Learning curve for Ladies GAA at high level inter-college championships

Sarah Burns

Staff Writer

Trinity Ladies Football teams’ championship campaigns finished early for the first time in four years as the step up to Giles Cup championship proved too much to achieve qualification from their group. After reaching the semi-final of the league early in the year, the senior team had high hopes of placing within the top two teams of their tough group which included NUIM, Mary Immaculate and UUJ. College’s large and competitive panel facilitated the entry of a second team into the Donaghy Cup championship but they failed to pass through the first knock out round after which, these players then competed for places on senior team panel.

Firstly, we’ll look at how the first and second team fared at the Giles Cup Championship.

The first team included Ciara Donoghue, Roisin Boyce, Amie Giles, Rachel Coleman-Horgan, Petra McCafferty, Sarah Cotter, Ellen Beirne, Emma Jones, Sarah McCafferty, Aife Kavanagh, Aisling Reynolds, Caitriona Smith, Maebh Downey, Lucy Mulhall and Mairi Ni Mhuineachain. Subs used were Nicole Owens, Marie Murphy and Aoife McGovern.

The first team started their Giles Cup Championship campaign with a loss to NUIM in freezing conditions at home on the 11th of February. Hoping to repeat their success against NUIM in the league, College started strongly with Sarah McCaffery getting them off the mark with a point and Lucy Mulhall adding a goal in quick succession. College looked set to dominate the first quarter but NUIM recovered from their sluggish start to blast two goals past the home side’s keeper Ciara Donoghue. College added further points from Maebh Downey and Caitriona Smith to keep in touch with NUIM and defended well to force their attacks wide. NUIM dealt a blow with two goals in quick succession towards the end of the first half, while the NUIM keeper continued to deny College’s attempts to score. The home side trailed by eight points at half time, reminiscent of the meeting of these two teams in the league this year in which two goals separated them at half time. The score at half time was 1-8 to College and 4-7 to NUIM.

As in the previous match, College came out fighting in the second half and were awarded a penalty within the first quarter, converted by Aisling Reynolds, with a subsequent yellow card for NUIM. College closed the gap with another goal created by skilful attacking play by Nicole Owens in the window of opportunity afforded by their extra player. The difficulty of the playing conditions were evident as the home side’s forward momentum decreased and they were forced to defend against NUIM attacks with the wind at their backs, the away side again with their full complement of players. NUIM’s desire to repay the result from the league was evident as they converted an opportunity on goal and sadly the away team then put the result beyond the reach of College with a further goal in the last five minutes. The final score was College at 3-9 and 5-11 to NUIM.

The result of the other game in the first round of the Giles Cup Championship, a draw between UUJ and Mary Immaculate College, meant that TCD2 could still qualify with a win away from home against Mary Immaculate on 26th February; however this was not to be. TCD2 kept in touch with Mary I until the final quarter when Mary I’s experience at Giles Cup level became evident as they raised their game to ensure victory. TCD2 started the game with sharp passing out on the wing as Petra McCafferty linked up with Marie Murphy to score the first point of the game. Mary I made their mark on the game early on with unerring points taken from the centre forward and forced TCD to fight their way out of defence. Aisling Reynold’s pace contributed to attacks from the midfield for TCD but they couldn’t break through on goal to bridge the gap. TCD trailed at half time and needed a massive effort to fight their way back into the game. TCD kept hopes alive with a goal in the first quarter and piled on the pressure to draw within two points of Mary I. Mairi Ni Mhuineachain broke through but was denied on goal by the Mary I goalkeeper, converting the resulting 45’ to a point. TCD received a yellow card and Mary I took advantage of the extra player, winning their kickouts and keeping possession in the dying stages of the game, adding two points and keeping control of the midfield to staunch any further TCD attacks. Mary I sealed their victory with a goal and a point, aiming to maximise their score difference to aid their chance of qualification in the final round.

TCD finished their group games away to UUJ on 6th March. While they could not qualify from this game, TCD’s experience from the previous high standard games was evident in the first half as they forced UUJ to take their points from the centre half; Amie Giles and Faye Kearney linked to skilfully work the ball out of the TCD defence. Lucy Mulhall put TCD in the lead with a brilliantly placed goal, although UUJ were never out of sight, drawing fouls as they kept possession in attack and converting the resulting frees. TCD got another goal and Mairi Ni Mhuineachain scored a point from the wing forward position. UUJ continued to put pressure on the TCD defence, eventually converting their repeated attacks to a goal from their corner forward just before half time. With UUJ seeking a wide margin of victory to place themselves in a position to qualify from the group (depending on the other result of the day; NUIM vs. Mary I), they brought all their Giles Cup Championship experience to bear with wave upon wave of co-ordinated attacks on the TCD defence.

From an early start to the second half which saw UUJ and TCD score at either ends of the field in quick succession, UUJ quickly took control of the game, wearing down the TCD defence and converting numerous goal scoring chances. TCD could only respond with points as the UUJ pulled off two diving saves to deny TCD’s full forwards. Substitutes for UUJ greatly added to their power up front and TCD were forced to pull back their wing forwards to bulk up the defence, leaving them little chance to add to their score. UUJ continued to attack beyond their targeted winning margin, the possibility of qualification a strong incentive to keep up the pace. For TCD it is an unwelcome early culmination of the season, but all to play for next year. Having had their first taste of the intensity of Giles Cup Championship they have gained experience to build on both in league and championship the next time around. Quality individual performances seen over the course of the group games from players returning next year ensure that this team will have much to contribute to the Giles Cup in the future.

Onto the Donaghy Cup Championship where unfortunately, College’s second ladies gaelic football team were knocked out of the championship in a ‘fight-to-the-finish’ game against UUC at home on the 19th of February. CD2 were knocked out of the Donaghy Cup Championship in a ‘fight-to-the-finish’ game against UUC at home on the 19th of February. UUC made their intentions clear from the beginning with an early goal and point to race into the lead. TCD2 recovered quickly and set to dominate play in UUC’s half as Claire Turner got her name on the score sheet with a goal blasted into the bottom corner of the net. Sarah Dempsey and Michelle Peel fought hard on the wings to intercept the UUC kickouts and set up the forwards to score more points. Attacks from the strong midfield pair of UUC were always a threat to TCD2, preventing them from pulling away entirely in the first half. TCD2 kept their lead as Kate Heffernan intercepted UUC’s attack and cleared the ball to set up Orla McLoughlin on the wing. TCD2 went in ahead at the break, anticipating a determined response from UUC in the second half.

The home side battled hard in the second half against renewed probing attacks from UUC that yielded a quick goal to keep them in contention. TCD2 pushed forward and apply pressure in the box with Sarah Dempsey winning the ball in midfield to set up Ailbhe Finnerty for a long-range point. TCD2 notched up two more goals and looked set to hold onto their lead. TCD2 were dealt a blow as Aine Haberlin had to be substituted due to injury and were forced into their own half with repeated waves of attack from UUC. The away team’s wing forward intercepted the TCD2 kick out and made a punishing run into the box with a resulting goal. UUC closed the gap in the final quarter and staunched the supply of the ball to the TCD forwards, limiting their capacity to keep up with UUC’s increasing score tally. TCD2 couldn’t make up the deficit created by UUC’s ample scoring opportunities with the final score resulting in their exit from this competition.

Unfortunately, the home side couldn’t make up the deficit created by UUC’s ample scoring opportunities with the final score resulting in their exit from this competition. Despite the result, strong individual performances ensured the contribution of this panel of players to the successive games for the senior team in the Giles Cup Championship. The final score was  5-6 to College and 7-9 to UUC.