Kilkenny City Girls under 14 football team enjoyed the ultimate success at Feile Peil na n-Og in Laois/Offaly at the weekend when they were deservedly crowned Division 3 champions after five impressive wins. The city girls qualified to represent Kilkenny when they defeated Thomastown and Piltown in the Feile county competition and then set their sights on the big prize. A panel of 24 players departed Kilkenny on Friday morning under the guidance of Eoin Hennessy and Maria Twomey and a large group of parents and supporters. The Kilkenny girls were hosted by the Carbury club in Kildare and their first outing was against the home side. The city girls made their intentions known when they blitzed Carbury 7-7 to 0-0. The Feile parade through Portlaoise on Friday evening, where almost 5,000 boys and girls proudly marched behind their club banners, was a welcome distraction before getting back to the task in hand. On Saturday morning the team travelled to Rhode in Offaly and despite an early score for the Offaly girls, the Kilkenny girls got into their stride and cruised to a 1-08 to 1-0 win. With two wins under their belt Kilkenny’s game against Clann Eireann of Armagh would prove crucial, with the Armagh girls also claiming victory in their opening games. A confident Armagh side were taken by surprise when Kilkenny raced into a 1-04 to 0-01 halftime lead and pushed on for a 2-06 to 0-03 win to advance to the semi final against St. Pats of Wicklow. The semi finals were played in Timahoe and with the competition now at knockout stage every handpass, shot and block was crucial. Despite relentless rain Kilkenny made good use of the breeze in the first half and Caitlin Moore, Aoife Cantwell and Jenny O’Keeffe gave Kilkenny a 0-4 to 0-0 halftime lead. St Pats proved equally adept at using the conditions to their advantage and grabbed 0-03 early in the second half to leave the minimum between the sides. The Wicklow girls laid siege to the Kilkenny goal and the city defence faced their sternest test yet. Lauren Valentine, Aobha O Gorman and Michelle Teehan blocked and tackled like seasoned campaigners while Laura Tynan kept her goal line intact. With five minutes left Jenny O’Keeffe launched a free from thirty metres to the St Pats square. Her dropping shot caused havoc in front of goal and the ball broke to the fourteen meter line. As it bounced in front of Caitlin Moore the quick thinking forward let fly with a half volley and drove the ball over the bar to give her side a two point lead. With time ticking away St. Pats went on the attack and pointed again to ensure a tense finish. The Kilkenny girls however worked the ball back upfield and when their path to goal was blocked they cleverly retained possession and counted down the clock until the final whistle sounded. Kilkenny City were now one game away from All Ireland glory.
On Sunday morning all roads led to Portlaoise where the six boys’ finals and four girls’ finals took place amidst great spectacle in O’Moore Park and Portlaoise GAA grounds. The Kilkenny bandwagon arrived eager to get proceedings underway against The Downs club from Westmeath. With The Down’s club playing in black and amber stripes many neutrals were confused at the outset but it didn’t take long to recognise the steely determination of the Kilkenny girls. The Downs looked a physically stronger side but the city girls made a great start with Jenny O Keeffe grabbing the opening point after three minutes. The Downs replied with a pointed free but when Sophie Dwyer was fouled on the twenty metre line, Aoife Cantwell duly despatched the free kick over the bar to restore Kilkenny’s one point lead. The Kilkenny forward line was seeing plenty of action but the Westmeath club were strong in defence. A swift clearance upfield saw The Downs midfielder grab possession close to goal before unleashing a cracking shot to the Kilkenny net. The Kilkenny girls remained calm and a brilliant move saw Caitlin Moore, Ciara Delaney and Jenny O’Keeffe combine for Kilkenny’s third point leaving the half time score The Downs 1-01, Kilkenny 0-03. Eoin Hennessy and Maria Twomey rallied their charges and the girls emerged determined to show the huge crowd
in attendance that Kilkenny can put it up to the best. The city side had fifteen minutes of hard work ahead of them and that period will no doubt live in the memory of every player forever. Aoife Cantwell took the game by the scruff of the neck in the fifth minute and raced through from midfield to score a superb levelling point before giving Kilkenny a one point lead with a sweetly struck free in the tenth minute. The Kilkenny girls seemed to grow in stature with Michelle Teehan a rock in defence while Jenny O’Keeffe and Niamh Deely kept Kilkenny on the attack with some probing runs. In front of goal Caitlin Moore and Ally O Keeffe were proving a handful and with just a point between the sides a goal for either would prove crucial. With just five minutes left Sophie Dwyer grabbed possession and the city sharpshooter made no mistake with a rasping shot to The Downs’ net giving the city a 1-05 to 1-01 lead. Portlaoise erupted and Kilkenny had one hand on the title. Some tense minutes followed but one could sense that the Kilkenny side were not letting this one get away. The Downs needed two scores and threw everything at Kilkenny but the City girls showed maturity beyond their years to maintain the upper hand and as the final whistle sounded Kilkenny City were crowned Division 3 Feile Peil na n-Og champions. Amidst great scenes of jubilation Ladies Gaelic Football President Pat Quill presented the cup to joint captains Jenny and Ally O’Keeffe. Jenny O’Keeffe thanked the team mentors for helping the team realise their dream and praised the opposition for a tough and sporting game. The Kilkenny cavalcade headed for the Marble City and an evening of celebration, and the girls will no doubt long remember the fun and the football of their first experience in Feile Peil na n-Og.
This was a well deserved victory for the city girls who were clearly the better team in each encounter. The girls showed their scoring skills a plenty in their opening games and their tremendous defensive qualities when their backs were to the wall in the semi final and final. While many of the girls have come through the Primary Schools leagues in recent years, the club was just formed in early 2011. Thomastown under 14s then held the upper hand in Kilkenny and themselves were victorious at Feile in 2009. However sheer hard work over the past twelve months by the City squad brought the success the girls deserve and will drive the club on to an even bigger stage in years to come.
Kilkenny Panel: Laura Tynan, Saoirse Comerford-Liston, Sophie Dwyer, Ciara Delaney, Caitlinn Moore, Tara Clifford, Brianna Mallon, Lauren Valentine, Nicole Carter, Shannon Holohan, Neasa Galwey, Ally O’Keeffe, Jenny O’Keeffe, Aobha O’Gorman, Eadaoin Murphy, Hannah Scott, Ciara Phelan, Shauna Valentine, Aoife Cantwell, Jennifer O’Keeffe, Ciara Deely, Niamh Deely, Michelle Burke, Michelle Teehan. Banner Carriers: Lucy Teehan and Rebecca Roche