By Robert Cox
Kilcock’s Bernie Durkan created history last Sunday, 9th of December when she along with her teammates at London club Parnells Ladies became the first ever side from outside Ireland to win an All Ireland Ladies Club Championship tittle following their victory over Munster Champions Cahir on a scoreline of 2.14 to 1.02 at Ballymore Eustace GAA in Kildare.
Bernie, who lined out at corner back for her adopted club in the final, has been a key member over the past ten years or more with her hometown club Kilcock and on her final appearance for them last year, she helped them to a first ever Junior B Championship success. Kilcock’s loss though was certainly Parnells’ gain as Bernie, daughter of Tom and Marie Durkan, transferred to the latter at the start of the year upon returning to London to take up a teaching job in the city. Speaking to an elated Bernie after the game, she explained the differing emotions in winning with the two teams: “Its a totally different feeling winning with Parnells and winning with Kilcock. Your home club is always your home club. You play with girls you grew up with and you know each other inside out. It will always be special. Winning with Parnells required so much time and effort. Its not a case of travelling five minutes down the road to training. I leave my house at 7am each morning and if Ive training don’t get home until gone half ten. The football girls over here literally live in each others pockets. I suppose in a way you could say we are a football family. My best friends over here are all girls I met through playing football and we’ve been through a lot together. Competition is fierce for places so you have to give your all each session as Tommy (our trainer) pulls no punches. He’ll tell you exactly what you are doing right or wrong”.
|Bernie lining out for Kilcock|
|Bernie in action for Parnells|
Bernie, who is well used to travelling over and back the Irish sea over the past few years, be it for a family occasion, a Kilcock Ladies game or most recently with Parnells, first made the trip to Liverpool to study a Masters in Sports Psychology after studying Sports Science in DCU but upon returning to Ireland she found it difficult to obtain work in sports psychology here so she had to make the tough decision to leave once again, this time to train in primary school teaching at St.Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill. Thankfully for Bernie all that toeing and frowing over and back prepared her well for Parnells’ venture into the All-Ireland series where they had to travel to Ireland for three of the four games.
|Bernie with good friend and team captain on their home away from home – Ryanair|
First up though Parnells had the small matter of winning the All-Britain final earlier in the year against another of Bernie’s former teams FR.Murphy’s. Murphy’s were duly dispatched leaving Parnells with a mouth-watering clash against Kildare and Leinster champions St.Laurences, a side Bernie knew plenty about. “While we would not have played against them much during my time with Kilcock, I knew a few top players in the county like the Leahys (Brianne and Kate) had transferred to them following the demise of Grangenovlan and that they were a strong team. They were no match for us on the day though and I knew with the girls we had this year we had a real chance. Plus they had a long journey over to London as a lot of their girls got the ferry over so it was tough for them”.
With St.Laurences taken care of, Bernie and her Parnells side were paired with Galway outfit Kilkerrin / Clonberne in the semi-final and what a tie this turned out to be. Having made the long and arduous trip from London to North Galway and having played two periods of extra time, the game still ended in a stalemate, resulting in a replay and another trip back to Ireland a week later. Parnells won the replay (played in Emmyvale, North Monaghan of all places) and all their hard work had paid off with the holy grail now only one game away!! Bernie added: ” The Galway side were very tough, probably tougher than St.Laurences but to be fair they didn’t have the same journey as St’Laurences. We were delighted to get over them in the replay”.
|Bernie’s player profile before All-Irleand|
The final itself saw the Parnells Ladies record a comprehensive win over their Munster counterparts Cahir. In wet and overcast conditions a well supported team set their stall out early in the game with 2 sharp points, attempts by Cahir to address the balance were emphatically dealt with by a Parnells defence that improved with every challenge to their function.
The first half was one of constant invention by Parnells who were able to create scoring oportunities from their own hard efforts and the errors of their under siege opponents and by the end of the first period of play Parnells had an Eleven point lead over a scoreless Cahir.
