By Damian Dolan
There was Féile joy and heartbreak in equal measure for London’s Under 14s in Connacht at Féile Peile na nÓg, as North London were crowned Division 3 champions while South London’s brave Division 1 bid saw them denied at the last.
Eddie McGivney’s North London Boys beat Cavan’s Crosserlough by 2-7 to 0-5 in the Div 3 final at the Connacht GAA Centre, to emerge unbeaten from their six matches.
A fantastic achievement after last year’s breakthrough feat of winning Division 4 – a victory that ended North London’s ten-year wait for Féile silverware.
“Eddie, Lorcan (Mulvey – selector) and myself are very proud of the team,” North London selector Joel McInern told the Irish World.
“Their hard work and effort over the last three months means their winning of the Féile 2019 Division 3 Cup is thoroughly deserved.”
For South London – Division 2 winners in 2018 and 2017 – it was a case of so near and yet so far, as they gained the respect of Ireland’s best under 14 sides, only to lose out to a “special” Kilmcud Crokes team.
Even then there was glory in defeat for Michael Maher’s charges, as they rallied from trailing by 16 points at half-time to give the Dublin side an almighty scare before going down by 6-2 to 3-2.
A disappointing end, but South London had drawn with Oranmore Maree (Galway) and beaten St Canice’s Dungiven (Derry), Corofin (Galway) and Austin Stacks (Kerry) on their way to the final.
“All of the management team are so proud of the team’s performance at the Féile this weekend,” said South London manager Michael Maher.
“They grew in stature and confidence with every game and to beat the likes of Corofin and Austin Stacks is something truly special.
“The lads have done themselves, London GAA and their families proud. I hope they go forward as a group now over the next few years and take the next steps in their football development.”
But London’s boys weren’t alone in flying the flag for the GAA over here – the three days of competition across five counties in Connacht saw some tremendous performances from ‘our’ teams.
There was silverware for Hertfordshire’s Boys as they won the Division 7 Shield, after last year’s success in winning the Division 8 Cup.
Consigned to the Shield this time around after defeats to Galway’s Kinvara and Asca GFC of Carlow, Hertfordshire’s Boys took their handsome win over Galway’s Menlough in their final group game into the Shield.
In their Shield quarter-final, they proved too good for Balla (Mayo) before overcoming Kerry’s Milltown/Castlemaine in an epic semi-final “battle” played at Alan Feeley Park in Claremorris, by 2-1 to 2-0.
In the final, they called for “one last push” and the Hertfordshire players produced it to beat Mayo’s Ballaghadereen by 1-6 to 0-3. They’d led by four points at the break at Fr Gibbons Park, Claremorris.
It was a special victory, achieved by a “special group of players”. Hertfordshire tweeted, “Well done, we are very proud of you”.
Elsewhere, London’s Girls – Division 6 Shield winners in each of the last two years – made history by making it through to the Division 7 Cup quarter-finals.
They lost out to Louth’s St Kevins by just four points in their semi, but it was still a fantastic achievement by the team.
Three wins from three had earlier seen the girls top their group, including a titanic 2-2 to 1-4 victory over Ballyhogue of Wexford.
“The London girls were amazing; a strong team who played with great unity and spirit. It’s not always about winning silverware,” said the London Girls’ management team.
“We are all so proud of the girls’ behaviour in representing their county.”
Gloucestershire Boys reached the Division 8 Shield final, only to go down narrowly to Cork’s Killeagh St Ita’s by 3-3 to 2-3 at Connacht GAA Centre.
The boys from the west had been impressive in seeing off Eastern Harps (Sligo) and Shrule/Glencorrib (Mayo) on their way to the Shield final.
Lancashire’s Boys weren’t short of goals in their Division 9 campaign – finding the net 23 times in total – but what they wouldn’t have given for just one more in their Shield quarter-final with Down’s Annaclone/Drumgath, as they bowed out of this year’s Féile on the back of a 1-7 to 1-6 loss.
In Girls Division 10, Warwickshire and Scotland both made the Shield semi-finals, only to bow out to Sligo’s Drumcliffe Rosses Point and Owenmore Gaels respectively.
One of the highlights of Féile was undoubtedly the celebrations of Warwickshire Girls – for whom reaching the semi-finals was a “great achievement” after their tense Shield quarter-final victory over Roscommon Gaels, by 7-4 to 6-5 after extra-time.
Warwickshire tweeted that their girls had “represented themselves and our County amazingly and had a blast”.
More than 8,500 boys and girls descended on Connacht last weekend for the largest ever Féile Peile na nÓg in the history of the underage football tournament.
358 teams (150 LGFA teams) took part – 179 from outside the west of Ireland including some from as far afield as Western Australia, New York, Delawere, Boston and San Francisco.
There were 13 boys divisions with an additional girls division added this year to take the number of girls divisions to ten, and 851 games played.
An attendance of 20,000 people was expected to be present in the Connacht GAA Centre Of Excellence over the three days.
It is the third time in five years that Connacht GAA have organised the tournament.
There were 14 other venues hosting finals including Tuam Stadium, Kilkerrin Clonberne, Ballinlough, Glencar Manorhamilton. Westport, Markievicz Park, Avantcard Pairc Sean MacDiarmada, Castlerea, Kilcoyne Park Tubbercurry, Claremorris, Corofin, Mountbellew, Leitrim GAA Centre and Kent Park, Sligo.