Posted June 11, 2015
There was a winner! ……..There was no loser!…………
Monday brought our two Portmarnock schools to Croke Park to face each other in the Cumann na mBunscoil camogie (Sciath Nuri) final.
The build -up tingled the spine. The banter over the last few weeks had been a source of fun, laughter and pure wit (and that was just amongst the parents!). The girls on both sides of the parish had prepared like there was no tomorrow. Training diaries were filled. Sideline cuts dug up gardens all over the parish. Every spare minute was for camogie. So many dawn to dusk visits to the hurling wall that cracks began to appear in the concrete. School breaks filled with the sound of sliothar against ash. And all the time the talk was camogie speak. Who would mark whom? Which friend would face which friend? The answers all hinged on the sunshine showdown billed for 11.10 on Monday morning.
Meanwhile teddies had been dressed. Rival supporters had swapped photos and banter. Many of the girls had woken at the first peek of the early dawn sun, tingling with anticipation…………match day had finally arrived!
Flags are ready. Buses of supporters filled. Jaffa cakes are all the rage. Whoever thought that boxes of Jaffa cakes could replace pre match fry-ups?
Meet outside the Cusack Stand. The black and amber of Scoil Mearnóg arrive. The blue and navy of St. Helen’s mingle and head counts commence. All present. The parents and supporters clap the girls and last minute words of support echo in the girls ears as they make their way under the stands to the changing areas.
The fans sit noisily in to the Cusack stand, and the girls get their last minute instructions before the dressing room doors open and the players burst on to the most famous pitch in Ireland.
The talk in the stands floats easily between the fans. Who will win? Scoil Mearnóg had beaten St Helens earlier in the season, and, on paper, were favourites. But camogie is played on grass, not on paper! So we start from scratch to figure out who can win this battle of the Parish!
Our great friend Danny Harrington is the referee. The joint captains take the toss. St Helens to play towards the Hill. The ball is in and the game is on. It’s all Scoil Mearnóg for the opening spell. Two early points for the girls from the south of the parish. A goal at either end. Helens with a point at the Hill 16 end. And a point between the teams at the half time break. Breath taking stuff, and nothing between the teams.
Oh to hear what’s being said in the huddles! We ask Paddy Gorey to earwig on the huddles, but he’s with us in the stands, neutral today, and praying silently for both sets of girls.
Helen’s storm in to the second half. Helen’s storm back! And the goals come. Bang! Bang! Two goals of the highest quality. And Helen’s are up. 5 points stretches to seven, and Helen’s look to have a stranglehold. But wait, the girls from the south of the parish aren’t done yet. Near misses. Every Helen’s puck out is landing near the Marnock’s square. So every near miss at one end threatens a goal at the other end! Nails are bitten to the quick in the stands. Marnocks hit the gas one more time in the middle of the park. A goal closes the gap! 2 minutes left. A Marnock’s free around the middle of the pitch. Take the point, or go for goal? The lift, the strike. It’s low and hard! The sliothar shakes the net. Two points in it. Time running out. The ball breaks once more around the midfield. Is there one more chance for the Scoil Mearnóg girls! No! The ball is cleared. The whistle sounds! Helen’s win by two points!
Navy and blue jump to the sky! And Black and amber sink to the turf. And, my word, the first place where the Helen’s girls go, is back over to their tearful friends from Scoil Mearnóg. The girls hug and exchange words of congratulations and consolation. Mr Ahern pulls off his black and amber top, and shows the real spirit of sportsmanship with a truly retro navy and blue tracksuit straight out of the O’Neills back catalogue. And we are all smiling again! Paddy Gorey sits in with the Scoil Mearnóg girls and speaks from the heart. The girls lift immediately. The Helens joy is wonderful to behold. Miss McGee shares kind words with the Scoil Mearnóg girls, and Mr Ahern reciprocates.
The medals are ready and glisten in the summer sun. The precious Cumann na mBunscoil medals are placed around the necks of both sets of girls. And you know what? Both teams received gold medals. How fitting! Never was it more appropriate. Every girl a winner! The whole of the Parish was seven foot tall for one glorious moment. Ciara Mullin steps forward and raises the trophy and we all raise the roof!
Aogán O’Fearghail, President of the GAA has watched the girls with wonder. He spoke from the heart at our Chairman’s dinner some months ago. He knows the value and true heart of girls sport. The girls step in together once more and the moment is captured in the most wonderful photograph of the Navy, Blue, Black and Amber, which we will have as a memento forever.
The teams filter off the pitch. The parents gather outside the Cusack. The girls emerge from the changing rooms, to sustained applause from the parents. The younger fans strain to catch a glimpse of the trophy, and the third class chat has already turned to visions and dreams that their day will be coming in just a year, or two.
Back on to the chariots for a race back to Portmarnock. A cavalcade of cars up and down the village, horns honking, flags, jersies, and even socks trailing out the windows!
All back to the club. The Helen’s girls form a guard of honour and cheer the Scoil Mearnóg girls in to the club.
Party time! Sweets, biscuits, sandwiches! Pizza for the warriors. A lovely gathering. A speech by Siobhán expressing what the day has meant to us all in the club, and how much the influence of the wonderful teachers in the school means to us as pupils, parents and friends. Thank you again, Mr. Ahern, Miss Doherty, Mr Carroll, Mr Kelly, Miss McGee, and Miss O’Connor! You’ve given one of the best days ever! Next up to speak were Mr Kelly from Helens and Mr Ahern from Scoil Mearnóg who both charmed us with their wit and, without effort, conveyed clearly to us their love of camogie and the kids whom they lead so well.
Thanks to each and every one of the parents who helped with the party, and the clean up.
As the last of the parents began to leave, we had a very special visit from our referee, Danny Harrington. In a lovely gesture, Danny had gone to the trouble of framing two giant sized photographs of the girls with GAA president, Aogán O’Fearghaill , and duly presented the pictures to the schools as treasured mementos of the day that was! Thank you Danny.
Girls, you are legends! This was the best days camogie which we ever witnessed. The grace shown by Helen’s in victory. The dignity shown by Scoil Mearnóg in defeat. Sing it from the roof tops! PROUD TO BE A MEARNOGIE!
Mr Ahern in a pre match conversation had spoken the words from a famous poem, as his hopes for the day. How true they were, and how fitting they proved to be:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same
The panels, and every one a hero:
St. Helen’s: Niamh Costello, Anna Foley, Leah Ford, Orlaith Kiernan, Alanna Keenan, Ciara Mullin, Sarah Myers, Rebecca Gaynor, Rebecca Cooke, Ciara Whyte, Zoe Kane, Sophie Grouse, Sarah Kennedy, Nicole Keenan, Lisa Hughes, Kate Mooney, Kate McCarthy, Sophie Keogh, Keya Crosbie, Beth Flynn, Alex Carroll, Alanna Foran, Hannah Murray, Leah O’Hare, Seona Coogan, Alana Carr.
Scoil Mearnóg: Lauren McCullagh, Emily O’Shea, Rebecca Wall, Lea Power, Sarah Tighe, Grainne Downes, Ruth Lenihan, Carla Brogan, Orlaith McGarry, Abbie Byrne, Ella Heary, Ailbhe Crean-Lynch, Eimear Crean-Lynch, Robyn Callery, Naomi McCullagh.