In May 2006 Gráinne Mhaols competed in the Aisling McGing Memorial Cup Tournament for the second year running. They were defeated by Kilmovee Shamrocks (Mayo) in the semi-final. The following month Mna an Iarthair headed north to Mayo again, this time for the opening round of the Connacht Senior Open Championship against the aristocrats of ladies football in Leitrim.
Aughawillan 2-6 Gráinne Mhaols 2-2 Westport was the venue for this first round match between one of last year’s semi-finalists and the reigning Connacht Intermediate Champions. Founded in 1979 Aughawillan are the oldest club in Connacht with the kind of proud tradition that the likes of Gráinne Mhaols would love to emulate. These two clubs do share one thing in common however, namely the pain of defeat in North Kerry to the same opposition at the penultimate stage of an All Ireland Club Championship. Gráinne Mhaols lost to Abbeydorney at junior level in 2004 and one year later Aughawillan also lost to the Kerry girls at the same stage of the Intermediate Championship. Their Connacht Intermediate Championship success last year means that they are now the only Senior team in the whole of County Leitrim and in that respect this competition which is run by the Connacht Council is probably of far greater importance to Aughawillan than any other club.
They laid the foundation for victory with a superbly disciplined performance by their defence in the opening half during which they kept the West Connemara girls scoreless. Points from Karen McGovern (2), Claire Rehill and Michelle Kelleher allied to a well executed goal by Niamh McGlade which left Aughawillan well in the ascendancy at half time. Gráinne Mhaols were transformed after the resumption however and an early goal by midfielder Geraldine McTavish gave them renewed belief and confidence. Superbly taken points by Tara Flaherty and Lisa McDonagh left the score at 1-4 to 1-2 as the match entered its final quarter. Aughawillan struck for a decisive second round goal courtesy of Claire Plunkett but Gráinne Mhaols are renowned for their fighting spirit and when Mairéad Coyne fisted Geraldine McTavish’s long delivery to the back of the net with eight minutes remaining, it was anybody’s game.
Aughawillan were now under intense pressure having been outplayed for most of the second half but they had enough in reserve to hold on for a hard fought victory. Late points from Sinéad Quinn and Nora McGovern gave them a four point winning margin that they fully deserved on the overall balance of play. They have a number of extremely talented young players in their ranks but pride of place on this occasion goes to Leitrim footballing legend Maeve Quinn who was a colossus at midfield. Maeve is the only surviving member of the original 1979 team yet her appetite, application, fitness levels, leadership, workrate and distribution epitomised everything that really matters on a football field.
Written by Paul Gannon
Later that month, the 2006 Intermediate Championship draw threw up the match that followers of Peil na mBan in Connemara would have hoped for. It was a memorable occasion which certainly lived up to its billing.
Gráinne Mhaols 1-14 Naomh Anna, Leitir Mór 2-8 This eagerly awaited championship encounter between the 2005 Intermediate League and Championship runners-up and the 2005 Junior A Championship winners had all the ingredients necessary to produce a classic and so it proved to be on a beautiful Summer evening in Rosmuc. The first quarter belonged to the West Connemara girls with full-forward Mairead Coyne conducting the orchestra. Following early points from Fionnuala Hannigan-Dunkley and Máire Cloherty, she scored 1-3 from play in a brilliant ten minute spell to leave Gráinne Mhaols eight points ahead.
Leitir Mór were playing well offensively however and the warning signs were there from as early as the fourth minute when Maria Flaherty crashed an unstoppable effort off the bar. It was a big let off for Gráinne Mhaols but there was to be no respite on eighteen minutes when Jamie Molloy finished off a brilliant six player move with a clinical finish to the corner. Game on, and although Máiread Coyne responded with another beautiful long range effort, the momentum was temporarily with Leitir Mór and they capitalised with well taken points by Philomena Flaherty, Tinny Hogan and Jamie Molloy. Gráinne Mhaols were well rattled but an inspirational score from Máire Cloherty right on the stroke of half-time gave them a timely lift after they had spurned two excellent goal opportunities in the run up to the interval.
The South Connemara girls roared back into contention inside the first ten minutes of the second-half. A pointed free from Philomena Flaherty was quickly followed by an opportunist goal by full-forward Baba Ní Dhonnacha. The sides were now level on a scoreline of 2-4 to 1-7, and roared on by their passionate supporters Leitir Mór took the lead for the first time in the match with a well taken point by Maria Flaherty. The same player’s telepathic understanding with her sister Philomena was causing Gráinne Mhaols all kinds of problems defensively. Leitir Mór were well in the ascendancy at this stage and an early championship exit looked on the cards for Mná an Íarthair.
Their response in the face of adversity however, was emphatic. Over the next quarter of an hour they played out of their skins, rattling off seven points without reply in the process. Many of these scores had star quality written all over them particularly Máiread Coyne’s left foot effort on the run from way out in the left corner. Her sister Maire, who had the unenviable task of tracking the brilliant Philomena Flaherty all evening long also managed to get on the score sheet after running on to a clever pass from Fionnuala Hannigan-Dunkley. Geraldine McTavish, Mary Anna McDonagh (2), Fionnuala Hannign-Dunkley and Máiread Coyne contributed the other scores.
