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Amazing achievement! League Champions and FAI Senior Cup finalists!

On Thursday June the 15th, our Senior Girls Football Team had an experience they'll likely never forget as they contested the FAI Senior Girls Cup final for the first time in the school's history. Not only was it the first time they contested the final, but it's the first time we have ever even entered a team in the competition! Our opponents on the day were the formidable and very accomplished St. Attracta's school and though the match was keenly contested and our players played with great skill, determination and fighting spirit, unfortunately St. Attracta's proved to be too strong in the end, emerging victorious in a 2-0 score-line. However, we are very proud of how our players represented the school on the day. The conditions were very difficult as it was a stiflingly hot day but our girls never gave up and absolutely ran themselves into the ground in pursuit of victory. Each and every one of them deserves massive credit for their endeavours both in the final and over the course of the school year.

What a fantastic goalkeeper Ciara has been for us! Ciara is one of our best ever GAA players and she used those GAA skills to great use in this position this year. Her high catching is superb and we have benefited greatly from her quick thinking and pin point kicking - so many of our best counter attacks this year have started from a Ciara kickout. She is also a brave shot stopper and no goalkeeper senses danger like Ciara. She has saved us on numerous occasions throughout the year (we all remember that amazing double save in the semi-final vs St. Bernadette's) but she also made some absolutely crucial saves and clearances in the final to keep us in it. I've no doubt that Ciara is already looking forward to the school GAA season and will be practicing relentlessly over the summer as she is as dedicated and determined a young girl as they come!

Sarah missed a lot of the soccer season due to injury but you wouldn't have thought that if you had seen her outstanding performance against St. Attracta's. She had a brilliant battle with the immensely talented left winger from St. Attracta's, Ciara Lane. Her concentration levels were superb throughout (as they needed to be) and she was responsible for many vital last ditch tackles. Having Sarah's blistering pace in defense gave us every opportunity to recover every time St. Attracta's got in behind us. She was also incredibly assured on the ball for someone who doesn't play football for a club but that just speaks to how natural (or supernatural) her sporting talent is! Sarah's leadership has been so important for our teams over the past few years. A player of her outstanding ability will, of course, be impossible to replace but more than anything, we will just really miss her good-humored personality!

At centre back, Ellie was quite simply majestic! She only played her first full football match for the school a few months ago. How can this girl be so good at this game?! She is such an intelligent player. She has the positional sense of a top pro! You'd swear she has been playing the game for 20 years, never mind 3 months! And try as you might, you just can't get past her! On top of that, she has a phenomenal first touch! Watching how well she reads the game this soccer season, I couldn't help but be reminded of the legendary Paul McGrath and I know I am not the only one who was blown away by her performance. Above all, Ellie is all heart and you can ALWAYS rely on her to stand up and be counted. Ellie, like Ciara, lives and breathes GAA and will no doubt go on to play in many more big finals for many years to come!

And now to our Captain Fantastic, Lucy (aka Prodigy)! Lucy is just so passionate about this sport and has taken her role as captain very seriously. She is a brilliant motivator, so encouraging to all the girls and so sporting towards her opponents after matches, win or lose! She knows this sport inside out but what an exceptionally talented footballer she is too. Really accomplished on her right foot (she scored some screamers with her right foot at the 5 a side tournament) and she can ping a pass with her left foot that would make even Katie McCabe proud! In the final, she was just pure class! She was gutsy, totally focused and just so composed and measured under pressure. She leaves no stone unturned (and even writes out her rousing pre-match motivational speeches) and she can only go from strength to strength now as she is already thriving with a top club, Rathcoole FC!

At left back, Adriana, (the 'Queen of the interception') has been the thorn in the side of many a winger this year. She has an uncanny ability to recover when the ball gets past her and just nick it off the attacker right at the moment they think they can get the cross or shot off! She is very flexible, light on her feet and stays alert at all times. She really forced her way onto the starting team with her outstanding 'Player of the Match' performance in that tight battle against Plunkett's in the Quarter final and is always focused on giving her very best for the team, as she did in the final! I think Adrianna has really enjoyed playing sport for Sruleen this year so I hope she is still motivated to practice her GAA, Camóige and football skills this summer because we will REALLY need her next year!

And now we turn to Emma! What a warrior! Every great team needs an aggressive enforcer in midfield and Emma fits that description perfectly. She never seems to come out the wrong side of a 50-50 battle. She could shoulder a lamp post to the ground!! But what sets her apart is her immense skill! Emma has the ability to go on a mazy run at full speed, beat 3 or 4 players at a time while maintaining full control of the ball. Indeed, she has scored some absolute wonder goals this year doing just that! There, of course, were plenty of her trademark crowd-rousing runs in the final but above all, she never gave up and ran her heart out the whole match! Emma is obsessed with football and a brilliant GAA player to boot and there is no doubt in my mind, she is going to end up playing at a very high level in the years to come!

