And he finished
the interview with a sentence by adding Taking up mens seats.
Is it for this that I have broken my back all year. Thanks be
to God that attitude is gone. Anyone privileged to walk behind
the Artane boys band now knows that if he looks up at the stands
that he will see women there. And he’ll see as many women
as men. Everyone that is here tonight I’m sure that you can
connect them in one way or another with the people who brought
those cups. You might be parents, you might be friends,

you might be connected, you might be the trainer. I’m sure
tonight when you saw them walking in there in what was called
the Parade of Champions. One thing that was on your mind is that
you are very proud of them all. I’ll be keeping an eye on
the Cork players again this year. I have the privilege of broadcasting
every All-Ireland that the Cork ladies have played in, they are
unbeaten. Any good team can win two in a row, it takes a mighty
team to win three in a row. Thats the challenge to Juillet and
the rest of the team. On this night next year may we all be alive
and well.”

Thus ended a wonderful speech. Then the eagerly awaited presentations
were made First up were the under 14’ s and Conor O’Brien
outlined their unbeaten session culminating in the All-Ireland
triumph when they scored 11-9 against Dublin. James masters began
the presentation with capt Denise O’Brien and the remaining
28 in the panel received their medals in turn. They also won the
under 14 All-Ireland blitz. Next up were the under 16’s and
I was privileged to introduce them, they fell to Dublin at the
final hurdle going for 3 in a row and led by Sandra Conroy, they
received their Munster medals to great acclaim, from Munster President
the legendary Michael Ryan who won 5 Senior titles as Coach to
the Deise girls and is now a selector with Justin McCarthy for
the mens team.

Ted O’Donovan outlined the great achievements of the Minor
team, coming back from the dead to defeat Dublin in extra time
in the Semi, they were fortunate to live to fight another day
when they drew with Galway in the final. The replay was won comprehensively
1-22 to 0-8. National President Geraldine Giles presented the

The team of the Senior Ladies then walked the catwalk led by capt
Juliet Murphy and Michael O”Muircheartaigh did the honours
presentation wise with Manager Mary Collins calling them forward.Various
presentations were made to outgoing officers. and team mentors.
Mary Power had stepped down after 12 years treasurer, with the
Board and was involved with every Cork team from under 14 to Senior
in that time. Denis Murphy made a special Presentation to Juliet
Murphy on behalf of the Cokmans Association in London she was
unable to make their dinner when it clashed with the underdogs

The Lord Mayor Michael Ahern made presentations of medallions
to the Senior panel. Sharon O’Keefe and the Lady Mayoress
were presented with flowers. The formal show over everybody had
a terrific time dancing to the lively band until the wee hours.
Roll on the new season. Its going to be so busy, I am taking my
holidays in January. Im off to New Orleans with $40,000 raised
for the hurricane Katrina Fund for Fr Cuddy O’Connell. My
thanks to all who supported the fund-raising especially all who
purchased pictures. The goodness and generosity of people never
ceases to amaze me.

Have a great New Year and don’t forget the table quiz at Eire
og, this coming Friday.

Fr Liam Kelleher PRO


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