With seven minutes remaining Leitir Mór goalie Nora Hogan pulled off a superb point blank save to deny Máiread Coyne a second goal. This inspired piece of play galvanised her troops into one final all out assault on their opponents. Leitir Mór laid siege to the westerners goal in the final six minutes scoring three points in the process. They needed a goal to force a replay but it wasn’t to be and Gráinne Mhaols held on to set up an historic semi-final showdown with Annaghdown, the oldest ladies football club in County Galway. The victors had several great performances on the day, notably Lisa McDonagh in goal, captain Bríd McDonagh at full back, half backs Tara Flaherty, Michelle Joyce and Tara Stuanton, midfielders Geraldine McTavish and Kim Young and hard working half-forwards Fiona Folan and Mary Anna McDonagh. Maura Cloherty rolled back the years with three superb points from play but pride of place on this occasion goes to the young apprentice at full-forward who shot 1-6 from play and also led the line superbly at centre half-forward during the latter part of the second half.
Leitir Mór contributed enormously to a hugely entertaining match and were gutted at the finish. They played fast, incisive, direct football all through but then one would expect nothing less than last years Connacht Junior Championship runners-up. Their star player was undoubtedly Philomena Flaherty and she was ably assisted by goal keeper Nora Hogan, full back Bríd Ní Dhonnacha, wing back Sarah Ní Lionsigh, mid-fielder Tinny Hogan, wing forward Jamie Molloy and corner forward Maria Flaherty. Unlike the men’s intermediate championship, there is no back door but Leitir Mór can have a major say in the destiny of this years Intermediate League title if they build further on this excellent performance.
Written by Paul Gannon
Annaghdown 4-11 Gráinne Mhaols 2-10 After a memorable Intermediate Championship quarter final victory over Leitir Mór, the Sweeney Oil sponsored Gráinne Mhaols travelled to Killannin on July 9th for a semi-final encounter with Annaghdown, the oldest club in Galway Ladies Football. The West Connemara girls were full of hope and expectation but were defeated on the day by the more experienced and cohesive North Galway girls. Annaghdown raced into and early four point lead only for Gráinne Mhaols to restore parity by the twentieth minute. Annaghdown then upped the ante to rattle off 1-3 without reply but a brilliantly taken opportunist goal by MaryAnna McDonagh right on the stroke of half time kept the westerners in it.
Their first attack of the second half yielded a well taken point by Fionnuala Hannigan-Dunkley. This cut the deficit to two points but inspired by the brilliance of County Minor star Rachel King, Annaghdown responded in emphatic fashion with 2-1 from play in a devastating five minute spell. They now led by 3-8 to 1-5. However, driven on by the resiliance of Tara Staunton and MaryAnna McDonagh, Gráinne Mhaols refused to throw in the towel. A clever pass from their County Under 16 star Kim Young to full forward Mairéad Coyne put the latter in for an excellent goal and moments later her side were awarded a penalty after corner-forward Martina Conneely was upended in the square. A converted penalty would have left the scoreline at 3-8 to 3-5 but it wasn’t to be.
Maryanna McDonagh’s well struck effort came back off the post into the grateful arms of Annaghdown County Senior star Fiona Wynne. She launched an immediate Annaghdown counter-attack. The ball was worked up the right wing to corner forward Lorraine Scully and her subsequent attempt at a point from an acute angle ended up in the back of the net. This fortuitous goal was a huge turning point in the game. Annaghdown now led by nine points when it should have been three and there was to be no way back for last year’s county finalists. They never stopped battling right to the final whistle, outscoring their opponents by 0-5 to 0-3 in the last ten minutes but it was never going to be enough.
Second half substitute Katie Coohill was desperately unlucky to hit the woodwork twice but having said that the Annaghdown’s margin of victory could have been much greater were it not for the vigilance of Gráinne Mhaol custodian Becky Heanue who pulled off a number of point blank saves. The accuracy of Annaghdown’s County Senior star Niamh Duggan form frees was also a crucial factor in the final analysis. She converted eight attempts out of nine and Gráinne Mhaols lack of a natural free taker continues to be a thorn in their side on big championship occasions such as these. Annaghdown, who eventually prevailed by 4-11 to 2-10, were deserving winners on the day and they will now play St Marys, Killererin in the County Intermediate Championship Final. Gráinne Mhaols never played to their full potential on the day. It was a flat, disjointed and ultimately very disappointing performance.
Thankfully a measure of redemption was only around the corner in the form of Round Three of the Intermediate League on July 12th in Carna against St Gabriels who hail from the Aughrim-Kilconnell area of East Galway. Having lost narrowly in Round Two to Milltown by 3-11 to 3-8, a win here was a must for the home team. They were minus the services of Tara Staunton (shoulder injury) and Geraldine McTavish (gone to the US) but welcomed back County Senior star Lisa Coohill who formed a new midfield partnership with her sister Kate. Kim Young was redeployed at centre half forward with Maryanna McDonagh moving to the wing, and on the night the changes worked to great effect. St Gabriels who won last year’s Junior A League title are a formidable outfit backboned by County Seniors Catríona Cormican and Sarah Noone but Gráinne Mhaols were determined to atone for their mediocre championship performance a few days earlier and the visitors bore the brunt of the backlash on the night. The West Connemara girls romped to victory on a scoreline of 3-16 to 2-4. It was wonderful to see Lisa Coohill gelling so beautifully with her club mates but hers was only one of several outstanding performances on the night. The full forward line of Martina Conneely, Maireád Coyne and Máire Cloherty were completely dominant from start to finish and this was reflected in a very impressive yield of 3-10 between them.
