By Robert Cox
After contesting five senior finals (three championship and two league) from 2010 to 2012, our senior ladies team had to settle for a year of consolidation in 2013. But that is not a reflection on the girls’ efforts throughout the year as they went through some household changes in many departments. Starting at the top, Shane Stone ended his successful two year reign in charge of the side, while selector Nicky O’Connor had to step down due to work commitments. Key players such as Emma Hoare, Therese Macken and Fiona Campion also could not commit to us for the year, while long term cruciate victims Caoimhe Fagan and Noelle Conlon also missed out, though thankfully Caoimhe made a fantastic recovery to join us in July just in time for Championship. The words J1 Summer is not something any GAA manager likes to hear and unfortunately for me they were some of the first words I heard when I took over in early January. I would never begrudge any young person setting off to experience such opportunities but when you lose five top players on top of everything else, it can be a bitter pill to swallow. However for all the objects that stood in our way and for all the early season negatives, two positives weren’t far down the track. They came in the shape of youth and new faces. Girls as young as fourteen were drafted in to take part in pre-season training while some older girls such as Niamh McCarthy, Niamh O’Brien and Suzanne Lett decided to join our team. In addition former underage player Maeve Mulhall returned in the summer and picked up where she left off some five years ago.
I met the girls for the first time this year on the 23rdof January and we set out our goals for the year. Thankfully I knew them all having previously been in charge from 2006-2009 and been Shane’s number two in 2011 and 2012. Seamus Kane was once again onboard as my selector as he was in the past and injured player Noelle Conlon was brought in a selector also. Having won division three of the league the year previous, we all agreed that our number one goal was to consolidate our position at the next level and when that was done we would try and push on for a semi final spot. We had agonisingly lost the Junior A Championship final to Naas by one point in late 2012 so the girls were adamant, despite the loss in numbers, that we would once again give the Championship a good whack. Long-serving defender Linda Byrne was appointed captain to replace the outgoing Shona Cagney while goalkeeper Eimear Kelly was my choice for vice-captain. So with all the platforms in place, training got under way in the hall, where the girls were put through their paces by our fitness instructor/player Suzanne Lett, every Wednesday and Friday until March the 21st.
|Pre-Season training in Donadea Forest.|
Our league campaign got off to a losing start against a strong Intermediate side Sarsfields at Scoil Dara. It was a first real sign of how much our squad had changed since that final loss to Naas, as only ten girls from that night lined out against the Newbridge side on April 2nd. But all great teams must start somewhere!! We lost that night on a scoreline of 3:09 – 1:05. Emma Robinson bagging our first goal of the season. Aisling O’Connor and Grace White both missed out due to injury. We went on to suffer a heavy defeat at the hands of a strong Carbury/Na Fianna combination in their backyard, before our season took a turn for the better, albeit in unexpected circumstances. I accepted the offer of Senior County Champions Confey to play a challenge game on April 23rd. In ladies football in Kildare, Confey are the king-pins. Over the years they have put the best of sides to the sword and if I am been honest I was slightly nervous for my side going into this one. But credit must go to them and lead by Aisling O’Connor (two goals) we shocked the counties best team to lead at half time. Though we went onto lose by four points in the end, this game boosted the morale of the girls and set us up nicely for the remainder of the league. It also showed me glimpses of the talent I had at my disposal. A week later we were rewarded with our first points of the league with a 3:14 – 1:03 win over Ballykelly with Grace White coming away with a personal tally of 1:05. And while the return fixtures against Sarsfields and Carbury/Na Fianna resulted in defeats, we secured a vital win over our old rivals Naas in Kilcock 5:11 – 1:05 on May 21st. Two defeats followed against a very strong Maynooth side, who, eventually went on to win the league in rather easy fashion. These were our last games before the summer break for the leaving cert and when we returned the aforementioned J1 girls had flown the nest for the greener pastures of Chicago. Despite this we put in a top display upon our return, beating Ballykelly by 2:09 – 1:06, with Eve Powderly getting the crucial goal. That Ballykelly game on the Tuesday was the first of three games in four days as I pencilled in a challenge game for the Thursday. And though we won that against Dunboyne, it took its toll the following night when a lethargic looking side lost our last league game to Naas. But we had booked our place in the semi final with the win in Ballykelly so attentions had turned to the last four and more importantly to the Championship. Once again Maynooth proved too strong for us in the semi final at Maynooth and they ran out comprehensive winners. Grace White top scored for us on the night with 1:03. Consolidation had been achieved and getting to the semi final was a bonus for a young side that were learning all the time. Caoimhe Fagan was only weeks away from her return from injury and the J1 girls were shortly due back from America. In all, the league campaign had served us well and gave us useful grounds to improve on. Confidence in the camp going into Championship was on the up, no stone was left unturned as numerous challenge games were played and won. We were confident. Too confident perhaps.
