On Tuesday 22nd October, the girls from Sacred Heart N.S. Sruleen faced off against the girls from Gaelscoil Cholmcille to battle it out in the Sciath na Laoch final in what turned out to be a keenly contested final between two determined and talented teams.
Unfortunately, despite a brave effort from our girls, we came out the wrong side of the result in a score line of 5-3 to 2-2. However, despite the disappointment of the loss, the girls should be nothing but proud of both their gallant efforts on the day and their wonderful achievement in reaching the shield final in the first place. They displayed great fighting spirit, bravery and skill throughout and never gave up until the final whistle. They must also be commended for their grace and humility in defeat.
Every last player on the panel deserves praise for their contribution both in the final and in the matches leading up to the final. Sonia has been excellent for us in goals which is a particularly impressive feat considering she has never played in the position before this year. Beserta played superbly well and made some crucial interceptions while Kamile was reliably solid at full back ensuring that there was no easy path to goal for Gaelscoil Cholcille as they launched numerous threatening attacks into our full back line. It would be hard to believe that there could be a tougher and more tenacious defender in the county than Debbie (considering that she is still just 9 years old). Her tackling was simply ferocious and she made some crucial and courageous blocks that kept us in the game in the first half and we are very happy that we will have a player of her ability playing for the school for another two years.
In the half-back line, Jessica was unsurprisingly brilliant! Jessica encapsulates the fighting spirit of the team and she once again fought her heart out all the way to the final whistle as she always does. Kayla is quite simply just a natural at this game. She is fast, feisty and a fierce competitor and she produced another terrific performance in the final. And what can we say about Sandra?! Sandra has been one of the best players that I have seen since I have joined this school - so good that she has been playing at centre back even since she was in Fourth Class!! Despite a slow start, Sandra wasn't long warming to the task at hand and routinely thwarted Gaelscoil attacks with her trademark dispossessions while relieving us of the bouts of incessant pressure on our defence with her huge clearances.
At midfield, Orla and Kyra-Jane had the unenviable task of marking two of the best players on the pitch - the Gaelscoil Cholmcille midfield pairing. However, Orla was more than willing to compete against the best! She made some terrific catches, scored a great point and tore at the Gaelscoil defence in our quest to get back into the match in the second half. Kyra-Jane also courageously soldiered on despite not feeling her best on the day. Kyra-Jane has been a fantastic motivator of the girls and I think the phrase 'CAPTAIN FANTASTIC justifiably applies to her. ' She has made a substantial contribution to the Sruleen Girls Football Team ever since she made her debut in Fourth Class and will be sorely missed next year.
I think many of the girls will admit that the enormity of the occasion may have understandably effected them in the early stages as we can't deny that we made a nervy start. However, Holly Pierce , (who is also still only in Fourth Class) seemed to relish the occasion right from the off and she competed fearlessly throughout pouncing on many the breaking ball around the half forward line. It was Holly who registered our first score in the match as she rounded her marker and launched a big high ball towards the goals from the side line that the Gaelscoil Goalkeeper (who admittedly was excellent on the day) found too hot too handle. Vayda was as industrious as ever and when we needed someone to stand up and provide an outlet for us out of our defence, Vayda wasn't found wanting. She also embarked on some eye-catching solo runs which is always pleasing to see as a coach and a fan! Our other half-forward, Emily, also had a slow start but it was with great relief that we got to witness the talent she possesses in the second half. Her sublime goal was probably our highlight of the match as she expertly manufactured space despite being tackled by two Gaelscoil defenders before rifling the ball into the top corner! She also added a well taken point for good measure!
In the full forward line, Katie Victory had a titanic tussle with the very strong Gaelscoil full back. Katie was agonisingly close to registering more Sruleen points on the scoreboard on numerous occasions. She is a very talented player and only for her heroic performance in the quarter-final, we probably wouldn't even have had the chance to play in Croke Park. Ioana is a great athletic talent and has been such a consistent player all year. She produced a very solid performance on the day. She is still in Fifth Class and will be an important member of our panel next year. Kiana was probably the smallest player on the pitch and unfortunately we couldn't manage to deliver the precise passes to her that she would have needed to make the sort of impact her talent suggests she can make. But make no mistake, this 9 year old girl is a fierce competitor and an exceptional talent. There is no doubt that she will be a vital player for us in years too come.
We must also acknowledge the contribution that the subs have made. If the truth be told, it was a very difficult team to pick as all these players have played well enough during the year to merit a starting place on the team. Many of the players are also still in Fourth Class which bodes well for our future teams. Sophia is one of the most energetic players you will ever see and just loves nothing more than to be involved in a battle for possession on the football field. Joanna is an excellent defender who we strongly believe will ultimately develop into an outstanding footballer. We have Amelia earmarked as our future 'woman-marker' as no forward would ever wish to be confronted by Amelia's tough tackling. Abbie is one of the most naturally skilful players we have and she is one of our best players to pick out the right pass. As for some of the older girls, Tessi has made huge improvements this year and we have to commend her for her excellent attitude - Tessi is willing to try her hand at all sports! Tehya brings so much positivity to the panel and is always very encouraging towards her fellow players. Chelsea is another player who has improved and has a big strong kick while Sofia has been a great help at training sessions as she is willing to play in any position. One final special mention must go to Brooke, who devastatingly missed out on playing in Croker due to an injury. She is such anatural athletic talent and was sorely missed by our team in the final.
Mr. Doherty and Ms. O'Donovan would like to thank the girls for their wonderful commitment and enthusiasm throughout the year. Many of our sixth class girls have been playing on the team since Fourth Class and have had to endure heart-breaking semi-final losses in the past two years. We are so happy that they finally earned the opportunity to compete in such a prestigious venue as Croke Park and we hope that despite losing on the day, it proves to be a wonderful memory that they can look back on with fondness for many years to come. We still have so many young and talented players and now that we have seen the standard required in order to win at Croke Park, we are sure the younger players will be more determined than ever to work on their skills and improve. Indeed, they are already asking for more training!
We are also very excited about the talent coming through in Third class so we will do our best to continue to train the girls over the course of the school year. Just today we watched some of them in action against Scoil Ide and were very pleased with what they had to offer. Particularly impressive was the dynamic Zara who scored a whopping 1-3 on her debut! She was the Player of the Match! Ellie is one tough cookie who can strike a ball as hard as most sixth class girls! Sarah is a future midfield star and Lucy looks primed to follow her sister Katie's footsteps as a future goal machine. Molly and Ella were also excellent today while Abbie Kirwan is one of the most exciting Gaelic Footballing talents I have seen in the school for a long time (and thankfully she has recently joined Towers).
So all things considered, we have plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the future!
We also want to thank all the families and parents for your wonderful support. You have been so encouraging to the girls and we understand that there are times when many parents have had to work their life schedules around our training sessions so it is important for us to assure you that this doesn't go unnoticed! We must also thank Ms. Reynolds for the great help she gave us with the training sessions.
Finally, we want to congratulate Gaelscoil Cholmcille on their excellent win. They were ultimately a bigger, stronger and more skilful group of players than us and they thoroughly deserved their victory! We will learn from the experience and shoot for the stars this time next year again!