It was a rejuvenated Gráinne Mhaols who travelled to Annaghdown on July 16th for Round Four of the Intermediate League. The match never materialised however because of the non-appearance of the appointed referee. It will be refixed at a later date and Gráinne Mhaols will be requesting a neutral venue in writing. This will present a problem for the County Board because the Annaghdown club are also totally blameless in the whole affair. Ultimately this particular fixture may well be left to the very end of the season by which time one or possibly both teams may be out of contention for a place in the League final, or maybe not. Only time will tell. Gráinne Mhaols are presently in joint second place with Caherlistrane but Caherlistrane have a game in hand. Both clubs trail league leaders Milltown by two points. Annaghdown in contrast are pointless and joint bottom with St Gabriels.
Grainne Mhaols’ final match in an eventful month was a West Galway Senior League local derby against a very young and inexperienced Na Piarsaigh side who had to give second best on the night. Grainne Mhaols have to win their three remaining matches against Bearna, Leitir Moir and Spiddal if they are to entertain any hope of making a Final appearance against either St Michaels or Killannin. A defeat in any of the above matches would most likely consign Grainne Mhaols to a West Galway Senior Shield semi- final instead.
It was a month of mixed fortune at inter-county level, heartbreak for Brenda Mulkerrins as Galway Under 14s crashed out to Dublin for the second year running in the penultimate round and disappointment also for county Under 16 Kim Young. She lined out at full forward in the Connacht Final against Mayo which Galway lost by a point. At senior level, Lisa Coohill’s comeback was given a huge boost when she made a substitute appearance in Galway’s thrilling two point victory over Mayo in McHale Park last Sunday thereby completing an historic three in a row of Connacht Senior Championship titles. The All Ireland quarter final draw is being made next Sunday.
Written by Paul Gannon
August 2006 was a month of mixed fortune at underage level for Gráinne Mhaols. The Under 16s enjoyed a comprehensive victory over St Brendans in the quarter-final of the A Championship. County star Kim Young and Katie Coohill were totally dominant at midfield all through. County Under 14 Brenda Mulkerrins and Aisling Kane excelled at the back as did Sinéad Salmon and Chloe O’Malley up front, the latter scoring four first half goals to effectively kill off the contest by half-time. The Ballygar-Newbridge club exacted sweet revenge one week later however when they knocked the West Connemara girls out of the Under 14 B Championship. The U12s lost out to Tuam-Cortoon in their B Championship quarter-final.
Meanwhile in the West Galway Senior Championship Grainne Mhaols adult team has been left with a mountain to climb after losing the first leg of their semi final to Mna Chonamara by fifteen points. They will enjoy home advantage in Tullycross for the second leg but have to win that match by sixteen points to earn the right to play either Killannin or Mná na Cathrach in the final. At Intermediate level Gráinne Mhaols have moved up to second place in the League table after receiving a walkover from this year’s championship runners up St Marys, Killererin. Four points from their remaining three matches against Clonbur, Caherlistrane and Annaghdown should see them safely into the final for the second year running. Comprehensive victories over Leitir Mór, Spiddal, Na Piarsaigh and Barna have set up a West Galway Senior League Final showdown with either St Michaels or Killannin. There was no joy for the club’s juniors either in their opening match away to Éire Óg in first round of the West Galway Junior League. Their next match is away to Moycullen with home matches to follow against Michael Breathnachs, An Cheathrú Rua and Killannin. They will also travel to Inverin to take on Michael Breathnachs in the quarter-final of the West Galway Junior Championship. It will be a busy month ahead for joint managers Melissa Wallace and Lucy Lydon.
On the inter county scene there was huge disappointment for Kim Young down in the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick where Galway crashed yet again to Cork at underage level. Things are looking much brighter at senior level however for Lisa Coohill after she played for the entire duration of Galway’s one point victory over Meath in the All Ireland Quarter-Final replay in Breffni Park, Cavan. Lisa will doubtless play a key role in next Saturday’s all Ireland Semi-final against the reigning All Ireland Junior and Ulster Senior Champions Armagh. The Orchard County have the momentum and won’t be short on confidence but Galway have the class and the experience to make it to Croke Park for the third year running.
Galway Seniors subsequently fell at the penultimate hurdle to Ulster Champions, Armagh with the latter going agonisingly close to causing a major upset against Cork in the final. Shortly after that final, the following article appeared in the Sunday Independent. It was written by Eamonn Sweeney and makes for very interesting reading.