Sophia was our vice captain this year and I can't overstate what an inspirational player she has been for us! Sophia will never shirk responsibility. She plays with intent! She wants to be on the ball and she wants to make things happen. Sophia loves the big occasion and against such high quality opposition, she proved herself to be one of the best players on the pitch and probably produced the best moment of skill in the whole final as she effortlessly pulled off the old 'Zidane 180 degree turn' to manufacture space for herself while under pressure. Indeed, there were times this year, where I thought that she was going for some kind of record for 'most dummies ever recorded in a single match'! I really believe this wonderful player can go on to do great things in this sport and I hope she dedicates herself to the sport as the sky really is the limit for Sophia!

And what can we say about our play maker, Alyssa? A special, special talent! You want a box to box player who will cover every blade of grass for the team? That's Alyssa! You want a player with balance who can strike the ball equally well off either foot? That's Alyssa! You want a player with vision who can unlock a defense with a pass no one else can see? That's Alyssa. You want a player with magic feet who can dance her way through a tight defense? That's Alyssa! You want a player who will never give up? Well... you know the rest! There really isn't anything she can't do! Alyssa just excels at every sport she plays (she scored a wonderful goal in Croker for the Camoige team) and she would play 5 matches a day if she had her way! It's been a privilege to witness her brilliance this year and we are very lucky that we will get to witness it all over again for the school next year!

To say Rhia is fast, would be a bit of an understatement! You don't reach the Dublin CnmB final without having serious speed! She is another one of our girls who hadn't played soccer until a few months ago but she is a fearless player who always works her socks off for the team just like she did in the final. One of my favourite sights to see this year has been the sight of Rhia charging forward on powerful runs and putting all sorts of pressure on opposing players. And one thing is for sure, this girl does not pull out of tackles!! Rhia has also been so dedicated to this team from the very start and she brings so much positivity and fun to the training sessions. With the school GAA season just around the corner, I hope Rhia does plenty of practice over the summer as she will be integral to our plans in September!

Abbie is quite simply one of the most naturally gifted talents we have ever had in the school! Don't let her easy-going nature off the pitch fool you because when Abbie is on the pitch she is as fierce a competitor as they come. She has absolutely electric pace (she IS the Dublin CnmB Under 14 sprint champion, after all)! Abbie is so good that she has the ability to create chances all by herself from anywhere on the pitch. She possesses great balance, can kick with both feet and is really comfortable in possession so it is frightening to think how amazing she could become with a bit of coaching under her belt! And she is currently clubless! If I were a scout of a big club watching Abbie last Thursday, I'd be immediately on the phone to the board urging them that 'we NEED to sign number 11...this girl is the REAL DEAL'!

And now to our sharp-shooting striker, Zara! During the GAA season Zara earned a bit of a reputation for being an absolute goal machine but in this football season, she has taken her goal scoring to a whole new level (I've even heard some people refer to her as the Sruleen Haaland but she also reminds me of the great Alex Morgan)! Needless to say she was our top scorer and she has been the focal point of our attack all year. She is blessed with unbelievable speed but she is strong and tough and if you can get the ball to her behind the defense, there really is no catching her. Her finishing this year has been absolutely sublime at times and that stunning hattrick in the semi-final will live long in the memory. All she needs is a split second and she can find the back of the net! Above all, she is a wonderful role model for our younger girls because her dedication to the team has been second to none! This certainly won't be the last time you will be hearing about Zara's footballing achievements!!

We have been spoiled for choice with all the pacey players that we have had this year and Pia has certainly been one of our fastest! But what really stood out to me this year about Pia is that she is so good at keeping possession. She can make sharp turns in really tight spaces and is always looking to make the right pass which she can do with either foot! She can also unleash a rasper of a shot whenever the opportunity presents itself. She is a determined young girl and her enthusiasm and commitment this year has been infectious! Pia really does have plenty of natural talent for this game and I really hope this experience inspires Pia to join a club because she really seemed to enjoy being part of this great team this year!

As much as we have been blessed with pacey players this year, we have also been blessed with natural defenders and Ellie T is about as reliable a defender as you can find! You could put her on the left side, the right side or the centre and you know you're always going to get a focused, commited performance out of her. Ellie is blessed with an excellent temperament and loves being in the heat of battle. Her natural instincts are superb. She always seems to be able to time her tackles and interceptions to perfection. Ellie is ultimately a brilliant all-rounder and has excelled in all sports for the school this year. She was undoubtedly one of our best players in the GAA season and I couldn't have been more impressed by her in the camóige final.... one of the stand-out players on the pitch for sure! And she seems to really love it, so I feel really confident that she is going to be a powerhouse of a player for Towers for many years to come!

You're also not going to find a player with a better attitude than Amber - she is the ultimate team player! This was also Amber's first year playing competitive soccer but she seemed to really enjoy the experience. Amber has a really nice first touch and can strike the ball so sweetly off her right foot. Amber is as cool as you like and never gets flustered on the football field! She just gets stuck in and plays her game. It was really disappointing for us that Amber got injured for most of the GAA season but it was really heart-warming to see how brilliantly she played in Croker for the camoige team. Her pick ups were top class and she stuck over one of the points of the day. I can't think of any girl who deserved to have her moment to shine as much as Amber did last Monday and I've no doubt she will continue to flourish for Towers in the coming years!

