More than just a game

   L adies County Junior Football ‘B’ Final  Boyle 2-6 Shannon Gaels 0-10   Bill Shankley famously said: ‘Football isn’t a case of life or death it is much more important that’. That of course is hyperbole but the Flanagan/O’Gara Oil County Junior Ladies ‘B’ Final between Boyle and Shannon Gaels on Saturday evening encapsulated many elements that indicated that this was more than a game.    In talking of it and praising the whole drama and enormous commitment in Ballinameen one includes both teams’, their mentors, supporters, the officials and the local club for their contributions to a most exciting and enjoyable occasion.    I know there were visitors there from the United States and they were awestruck by the total effort made. I am not attempting to give a traditional match report here but to use vignettes as a context for it all.   Ladies Gaelic football has been a most significant success story in Boyle since its inception a couple of years ago. It had often been remarked of how few recreational opportunities existed in the town for young women. Those involved in this team have now established a fine forum with ladies football. The role played by Sean Daly, Fr. Derek Gormley and Theresa Warde has been magnificent with the reinforcing assistance of Tom Commins. John Cummins, Nonie Lavin and Darren O’Flaherty, plus the committee. Initially it was seen and welcomed by local observers as a curiosity but this has now changed to admiration and a very visible support.    Rarely has there been such a large crowd from Boyle at a football game. I knew that the Shannon Gaels support would be there in strength. This permeated to the players on both sides and a see-sawing of fortunes developed as the game progressed to its dramatic conclusion as the referee’s watch seemed frozen in time.    Shannon Gaels powered into the game driven on by their magnificent midfield captain Aisling (Creighton) O’Hart. By fifteen minutes they were four points to one in front and in control as Boyle seemed unsettled by nerves. However their over-worked defence performed some heroics during this period. Three of the Gael’s points came from full-forward Aisling McDermott.    Then came a Boyle goal from Nicole McDermott and the tide turned, aided by the introduction of Katriona Hanmore but they were unable to convert this into scores. At half-time the score stood at: Shannon Gaels 0-6 Boyle 1-1.    The efforts of the first half were redoubled in the second. Boyle got off to a fine start and the sides were level. Now it was the turn of the Gaels’ goalie Tracy Duignan for some heroics with a number of saves after goalmouth drama. The fitness levels were exemplary and even injury strains did not dull the efforts of such as Aishling Dolan who had returned from Manchester for the game. The great efforts of Aisling O’Hart could not be sustained. There were a number of near serious accidental clashes but all seemed to recover – though by the next day some of the strains and aches had to be evident.    One of the O’Donohoe clan, who were having a very busy weekend, did as her brothers have often done in the Boyle colours and cracked home a smashing goal to put Boyle into a match-winning position at 2-5 to Shannon Gaels 0-8 with less than ten minutes to go. A nasty clash between two opposing players was to lead to a tantalising amount of extra-time.    A feature of the game was the courage of the players as they were willing to expose themselves to hurt for their cause. Ceara Fitzpatrick and Ceara Devan narrowed the gap to the minimum with Gaels points as the Boyle support encouraged the calling of full-time. Aisling McDermott of the Gaels threatened to draw the match after a great run.    The Boyle defence cleared their lines and Sinead O’Donohoe added the insurance point for Boyle to the delight of the team, their management and the large support and the disappointment of Shannon Gaels after all their great efforts. The final score was: Boyle 2-6 Shannon Gaels 0-10. I will omit the traditional paragraph dealing with those who played well as nearly forty heroines participated with more ready to join the fray if required.   The County Ladies football Chairman Martin McDermott commended both sides on a great game and suggested he was disappointed that it was not a draw as a replay would add considerably to the coffers of the Board, considering the large attendance. He presented the ‘Player of the Match’, to Maria Keenehan. There were many gallant contenders, from both sides, for this including Maria’s sister Sinead at full-back for Boyle.    Maria was back again as captain to accept the Shield on behalf of the team but requested Sean Daly to share the honour, in an emotive touch. Ironically Maria was one of four Keenehan sisters from Drumlion in Shannon Gaels country who backboned the Boyle team having joined the Club in ’05 when there wasn’t a team in Shannon Gaels. In accepting the Shield at the expense of neighbours and friends she alluded to this fact but it is obvious that Shannon Gaels will reach their goals in the near future.    So a two-year journey for this Boyle side ended successfully. It is a journey which has caught the imagination of the public in the town. In a sense there were other things happening on this journey as the ladies gained a sense of empowerment from humble beginnings in their abilities.    With Sean Daly was Father Derek Gormley who made a huge impression in the town in a short time before his recent transfer to Swinford. The team developed a camaraderie and fellowship which is tangible. They will long remember the successful campaign of 2007. Boyle: Saoirse O’Flaherty, Catriona McNulty, Sinead Keenehan, Sinead Cummins, Jenny Conroy, Sarah Keenehan, Suzie Keenehan, Emer Killalea, Maria Keenehan, Aishling Dolan, Dervla Beirne, Danielle Gaffney, Aoife O’Connor, Nollaig Casey, Nicole McDermott. Subs used, Katriona Hanmore, Sinead O’Donohoe, Christine Healy, Laura Gannon with Helena Sheerin, Angela Moran, Sharon Conroy, Roisin Young, Paula Kelly, Louise Kennedy, Sheila Cunningham, Sabrina Corrigan, Edel Keenehan, Aishling Brennan, Caroline Carty, Margaret O’Neill, Aine Tivnan. The team sponsors were: C.E. Callan & Co. Solicitors, Keenehan Bros., Daly Auctioneers. Shannon Gaels: Tracy Duignan, Stella Cregg, Clodagh Corrigan, Karen O’Dowd, Claire Duignan, Niamh O’Dowd, Leona Marron, Theresa O’Dowd, Aisling O’Hart (Capt.), Caroline Farrell, Josie Murtagh, Ruth O’Hart, Deirdre O’Dowd, Aishling McDermott, Ceara Devan with Ceara Fitzpatrick, Orla Murray, Sharon Lynch, Edel Hanly, Noelle McGuinness, Grainne McGuire, Mairead McGuire, Rachel Foley, Linda Duignan, Bernie Malone, Geraldine Kelly, Dierdre Creighton, Cora Nevin, Cara Jordan, Fidelma Marron, Martina Healy. Their managers were Alo O’Dowd and Colin Butler and were sponsored by M&I Construction, Gay O’Dowd Taxi Services, Milo Beirne & Horans Garage, Cortober Bingo.