Grainne Mhaols 3-11 Michael Breathnachs 3-3
For the first time this year, the junior ladies lined up in Tully Cross to face off against the ladies from Michael Breathnachs in a West Galway league match. The ladies drew on players from across the board of the Grainne Mhaoils, with seven of the players drawn from the Under-16 and Under-14 squads. Maire Cloherty, captain of the team, started off the points with a kick off her left boot under pressure, and continued to put the ball between the posts throughout the match. That first point started the ladies off on the right note. Lorraine Heffernan and Triona Folan established a strong presence in midfield, winning the kick-outs from both sides and linking strongly with their supporting half forwards, Brenda Mulkerrins, Sinead Salmon, and Lily Joyce. Aine Hannigan-Dunkley played centre half forward and made use of the ball to both assist and score points adding to the tally of those scored by mid-fielders Triona and Lorraine, and the half forwards. The backs dug in their heels and blocked the Breathnachs ladies with several last minute saves from Ann McDonagh and Helena Lydon, and well placed clearances from Lucy Lydon. The goalie, Mary Faherty saved some lovely shots, and booted her kick-outs well clear of the half back line. The half backs were Sarah DeLappe, Michelle Joyce, and Sorcha O’Connor. They put tremendous pressure on their immediate opponents, resulting in at least eight wide shots.
In the second half, Grainne Mhaoils put Paula Coohill into left half back and Chloe O.Malley into right corner forward. Chloe had several close shots that were just blocked, and Paula played strongly in half back position. As the half progressed, though, the ladies from West Connemara looked like they were falling asleep, and Michael Breathnachs’ picked up their pace, scoring two goals and two points in quick succession. Thankfully, the Grainne Mhaoils were able to respond with some especially strong links ups between Brenda, Triona, and Sinead Salmon who played out of her skin to keep the team ahead. At the whistle, the score was 3-11 to 3-3 with the Grainne Mhaoils jubilant. Michael Breathnachs played strongly, and had several solid players that kept everyone on their toes (as well as almost ending in yellow cards for more than one player from both teams). The Junior team will face Michael Breathnachs again on Saturday in Inverin in the quarter final of the West Galway Junior Championship.
Written by Melissa Wallace
Grainne Mhaols Juniors Through To West Championship Final Gráinne Mhaols 2-6 Michael Breathnachs 2-3
Aided by a strong wind the visitors dominated proceedings in the opening half of this quarter-final. Two opportunist goals from Lily Joyce allied to fine points from Lorraine Heffernan and Lisa McDonagh gave Gráinne Mhaols a commanding eight point lead. Michael Breathnachs fought back tenaciously in the second half but the westerners held on for a narrow victory. Superb saves by Becky Heanue and inspirational defending by Brenda Mulkerrins and Deirdre Staunton in the second half were key factors in this victory as was the performance of Triona Folan in midfield from start to finish.
A depleted Éire Óg were no match for Mná an Iarthair in Carna on the October Bank Holiday Monday in the ensuing ensuing semi final. Noirin Coyne’s early goal gave Gráinne Mhaols the perfect start against the elements. Captain Máire Clotherty dropped back into the half forward line where she used her vast experience to great effect feeding both personal scores and assists. Stout defending from Helena Lydon and Lucy Lydon ensured that the home side took a narrow lead into the interval before the floodgates opened on the resumption. Substitutes Chloe O’Malley and Sorcha O’Connor were introduced as the West Connemara girls hammered home their numerical advantage with the aid of a strong wind.
This comfortable victory sets up a final showdown with Moycullen who will be hoping to complete a West Galway League and Championship double. When the two sides met earlier this year in the league it was the East Connemara girls who prevailed. Grainne Mhaols had only thirteen players on the day and this proved very costly. They also missed a penalty in the first half but ultimately it was the unerring accuracy of the Moycullen forwards that proved to be the crucial difference between the sides. Gráinne Mhaols goalkeeper Mary Faherty performed heroics for her side but it wasn’t enough and Moycullen marched into the League final for the first time in their history. That defeat deprived us of a League final place but we will be hoping to compensate in the best possible fashion by winning the championship. Weather permitting we will know our fate by Christmas.
Players for the Gráinne Mhaols who featured in the above matches were as follows; Maire Cloherty (Captain), Siobhan Conneely, Martina Conneely, Noirin Coyne, Sarah DeLappe, Triona Folan, Mary Faherty (Goalie), Patricia Flaherty, Becky Heanue (Goalie), Lorraine Heffernan, Lily Joyce, Michelle Joyce, Helena Lydon, Ann McDonagh, Lisa McDonagh, Brenda Mulkerrins, Sorcha O’Connor, Chloe O’Malley, Lucy O’Malley (Manager), Sinead Salmon, Deirdre Staunton, Derbhla Ferron, Melissa Wallace (Manager)
Having come from the football stronghold Killererin and having played with my native club throughout the nineties, I was delighted to subsequently discover that my own daughters had a great grá for the gaelic like myself. However, I was aware that there was no training for nine year olds and under in the Gráinne Mhaols club, so I decided to take the plunge and ask club founder and Secretary Paul Gannon if it would be okay to take it on board myself. He was very supportive and appreciative of my proposal and quickly supplied me with the necessary training equipment. Five months on, I can honestly say that it has been great to be involved at grassroots level again and I am delighted to be in a position to be able to rekindle my memories of younger days. The gaelic football experience is fun for the children and I think they enjoy it. There is no competitive element to it. The emphasis is on skills development and learning the basics. I know I am enjoying myself with the little ladies of the Grainne Mhaols.
