By Damian Dolan
London’s Under 14 girls will be looking to build on last year’s historic “rip roaring” success when they return to Féile Peile Na NÓg this weekend.
In 2017, the team became the first from Britain to win Féile silverware when they won the Division 6 Shield, beating Down’s St John Bosco in the final by 1-3 to 0-4.
London, who had earlier opened their Division 6 campaign with a draw against St John Bosco, saw off Corduff of Dublin in their Shield semi-final.
There would be little to choose between London and St John Bosco again in what would be a tense final.
London led by 1-1 to 0-2 at the break, although they would rue some missed chances, and they held out under considerable second half pressure from the Down side to take the Shield.
“It was fantastic; I’ve seen Kerry lift the Sam Maguire and this was every bit as good,” London Girls manager Ger O’Shea told the Irish World.
The impact on the girls was “massive”. Recognised by their schools, O’Shea says they were still wearing their London Féile t-shirts for “weeks and weeks afterwards”.
“The experience was brilliant for them,” added O’Shea, who credits Colleen Lynott and Claire Towey with playing a huge role in last year’s success, having “kick-started” a change in approach.
For O’Shea, the seeds for that triumph were sown in the aftermath of the team’s showing at the 2016 Feile. Well beaten on their return to the tournament after an absence of “quite a few years”, it proved an eye-opening experience for the London girls and their management team, but one they learnt from.
“Claire and Colleen saw that more preparation and organisation was needed,” said O’Shea.
Emulating that success is going to be “tough” this time around says O’Shea. London have been promoted (despite still being in Division 6), and they’ll also be playing 15-a-side, having played 13-a-side last year.
London have been drawn in Group A of Division 6, alongside Ballymartin (Down), Warrenpoint (Down) and Taghmon Camross (Wexford).
On the positive side, London will have eight survivors from that winning team, while the panel has been boosted by players from the St Kiernan’s club, which only formed in 2017.
Kiernan’s provide three of the 22 strong panel with the remainder coming from Parnells (five), Tara (six) and Tir Chonaill Gaels (eight).
“It’s going to be difficult with going up a division, but we’ve a very young panel, 14 of which weren’t there last year. So it’s going to be a great experience for them,” said O’Shea.
“They (St Kiernan’s) saw what the possibilities were and what could be done.”
O’Shea, though, would like to see more support for the team at provincial level, particularly with regards to funding. While the boys teams receive funding from the Provincial Council of Britain (men’s), the girls do not receive anything from the Ladies Provincial Council of Britain.
He said: “We get nothing; we have to fund ourselves through fundraisers. It’s disappointing. It doesn’t help when you’ve got to book flights and gear to buy.”
London Girls Feile Panel:
Alice O’Brien – Forward (Parnells)
Amy Brown – Defender (Parnells)
Anna O’Farrell – Goalkeeper/Full Forward (Tara’s)
Caitlin Finnerty – Midfield (Tara’s)
Caitlin Jones – Defender (Tir Chonaill Gaels)
Caoilin Farrell – Defender (Tir Chonaill Gaels)
Catherine Gallagher – Forward (Tara’s)
Ciara O’Shea – Forward (Tara’s)
Demi McDaid – Goalkeeper (Tir Chonaill Gaels)
Emillie Driscoll- Mooney – Midfield (Parnells)
Evie Gaughan – Forward (Tara’s)
Freya Henry – Defender (St Kiernans)
Grace Donaghey – Forward (Tir Chonaill Gaels)
Hannah O’Connor – Forward (St Kiernans)
Holly Lynott – Defender (Tir Chonaill Gaels)
Megan Jones – Forward (Tir Chonaill Gaels)
Millie Taylor – Defender (Parnells)
Orla Tighe – Defender (Tir Chonaill Gaels)
Orlaith O’Donnell – Forward (St Kiernans)
Rhianna Roache – Forward (Parnells)
Roísín Kelly – Defender (Tir Chonaill Gaels)
Sarah Mc Dermott – (Forward Tara’s)