|Hayley White and Aoife Divily (9) in action v Maynooth in the League.|
In typical GAA fashion, we had to endure a six week break between league and championship and while this wasn’t ideal, it did give me a chance to get a full squad back. Michael O’Connor came on board to help at training and we kept busy with seven challenge games in that time. Numbers at training were high, reaching 22 at times. We felt well prepared for the trip too Athgarvan on August 17th for the first round of the Junior A Championship but unfortunately it all went up in smoke. I cannot fault the team for their efforts. They are never found wanting in that department. We were just beaten by a stronger, more experienced side on the night though I must say the deplorable conditions of the pitch situated on the edge of the Curragh, did us no favours at all. Thankfully all the girls came away injury free. Athgarvan along with Monasterevin were not meant to be in Junior A but the county board decided to re-grade them. It is an awful shame they didn’t leave them where they were!! We had lost to a strong Naas side in the final the year before and were confident of having a good crack at it with them now Intermediate but we never catered for the surprise of a whole re-grading process for 2013. The girls, in true Kilcock spirit, responded well and battled bravely in their second game away to Carbury but unfortunately came out on the wrong side of a two point loss. 2:08 – 3:03. With Maeve Mulhall coming away with her first two adult championship goals in what was a player of the match performance. This ended our hopes of reaching the semi finals but we travelled to Moorefield to complete the last of our three fixtures (all away, however that happened!!). Again we were beaten by the better side on the night but the girls can hold their heads high and look forward to a proper crack at next years’ Championship. Kildare watch out. There is nothing more dangerous than a Kilcock Ladies’ scorn.
In total between league, championship and challenge games, we played 25 games this year. Our top 5 scorers were as follows:
Grace White 14:50
Emma Robinson 4:33
Sheena Byrne 6:20
Aisling O’Connor 4:10
Maeve Mulhall 6:02
Minor Ladies Championship:
I had the privilege of also been over the minor girls team for 2013. The experience all these girls gained during the year in the senior ranks stood to them and the eight weeks we spent together at the end of the year was most enjoyable. We reached the final of our division but unfortunately lost out to a strong Castledermot side on a scoreline of 5:05 to 2:07 on November 24th at Hawkfield. County minor Caoimhe Fagan was made captain before our first game to Rathcoffey, a game in which we received a walkover. This is a testament to Caoimhe and a fitting end to a year in which she has battled so hard to recover from a potential career-ending cruciate ligament injury. Throughout the minor run, she looked like she had never been away and I look forward to working with her for many years to come as an established senior player for the club. Such was the strength of this minor team, we easily brushed aside the challenge of Castlemitchell, Ballymore and Ballykelly and Ballymore again in the semi final but unfortunately we found Castledermot too strong on two occasions, most importantly in the final. Grace White who was also playing in her last year as a minor, put up massive scores in every game and netted a penalty in the final to put the minimum between the sides with twenty minutes to go but alas it wasn’t to be. Apart from Grace and Caoimhe, the rest of the team are around for a few years yet with Megan O’Connor, Holly Burke and Saoirse Shannon showing a class beyond their years (13). Add to that names such as Aisling O’Connor, Emma Maguire and Hayley White and you have a conveyor belt of top talent coming through the ranks. One thing is for sure the future of the Kilcock Ladies is in good hands. I would like to thank all members of the minor squad for their dedication, determination and overall attitude in what was a great run to the final. I would also like to thank Linda Byrne for co-managing the team with me. Behind every good man and all that!! Thanks also to Seamus Kane and Noelle Conlon for all their help as selectors. I would like to also give a special mention to all the parents who travelled the length and breadth of Kildare, whether it was early on a Sunday or late on a Thursday, you were there. Thank you from myself and all the team.
|Minor team before the final v Castledermot|
O’Neill goal captures the u-15 title at the death for Kilcock
Two second half goals set the Kilcock u-15 girls team on their way to a one point win over a gallant Nás na Rí side and in doing so capturing the Division 6 league trophy at Hawkfield on Saturday last, the 19th of October. The girls from North Kildare, managed by senior players Linda Byrne and Noelle Conlon were level at 1:02 a piece at the break but an Eve Powderly penalty and a dramatic last minute Emma O’Neill goal ensured that captain Saoirse Shannon would be raising the cup aloft at the end of a gruelling 60 minutes played in a wind and rain swept centre of excellence. Aoife McArdle had given her side the lead with the games’ first goal in the first period and Demi Lacey pointed in the first half.
