‘Dulwich Harps U14 Gaelic Girls on Tour’
Wednesday 16th July saw a group of 20 under 14 girls from St Paul’s Academy and St Thomas More travel to the North of Ireland on a three day Gaelic Football tour for the first time.
Representing Dulwich Harps GAA Club, the aim of the tour was to provide pupils with the opportunity to improve individual Gaelic Football skills and to play against teams in another country, to develop community links between London and Ireland and to visit places of interest in Ireland; from start to finish the girls were certainly able to do this and much more.
The party of 20 pupils and three members of St Paul’s Academy Sports Department (Miss Duffy, Miss Devine and Miss Buckley), left St Paul’s Academy at 6am on Wednesday morning and it was non-stop from there.
Upon landing in George Best Belfast City Airport, the party travelled by coach to the University of Ulster, Jordanstown. Here the girls were provided with a very warm welcome and were given the opportunity to both see and use the world class sporting facilities at one of Ireland’s top sporting universities.
The team took part in a magnificent training session on the indoor state of the art 3G. The training session was led by two top county players, MagsMcAlinden (Armagh) and Joe McMahon (Tyrone). The girls learnt so much from their experience, listening to and questioning both county stars on their knowledge and expertise of Gaelic Games.
Following their training session, the girls had a chance to tour around Belfast City Centre, taking in the sites and getting to do some very important retail therapy before travelling to Tyrone to meet their host families.
The girls received a huge welcome upon arriving in Tyrone and commented that the rural setting of Dunamanagh now ‘looked like Ireland and Emmerdale!’ The girls quickly settled into their host family homes and were taken back by the never-ending amount of food for dinner and breakfast that they were provided with.
On Thursday, our team travelled to the Centre of Excellence in Gervaghy, Tyrone to play in a blitz organised by Owen Mooney (Ulster Ladies Gaelic Football Development Officer) and the Ulster GAA Council. Each game was to be 7 a-side, with Dulwich fielding two teams.
The girls got off to tremendous start, beating neighbouring club Trillick Firsts with a score line of 5-4 to 1-12. The girls comfortably won their next two matches with Dulwich B Team narrowly losing their final group game by 3 points. The girls then played in a 15 v 15 game against Trillick.
This proved to be the show piece of the day. This was the first time our girls had played on a full size Gaelic Football pitch and as a result their fitness, skills and level of determination were all firmly put to the test. Both teams battled hard from start to finish, exchanging the lead throughout the first half. When the half-time whistle went, we were down by 3 points (2-1 to 2-4).
This just gave our girls the determination and drive to work even harder and each and every one of them stepped it up a gear in the second half. The girls battled hard for every ball, supported each other and demonstrated in its best form the sporting motto of St Paul’s Academy, ‘Never give up, never let up!’
In the last few seconds of the game, Jennifer Ogunfunmilade broke out of defence and stormed up the pitch. She was supported by Gemma Mullings, Natalie Alberto, Ellie Davie and Princess Bassey in attack. Jennifer blasted the ball at goal but unfortunately hit the side netting. With that the final whistle went and the girls found themselves on the wrong side of a one point defeat (3-4 to 3-5).
The level of skill, determination, team work and sportsmanship demonstrated by every member of the squad on the day should be highly commended. Members of the Ulster GAA council and the other teams present were extremely impressed with the ability of our girls and congratulated them on their efforts.
For more see this week’s edition of the Irish World