Written by Evelyn Faherty
Killannin was the venue for the inaugural West Galway Under-14 Feile Tournament. It was a big community effort by the host club and a special word of thanks is due to the following people; Richie Bohan for coming up with the idea; Frank Walsh for getting the pitch ready and refereeing, Walter Butler, Chairperson of the West Galway Development Association who carried out the presentations and also refereed, Terry Walsh who was in charge of PR and to Majorie Fahy and her team for arranging everything in the Community Centre. A sincere word of gratitude is also owing to local nurses Geraldine Quealey and Lorraine Heffernan and to County player Ritchie Fahy who helped with the presentation of prizes. Salthill-Knocknacarra defeated Killannin in the Championship final agus bhí an lámh in uachtar ag Na Piarsaigh ar Ghráinne Mhaols i gcluiche Ceannais na Sciath. The West Galway Ladies Football Development Association will be looking to expand and develop their underage structure in 2007 with leagues and championships at under 11, under 13, under 15 and under 17 level in the pipeline.
Written by Paul Gannon
Killannin 1-12 Gráinne Mhaols 2-5 Cailíní Cill Annín captured the West Galway Senior League title for the first time in their history when they overcame Mná an Iarthair in a fiercely contested decider in Rosmuc. Central to their success was All-star forward Niamh Fahy, a class act who was probably the crucial difference between the two sides on the day. She showed tremendous leadership qualities when the pressure came on in the second half, contributed a personal tally of 0-7 and distributed superbly to her inside forwards all through. She was ably assisted on this occasion by outstanding wing forward Sinéad Burke who cased the Westerners all kinds of defensive problems over the hour.
Gráinne Mhaols defended with great gusto for most of the first half despite playing into a strong wind. However, they lost their way either side of the interval and these lapses in concentration ultimately sealed their fate. They conceded three late points in the first half to trail by 0-8 to 0-3 at half time and a mere two minutes into the second half their cause looked doomed after the concession of a further 1-1. Killanin’s lead now had an unassailable look about it but what Gráinne Mhaols might lack in craft and guile at times they more than make up for in resilience, spirit and determination.
Half-forwards Fiona Folan and Tara Flaherty were redeployed in defence to great effect and the introduction of Lorraine Heffernan and Katie Coohill up front really injected a new lease of life into the holders. Points by Martina Conneely and Mary Anna McDonagh were supplemented by two superbly executed Katie Coohill goals as a resurgent Gráinne Mhaols finally started to get their act together. They were now well in the ascendancy with Geraldine McTavish dominating the midfield exchanges. However, their old Achilles heel of inaccuracy in front of goal came back to haunt them once more in the final analysis. They kicked twice as many wides as their opponents whose greater ability to make territorial dominance count on the score board deservedly enabled them to get their hands on a new piece of silverware shortly after referee Brendan Kinneavy sounded the final whistle.
Christy Fahy’s charges will be strong favourites to retain their West Galway Senior Championship crown later on this year. Their upcoming two legged semi-final against Mná na Cathrach (an amalgamation of Bearna, Éire Óg, Renmore, St Michaels, Moycullen and Salthill-Knocknacarra) should make for an intriguing contest. In the other semi-final Mna Chonamara (an amalgamation of Spiddal, Leitir Mór, Na Piarsaigh, Michael Breathnachs, An Cheathrú and Óileán Arainn) will take a commanding fifteen point advantage to Tullycross for the second leg of their semi final against Gráinne Mhaols in a couple of weeks time.
Written by Paul Gannon
The Holy Grail of Senior League football in 2007 is the prize on offer when old adversaries Milltown and Gráinne Mhaols lock horns at Páirc an Phiarsaigh in Rosmuc on Sunday next at 1pm. This will be the fourth time that these two clubs will clash in a County final and the North Galway Girls will feel that next Sunday represents their best ever opportunity to finally get their hands on the silverware. Milltown have had more than their fair share of heartbreak in County finals over the years. When they reached their third successive Junior B Championship final in 2002 they were strong favourites to overcome a very inexperienced Gráinne Mhaols outfit but underperformed on the day in Headford and lost by 3-5 to 1-7. Later that year they spurned a nine point interval lead in the Junior B League semi-final in Killannin in an epic match that ended all square on a scoreline of 4-4 to 3-7. Gráinne Mhaols were transformed in the replay and ran out comprehensive winners on a scoreline of 1-10 to 0-3. They went on to achieve an historic double with a comprehensive victory over Glenamaddy in the final.
Milltown finally exorcised their past demons in 2003 when they played superb football to overcome Na Piarsaigh in the Junior B Championship final. Meanwhile at Junior A level Grainne Mhaols were unceremoniously dumped out of the championship by Dunmore McHales in July but subsequently resurrected their season with a string of impressive league victories to set up a rematch in the 2003 Junior A League final. It was a fiercely contested affair with the newly crowned Connacht Junior Champions eventually prevailing by 2-5 to 1-5. Gráinne Mhaols made amends in 2004 when they defeated Milltown in August by 1-10 to 1-5 in the Junior A Championship Final. When the two sides met again in the Junior A League Final they were both licking their wounds after heartbreaking defeats down in the Kingdom, Milltown to Austin Stacks in the All-Ireland Junior Sevens Final and Gráinne Mhaols to Abbeydorney in the All-Ireland Junior Championship Semi-Final. The westerners sense of anguish was probably more acute and the North Galway girls bore the brunt of the inevitable backlash, a seven point defeat in Clonbur.