Midfielder and county u-16 player Aisling O’Connor was the games outstanding performer and cut through the oppositions defence time after time to create chances for her team mates. She was backed up well by a solid Charley Burke between the sticks while Aoife Boland, Laura Gibbons and Megan O’Connor were their ever reliable selves in defence. Eve Powderly worked tirelessly in midfield alongside O’Connor while upfront Saoirse Shannon and Sarah Lavin caused trouble with their excellent off the ball movement while full forward O’Neill bagged herself a goal and a point. Credit must go to both sides for the level of entertainment they produced in such dire conditions and though the young Naas side will be disappointed with the loss, they can hold their heads high after a creditable performance. The final whistle was greeted with scenes of jubilation from the girls in green and gold as they captured their first u-15 title in a number of years.
Final Score: Kilcock 3:04 – 3:03 Nás na Rí
Emma O’Neill 1:01
Eve Powderly 1:01
Aoife McArdle 1:00
Demi Lacey 0:01
Saoirse Shannon 0:01
1: Charley Burke
16: Brianne Traynor
3: Claire Durkan
4: Aoife McArdle
5: Tara Devine
6: Megan O’Connor
7: Laura Gibbons
8: Aisling O’Connor
9: Eve Powderly
10: Megan Curtin
11: Saoirse Shannon
12: Sarah Lavin
17: Demi Lacey
14: Emma O’Neill
15: Aoife Boland
Holly Curtin for Claire Durkan
Elena Teevan for Demi Lacey
|U-15 captain Saoirse Shannon with the cup after the win over Naas.|
Santa Dash, Cycle Race & All-Ireland 7s
Away from the football field, the girls are a credit to the club. When they organise an event, they give 110% to it and it pays off. At the end of last year, just before Christmas they organised a Santa Dash 5km Fun Run. The whole day was a great success, so much so that the girls have decided to host it again this year. It takes place on Sunday 15th December at 1pm from the GAA. On the 28th of April this year they also organised a 70km cycle race. Again the day was a huge success and every cyclist left with a smile on their face. On behalf of all the Ladies I would like to thank all those who took part in the two events and we look forward to seeing you again soon. On top of that I would like to thank all the men and women who helped out on both days. From the sandwich makers to the marshals, thank you. A special mention must go to David Hynes, Emma Hoare, Sheena Byrne (and her team of worker bees) and Rachel Watson for all their work in organising the run and cycle. Thanks also to all our sponsors.
On the 28th of September we took part in the Tesco All-Ireland 7-a-side blitz at Naomh Mearnog GAA in Dublin. This was the first time we took part in this tournament and everyone involved had a most enjoyable day. We were playing in the Junior All-Ireland and were drawn in Group 7 alongside Cuala (Dublin), Naomh Anna (Galway) and Europe. The girls took to the ‘game’ and change in styles straight away as we beat Cuala in our opening game. We easily disposed of Europe in our second game which meant our game with Naomh Anna would be winner take all. Unfortunately the Galway side got the better of us and duly progressed to the quater finals of the main championship. We finished second in the group and progressed to the semi final of the Junior Shield. Despite the best efforts and heroics of Eimear Kelly in the semi final, we were beaten by a very strong Dublin side, Ballyboughal. All the girls played their heart out on the day and it was a great experience for both them. Again thanks to Seamus Kane for his help on the day.
Kilcock Ladies squad for All-Ireland 7s: Eimear Kelly, Holly Burke, Linda Byrne, Emma Maguire, Shona Cagney, Orla Cagney, Grace White, Laura O’Neill, Eve Powderly, Sheena Byrne, Aisling O’Connor and Paige Byrne.
Finally I would like to thank every involved with Kilcock Ladies for having me back at the helm for 2013. Though I brought home no silverware, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenges the year threw at me. The blow of losing some more experienced campaigners was hard to take but over-seeing the next generation and how good they can be quickly lifted spirits. Kilcock Ladies is a club heading in the right direction and that is down to the hard work of everyone involved. From the chairperson to the team. Thank you to all the players on all teams for your attitude and I look forward to working with you next year. Thanks to Seamus, Mickey and Noelle for your help. Thanks to Suzanne Lett who trained the girls in the hall from January to March and then joined the team herself. Fair play to all our new members who took up the sport for the first time. Thanks to our senior sponsors Macaris. And a special thanks to Breda Byrne (seniors) and Sarah Cox (minors) for having the jerseys ready for every match. You are the important people behind the scenes. On behalf of all the Ladies I would like to give special thanks to Chairman Peter Divilly for all his help during the year. Peter was a joy to work with and was always there if we needed lights on, gates open or the hall booked. Thanks also to all my fellow mangers, I know it is not always easy to find room for matches or games on a summers evening but thanks to your co-operation we somehow made it work!!
2013 did not produce any adult silverware for Kilcock Ladies but the work that was done and the foundations that were laid by all involved, means that 2014 most certainly will and I for one am happy to be a part of it. Watch this space…
Senior/Minor manager & PRO