The second half continued in the same style with Parnells adding a goal and more points to their tally, ten minutes into the half Cahir scored their first point of the game from a well taken free, a point from a long delivery helped the Munster champions lift their game with frequent raids on the Parnells defences, Cahir then added a goal from a well taken penalty, this helped lift the spirits of the Cahir support who up to now had little to cheer about in the damp surroundings.
Parnells responded with a goal in less than a minute which snuffed out any hope of a Cahir revival, this was followed by Two more points before the referees whistle announced Parnells Ladies as the 2012 Intermediate All Ireland Champions.
Celebrations on the field were joined by supporters and family members as well as many former players and members who had witnessed the writing of a great page in Parnells’ history. A delighted Bernie could not hide her emotion as thoughts shot quickly back to the final whistle. “I was delighted after the game. It was brilliant to see so many of my family there. From my immediate family to all who travelled from Mayo, Kilkenny and Kildare and it was great to get their support. Of course Kilcock ladies were represented by Sheena Byrne, Shane Stone and Therese Macken and old friend and Kildare stalwart Tom Ryan was there too. If I have left anyone out I am really sorry because in truth it was all a bit of a blur at the end”.
|Bernie with her brother Mark after the game|
There was no rest for the wicked though as Bernie and her teammates had a flight back to London to catch. A quick drink in the local at Ballymore was the only stop before the airport. “It still feels a bit surreal to be honest. It was hard to have to head straight to the airport and leave our families (as it is each time one of us travels back to London). We stopped in Ballymore for an hour before we had to head to airport”. It is at that pub I had to leave Bernie so after giving her until Wednesday to celebrate and recover, I caught up with her to see how things faired out at their homecoming Sunday night.
“We had a brilliant homecoming on Sunday night. One of our sponsors the Claddagh Ring put on a champagne reception homecoming for us and of course we enjoyed it till the early hours! We went on the beer again on Monday and majority of us had to return to school on Tuesday.
There are so many businesses and pubs in London we have to go to to thank as returning to Ireland three times in the last month has put most of us out of pocket (sure I was well used to that anyway flying home to play with Kilcock last year haha). The next few months will be unreal and deservedly so. The majority of us have drank only once or twice since last August.
Its great for all involved in Parnells. Mary Daly our secretary works like a Trojan and I’m delighted for her and the likes of the older players who have previously played in a club All Ireland but lost. They truly deserve it for their many years of promoting Ladies Gaelic in London”.
Bernie concluded on the future of this crop of stars at Parnells before her while Kilcock was never too far from her thoughts either, “The average age of our team is 27 compared to say Cahir’s that was 18. Everyone that plays for us came over here for college, many are married with children. A lot are moving on or retiring after last Sunday so to achieve what we achieved together is remarkable and something that we all felt had to be done this year. I would like to thank all the girls, they are my family when I am away from home. I don’t know what I would do without the football. I have made so many friends through it and I will miss anyone that decides to move on. In an ideal world we would keep it together for another year or two!! I will always be a Kilcock player through and through and I do miss the craic with them at home but for now my blood is blue and yellow, though the celebrations could change that over the next few weeks!!”
Everyone from Kilcock Ladies GAA sends their congratulations to Bernie and all at Parnells. Well done Bernie. We trained you well!!
Parnells Ladies Starting 15 v Cahir And Subs:
1. Maria King – from Birmingham
2. Nikki Gilmore – from Tipp
3. Niamh Murphy – Armagh
4. Bernie Durkan – Kildare
5. Dee O Riordan – Wicklow
6. Monica Jordan – Westmeath
7. Renee Murphy – Cavan
8. Niamh Fahey – Galway
9. Hannah Noonan (Capt) – London
10. Lisa McSweeney – Cork
11. Sharon Lynch – Meath
12. Sinead McCooey – Monaghan
13. Geraldine Munnellly – London
14. Bronagh Sheridan – Cavan –
15. Helen Carroll – Galway –
Amy Moran and Jenny Murphy – Kildare
Edel Grennan and Josie Egan – Offaly
Shannon McDonagh – Meath
Helen Stephens – Galway
Ann Marie Mohan – Liverpool
|Bernie celebrating All-Ireland glory with her Parnells teammates|