The Fenagh Gaelic4Mothers & Others team who will play in Croke Park on Sunday. Photo by Willie Donnellan
There is many a footballer out there, male and female, who would give their right arm for a chance to play in Croke Park and that is what 10 lucky ladies from Fenagh will get to experience next Sunday at the Ladies All-Ireland Finals.
Fenagh Gaelic4Mothers & Others are one of six teams who won the chance to play in the halftime exhibition games on TG4 Ladies All-Ireland Finals day at GAA Headquarters and it is plain that is an experience that has energised the group.
Team coach Miceal Bohan explains it succinctly - ”It is great for them and I suppose some of those might husbands or boyfriends who never got to play in Croke Park.”
Fenagh won their place on All-Ireland Finals day after they submitted a video entry, which you can see at www.leitrimobserver.ie, detailing the joys of the Gaelic 4 Mothers & Others programme.
The beauty of the Gaelic4Mothers programme is the inclusion and community spirit it has brought to places like Fenagh, Melvin Gaels, Kiltubrid and so many other places around the county.
Miceal, who experienced All-Ireland glory this time last year when he guided Longford to the Junior title in Croke Park, explains just what it has meant to the community - “The big thing with Gaelic 4 Mothers is a lot of them wouldn’t have known each other before they started they started playing this, they would have known each other from just collecting at the school.
“Now it is a big thing, they’re going out, having meals together, it is the social element and it is great for them, great bonding and a few of the players have got involved in the underage as well so that it is win-win for the club.”
It is a point made also by Mella Horan, someone who personifies what the Gaelic4Mothers programme is about, staying involved with the sport after her own competitive playing career with Fenagh came to an end.
“It is great because Miceal has the experience and we have people who have played football for years and when you stop playing football, you have nothing really unless you go in training so it is lovely to have something to keep the skills updated and keep the fitness going,” said Mella.
“Myself and Miceal used to joke about it, saying wouldn’t it be great to get to Croke Park because I played under Miceal and I trained teams with him and we used to talk about how it would be great to get to Croke Park so isn’t it great, it is fantastic, it is the chance of a lifetime, we’re really looking forward to it.”
It is a theme Miceal returns to - “It is great for the girls, there are probably half of them that have never played football until a few years ago, there are a few of them like Mella and Annette who would have played Intermediate football and Senior football with Fenagh but there are six or seven girls who had never played football until three or four years ago.”
Mella too sings the praises of the Gaelic4Mothers and Others programme and highlights the leadership of the Melvin Gaels Gaelic4Mothers group in leading the way in Leitrim - “It is a great opportunity for us because we decided to set it up four years ago. Miceal set it going and I’d said I’d go in with him.
“It is a great bunch of ladies from all sorts of backgrounds, we have Mothers and Others and it is open to anything over 18 and once you are not registered as a competitive player, join in. Basically you’re registered, we come out twice a week but it is very casual.
“The pioneers for Gaelic4Mothers and Others were Melvin Gaels and they gave us great help when we were setting up and we went down to them for games and they have a good set-up down there.”
The crossover with the Men’s club has paid dividends too - “The Men’s club asked them if they wanted to do the barbecue for the Na Fianna to Fenagh Cycle and anything that is raised goes towards the Ladies club, fair play to the Men, I’d like to think the Senior Club for that.”
For Miceal, it is his second All-Ireland Finals day in a row and he promises to enjoy it a bit more than when he led Longford to glory - “A bit more relaxed, less worrying this year. It was great last year, great to be involved and great to get back this year. It is not too often you get to Croke Park so we will enjoy it if we can.”
Best of luck to the Fenagh Ladies Gaelic 4 Mothers & Others in Croke Park.
Supporters and players all ready for Croke Park. (Back, from left) Eimear Quinn, Michelle McLoughlin, Mella Horan, Laura McHugh, Michelle Gaffney, Jeanette Leyden, Vera Wrynn, Christina Bohan, Hilery McDermott, Sandra Greenan, Phil Hargaden, Ciara Bohan. (Front) Caoimhe McDermott, Ryan Hargaden, Padraig Guckian, Fiachra Guckian, Patrick Hargaden, Avril Hargaden, Orla McKeon, Aoibhinn Greenan, Shane Greenan. Photo by Willie Donnellan