Both sides were duly promoted to Intermediate League for 2005. Gráinne Mhaols attempt to join the elite of Galway football at their first attempt came unstuck against a better balanced and more finely tuned Killannin outfit, the East Connemara girls winning the Championship Final in Oughterard by 3-8 to 2-9 and the League Final in Rosmuc by 1-10 to 0-8. Milltown’s final day jitters came back to haunt them last year when they squandered a ten point half-time advantage to lose out by one point to a Philomena Flaherty inspired Leitír Mór in the County Junior A Championship Final. Disaster struck again earlier this year when near neighbours and fierce rivals Tuam Cortoon knocked them out of the Junior A Championship at the semi-final stage on a scoreline of 4-10 to 3-12 before going on to capture both the county and provincial titles. Gráinne Mhaols fared no better in the Intermediate Championship when Annaghdown got them on an off day in Killannin last July to win comfortably by 4-11 to 2-10.
Both sides have had to turn to League for redemption and to their credit they have knuckled down well and deservedly take centre stage next Sunday. Milltown will feel that the momentum is really with them this time. They defeated Gráinne Mhaols by 3-11 to 3-8 in their League encounter earlier this year, they created history when they overcame Emyvale of Monaghan in the All-Ireland Junior Sevens Final and their County player Aoibheann Daly is the only Galway player to win a coveted All-Star award in 2006. She is sure to play a pivotal role on Sunday. Other players who will be expected to shine on the day are County Minors, Marion Hernon and Claire Hehir, full-back Marie Brennan and centre-half back Ann-Marie Mongan.
Gráinne Mhaols will hope that the experience of participating in two county finals last year will stand to them this weekend. They will be at full strength for the first time this year in contrast to this year’s West Galway Senior League Final when they were missing four key players in their 1-12 to 2-5 defeat to Killannin. They are desperate to go Senior and will look to the likes of Lisa Coohill, Geraldine McTavish, Captain Bríd McDonagh, Maryanna McDonagh, Kim Young, Máire Cloharty and Mairead Coyne to get them over the line on Sunday.
An intriguing contest in prospect, there won’t be much in it either way. Hopefully weather and pitch conditions will allow for free flowing entertaining football on possibly the best pitch in County Galway at the moment. It should be an enthralling contest under the watchful eye of the excellent Brendan Kinnevey.
Written by Paul Gannon
Gráinne Mhaols 8-9 Milltown 1-6 The Sweeney Oil sponsored Gráinne Mhaols Intermediates delivered the kind of performance their one and only President would have been proud of had she been in attendance at Páirc an Phiarsaigh in Rosmuc on November 26th last. On the day of the first anniversary of Mary Canning’s death the destiny of this particular League title was never really in doubt at any stage of the match. Mary was and still remains irreplaceable (Mná an Iarthair have yet to elect a new president) and her guiding influence has been sorely missed throughout 2006. Last year’s County Intermediate League final couldn’t have happened at a worse time for a grieving club which was still reeling from the untimely death of somebody it holds so dear, somebody who was the embodiment of everything that is right and good about CPB Ghráinne Mhaoil. The players couldn’t get it together against Killannin that day but time is a great healer and one year on those same players had some unfinished business to attend to. More than anything else they were determined to do it for Mary and so it came to pass, in the heart of the Gaeltacht, a year to the day. This one was for you Mary. Milltown won the toss and elected to play with the wind, a brave decision which ultimately backfired on the day. Former All-Star Lisa Coohill lined out at left corner forward for Gráinne Mhaols but management gave her a free role as a third midfielder for the entire duration of the match and the West Connemara club’s subsequent numerical advantage in terms of natural midfielders was central to their comprehensive victory on the day. Kim Young and Geraldine McTavish carried out superb marking jobs on Milltown’s county partnership of Aoibheann Daly and Marion Hernon thereby significantly negating their creative influence on proceedings. Lisa’s additional presence in that key middle third of the pitch ensured that the supply of ball to Milltown’s mercurial centre forward Claire Hehir was far less that what it needed to be in a match of this magnitude. The absence of Mná an Iarthair’s County senior star from the full forward line left oceans of space inside for Gráinne Mhaols version of the “Terrible Twins”, Mairéad Coyne and Máire Clotherty and they took full advantage, reaping a rich harvest of scores in the process.
Last year’s runners up laid the foundation for this victory in the opening half with a tremendously resilient and purposeful performance against the elements. Indeed one sensed that the writing was already on the wall for the North Galway girls at half time when they found themselves three points in arrears. Their All-Star player and captain Aoibheann Daly opened the scoring on 14 minutes when she landed a marvellous point from way out on the right wing. Moments earlier Gráinne Mhaols custodian Becky Heanue pulled off a magnificent point blank save to deny Milltown corner forward Fiona Greene a certain goal after a slick passing movement involving four different players. This was the only time however that the Gráinne Mhaols rearguard was breached in this manner and led by their inspirational full back and captain Bríd McDonagh they defended with great gusto in a determined, disciplined and skilful manner for the remainder of the match.