Molly was also very unlucky to miss a chunk of the football season due to injury but make no mistake, this girl can play! She is probably one of our most comfortable players with the ball at her feet. She also plays the game the way you want to see young players play - always looking to hold on to possession for the team and find the right pass! Molly has been an absolute stalwart for our school teams for the past two years and if her sister Lucy has been thriving for Rathcoole FC, Molly has been absolutely flourishing at the GAA for Towers. We will always remember her magnificent performances for the school GAA team and hopefully she will perform another one of her classic raps for us before the school year is over! Dermot Kennedy would have been proud of her rendition of his song at the school concert on Friday!

I was so happy to see Mia try out for the school football team this year not only because she is such a lovely and bubbly personality to have around the squad but because she has plenty of talent. She brings so much energy to the table and she will run her socks off for the team whenever she is called upon. She absolutely buzzes around the pitch making tackles and blocks and always makes herself available for a pass. I am also delighted to see that Mia has followed her brother Ollie's footsteps (who is a sensational talent) in joining Round Towers and I hear she is already flying it. She scored a goal and a point in her last match. If that isn't rapid progress, I don't know what is! We will certainly miss Mia a lot and I look forward to hearing more about how she is getting on with Towers once she moves on from Sruleen.

This was Skye's first time playing football for the school too but she has competed admirably any time she has been called upon in a Sruleen shirt. She is naturally athletic and has tremendous speed (she hasn't represented the school in sprint relays for nothing!). She has a powerful shot and has scored some great penalties at training. She also produced a great battling performance in the quarter-final vs St. Oliver Plunkett's. Skye seemed to really enjoy training sessions and the banter with the girls this year. As Skye moves on from Sruleen, I hope the experience of being part of a team encourages Skye to play more team sports in the future.

I must also take this opportunity to register my compliments to the St. Attracta's team! They were the strongest opposition we played all year and though it was very close and it could well have went our way on another day with a bit of luck, I have to say that St. Attracta's were worthy winners in the end. In defense, Sorcha Kielty was outstanding the whole match while Laura Ryan proved to be a tough nut to crack on the right side. Ciara Lane is an exceptional talent that I am sure you will be hearing about in the future (you all remember the number 12!) while Aoife Long was a tricky player to have to deal with on the right side. And of course, it was Anna Kellegher who ultimately made the difference up front with her clinical finishes. However, the truth is, what really stood out about the St. Attracta's team was that they were strong all over the pitch. The game was played in a tremendous spirit, the St. Attracta's girls were very gracious in victory and all the players involved were a credit to themselves and their schools.

Again, I really have to emphasize again what an incredible achievement it was for our girls to reach the FAI Senior Cup final. There were only two divisions in the Girls Cup competitions this year and our school was in the top division. Being a medium sized school, we have had to compete against schools that have much greater numbers than ours in this cup competition and to reach the final was nothing short of remarkable. And to do it on our first try is even more special! Truthfully, we have just been really lucky to have such an outstanding group of players all around the same has been a bit of a Golden Era!

We also want to thank all the parents and grandparents for all your support this year and for always being so willing to volunteer lifts for the girls to our away matches. It has been a hectic few months and we had more than our fair share of away matches but you can blame the girls for that - they were just winning too much! But seriously, your sacrifices are very much appreciated.

It has been a wonderful year of sport overall for the school. We can't forget the incredible year the boys have had too! Our boys GAA team reached the final in Croker and the boys 5 a side football team also reached the Dublin final which is a hotly contested competition featuring all the best players in Dublin. I had the pleasure of witnessing these lads play on numerous occasions this year and they are a seriously talented and committed group of players with very bright futures ahead of them. We also have to thank all you parents and grandparents too for so generously providing lifts to the matches and giving the boys such great support.

We also took home 16 medals (14 gold) from the CnmB Athletics finals (more details are on the blog). The girls reached the camóige final in Croker (most of them only played their first ever match after Easter this year!), the FAI Cup final and to top it all off, they finish the year as League CHAMPIONS in a very strong league which included the likes of St. Bernadette's and Clonburris. This is no more than they deserve after all the commitment they have given us throughout the year (and after the heart-breaking one point loss they suffered in the GAA semi-final last October)!

It won't always be like this. Some years you have more success than others. But one thing is for sure: at Sruleen, regardless of ability, we always have teams of enthusiastic children with great fighting spirit. The most important thing is that the children enjoy themselves and we really hope that the Sixth Class boys and girls who are leaving us in two weeks will continue playing sport for many years to come because we are living in a time where teenage participation in sport and other extra curricular activities couldn't be any more important!

We also have some really exciting young talent coming through and hopefully they have been really inspired by the achievements of and the example set by our older kids. The younger ones are finally going to get their moment to shine this week. Our Third and Fourth Class boys are going to play a GAA match down in Towers on Thursday and our Second/Third Class girls team will have a match after school on the same day. It will be a great way to finish the sporting year!


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