Gráinne Mhaols enjoyed the majority of possession in the opening quarter but time and time again the excellent approach play of half forwards Fionnuala Hanniagan-Dunkley, Martina Conneely and Mary Anna McDonagh was spoiled by a misdirected or mistimed final ball. Exasperated supporters looked on in disbelief as players in promising offensive positions chose to offload too hastily instead of taking responsibility and carrying the ball on themselves. Milltown in contrast looked decidedly more dangerous on far less possession as the burden of huge expectation appeared to weigh heavily on western shoulders. The breakthrough Gráinne Mhaols’ endeavour deserved however finally arrived on 16 minutes courtesy of a cracking finish by Lisa Coohill. Excellent interplay by Martina Conneely and Fionnula Hannigan-Dunkley culuminated in Mairéad Coyne picking out Máire Clotherty and her subsequent perfectly timed handpass to the onrunning Lisa meant that there could only be one conclusion. From the resultant kickout the rejuvenated westerners secured possession once again and full forward Mairéad Coyne was on hand to score goal number two after another clever exchange of passes between Lisa Coohill, Fionnula Hannigan-Dunkley and Martina Conneely.
Milltown’s management took immediate remedial action in the form of a double substitution and two minutes later they were back in the ballgame after a speculative high centre from Claire Hehir ended up in the Gráinne Mhaols net. The same player followed this up on 22 minutes with a beautifully taken point on the run courtesy of a clever assist from the impressive Marion Hernon. Down at the other end Mairéad Coyne responded in kind with an audacious left foot effort from way out on the left wing but the momentum was temporarily with the northerners. Claire Hehir was particularly effective during this period and her converted frees on 23 and 25 minutes tied up the match at 2-1 to 1-4. However Gráinne Mhaols management switched wing back Máire Coyne into the centre for the remainder of the match and her tight marking and razor sharp anticipation ensured that the county minor star was far less influential thereafter.
Milltown were growing in confidence as half time approached but Gráinne Mhaols had a real heroine in the face of adversity in the form of the outstanding Mary Anna McDonagh at right half forward. Time after time she came deep to win possession off Becky Heanue’s well directed kickouts and carried the ball out of defence before launching the next attack or alternatively earning her side a free after drawing the foul. One minute before half time Milltown were dealt a real hammer blow when the deadly duo struck again for goal number three with Mairéad Coyne the provider and Máire Clotherty the executor. Deep into first half injury time the former St Grellans, Leitír Mór and Carna stalwart struck again only to see her soccer style finish disallowed on the grounds of dangerous play.
Milltown needed to come out with all guns blazing on the resumption to have any chance of getting a stranglehold on this match. However, to the dismay of their large and loyal band of supporters the opposite was the case. With a strong wind at their backs Gráinne Mhaols hammered home their advantage in a blistering ten minute spell that ended this final as a contest. A quick free from Geraldine McTavish just after the throw in picked out Lisa Coohill who pointed with ease. Seconds later Mairéad Coyne slipped a perfectly weighted handpass to the onrrunning Geradine McTavish who finished emphatically with a perfectly placed rasper into the top corner. Shell shocked Milltown couldn’t find a response and further long range points from Lisa Coohill (2) and Mairéad Coyne (2) extended the Connemara girls’ lead to eleven points with over twenty minutes still to play.
For Mná an Iarthair who now led by 4-6 to 1-4 the shackles were well and truly off and it was exhibition stuff thereafter as the beleagured Milltown defence crumbled under wave after wave of unrelenting attacks. Máire Clotherty, Mairéad Coyne, Martina Conneeely and Lisa Coohill scored a further 4-3 between them in the final quarter as their overwhelmed opponents struggled to mount a few sporadic attacks of their own. On the few occasions that they did manage to get out of their own defensive half their forwards met with stubborn resistance in the form of solid and dependable corner backs Lucy Lydon and Tara Flaherty and tenacious half backs Fiona Folan and Brenda Mulkerrins who chased down everything as though their lives depended on it. Substitutes Lisa McDonagh, Tara Staunton, Triona Folan, Michelle Joyce, Nóirín Coyne and Siobhán Conneely entered the fray late on as the storm clouds gathered overhead before the inevitable downpour. However, not even the latter could dampen the high spirits and joyful elation of a talented bunch of gaelic footballers who were finally ready to take their rightful place at the top table.
This was a final that Gráinne Mhaols had to win. The pain, disappointment and absolute heartbreak of losing last year’s Intermediate League and Championship finals to Killannin coupled with the acute embarrassment of a pathetic Championship exit to Connacht runners up Annaghdown were key factors in galvanising this group of players into one final supreme effort by way of redemption. Psychologically the players had to prove to themselves that they could still cut it on the big day at the higher level. Past glories at junior level have long since been consigned to the archives, distant memories from a bygone era. A third consecutive Intermediate final defeat would most likely have had a seriously detrimental effect on morale in the year ahead.
Milltown are still a Junior A Championship outfit so their achievement in reaching this year’s Intermediate League final on maximum points from seven matches is indeed a remarkable one. They’ve had a great year on the playing fields and their All Ireland success in the Junior Sevens was a magnificent achievement and an historic one ( no other Galway club has ever won this title). They are a proud and resilient club and will bounce back from this latest county final defeat, their first at intermediate level and their seventh in total since their foundation in 1998. They will feel that they didn’t do themselves justice and will doubtless be very disappointed at the manner of their defeat. Ironically however, this disappointment may well be tempered somewhat by a strong sense of relief at not having to participate in the 2007 Senior League. Ever magnanimous and gracious in defeat they were quick to acknowledge that their old adversaries are probably better equipped at the present time to deal with the challenges of Division One football next year.
Relief was without doubt the overwhelming emotion among Gráinne Mhaols management because a third consecutive year in Intermediate League would not have enabled the club to move forward. Over the past two years Annaghdown, St Marys, Milltown and Caherlistrane have all elected to concede walkovers in Intermediate League rather than travel to West Connemara, a totally unethical and unacceptable state of affairs which successive County Board Executives have failed miserably to address. The prospect of Killannin, Corofin, St Brendans, Dunmore McHales and possibly Annaghdown gracing the football fields of West Connemara next season, is an exciting and intriguing one and should serve to focus the hearts and minds of the newly crowned Intermediate League Champions of 2006 when they resume training in the Spring. They will be firm favourites to finish the job in 2007 by annexing the County Intermediate Championship but football is a fickle business and silverware is no guarantee that Gráinne Mhaols will hold onto all their players during the coming season.
Therein lies the real measure of success in this writer’s humble opinion, namely an average of twenty four players in attendance at every single training session and match for an entire season for no other reason than a pure and simple love of playing the beautiful game. Gráinne Mhaols have the playing resources to make a major impact on next year’s Senior League but only if the players themselves really want to. Have they climbed their footballing Mount Everest or is this latest County title triumph merely just the beginning of an exciting new era for ladies football in West Connemara. 2007 will tell its own story.
Footnote: CPB Gráinne Mhaoil wish to extend a sincere word of thanks and gratitude to CPB Na Piarsaigh who hosted this County Intermediate League Final on November 26th last. The pitch which was in pristine condition was properly lined and flagged and the dressing room and shower facilities were also of the highest standard. When the match was over refreshments were provided for both teams and sets of supporters free of charge. This was totally unexpected but hugely appreciated, a wonderful gesture from a top class club who take it all in their stride. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Written by Paul Gannon
The 2006 AGM took place in Cashel Community Centre and the following Executive Committee was elected:
The election of Management Teams followed:
A special word of congratulations was extended to Mary Young on her historic achievement of becoming the first ever Gráinne Mhaols member to become part of a County Management Team (Under 16, along with Killannin’s Walter Butler and Salthill’s Michael Gorman).
2006 was a relatively successful year at adult level. An historic county intermediate league final victory over old rivals Milltown propelled the club up to senior league for the year ahead. The challenge of competing with the elite of Galway Ladies football is one which the West Connemara club will undoubtedly relish and the girls will take particular pride in bringing senior league football to Tullycross for the first time ever. Their management team extended a special word of thanks to John Joe Reilly and Daniel Conneely from the Seamus O Maille GAA Club in Oughteard for making their training pitch under lights available to Grainne Mhaols LGFA in the run up to that final. Hopes of achieving an intermediate double were blown away on a Summer’s evening in Killannin when eventual county champions and provincial finalists Annaghdown pulled out all the stops to prevail by seven points in the semi-final of the championship. It was very much a below par performance by Mná an Iarthair but they restored a bit of pride and dignity subsequently with a fiercely determined and committed performance against Killannin in the West Galway Senior League Final.
A virtuouso performance by County star Niamh Fahy proved to be the vital difference on the day and the East Connemara girls eventually got over the line on a scoreline of 1-12 to 2-5. The West Galway Senior Championship semi-final against Mná Chonamara was a two legged affair with Cole Kelly’s charges enjoying home advantage in the first leg. An emphatic fifteen point winning margin all but secured their place in the final against either Killannin or Mná na Cathrach. The return leg in Tullycross ended in a draw and a second championship exit for Gráinne Mhaols. The Juniors fared much better than their senior counterparts in the West Galway competitions by qualifying for the Championship and Shield finals against Moycullen and Michael Breathnachs respectively. Due to the inclement weather prior to Christmas these two finals have yet to be played.
Addressing the delegates on behalf of the U12/U14 management team, Mary Young stated that it was a poor season in terms of results but that there were many positives, not least the contribution of Finian Sheridan. She commended the latter on his technical knowledge, enthusiasm and great rapport with the players. She admitted that it had been particularly difficult to get satisfactory numbers out due to the spread out nature of the West Connemara region. The U12s and U14s were knocked out of their B championships in the opening rounds by Tuam Stars- Cortoon and St Brendans respectively.
The U16s had a resounding victory over St Brendans in the quarter final of their A Championship only to be completely outclassed by an exceptionally talented Glenamaddy outfit in the semi-final. Hopes were high that the Minors who were League finalists and Championship winners at U16A level in 2004 would annex the 2006 Under18A Championship. They enjoyed home advantage against Corofin in the quarter final but had a disastrous day at the office and had to give second best to a craftier and hungrier North Galway girls who surprisingly fell at the next hurdle to Dunmore. Hopefully Grainne Mhaols U18s will up the ante in 2007 and with thirteen of the starting fifteen available again for selection, redemption is well within their remit. The year ahead should prove to be far more positive and productive at underage level with the advent of Under 11, Under 13, Under 15 and Under 17 competitions in West Galway. These competitions will supplement the existing county board underage structure so there should be no shortage of football next season.
Written by Paul Gannon