Arrangements are well underway for the Down U16
girls team as they prepare to face Roscommon in the All Ireland B Final in Pairc
Taileann, Navan on Saturday. As they take to the field, they also become the
first underage team from Down to reach an All Ireland Final. The girls have
reached the final following hard fought victories over Fermanagh and Kilkenny.
They also overcame Westmeath in the All Ireland semi final with a text book
display of tackling and forward play in Ardee a fortnight ago.
Noel Haughey (Down U16's Manager), Cathy O'Hanlon
and Orla Sloan (The Quays) and Down players, Niamh McGowan, Sinead Fegan, Orla
Fegan and Catherine Digney
As part of their preparations for the big game,
the girls have been availing of the wise words of former Derry star and RTE
pundit Joe Brolly, who took the team for a training session at the weekend,
placing an emphasis on simplicity, timing and teamwork. The squad has also
benefited from the input of Down Senior manager, Gregory McGonigle in the last
number of weeks.
Managers Noel Haughey and John McCarthy looking
forward to the big game with Noel commenting, “the girls are well prepared and
looking forward to the game. We knew we had a special bunch of players from the
very first training session, both in terms of skill and individual character.
We set ourselves a target to reach an All Ireland Final at the start of the year
and intend to do ourselves proud, especially given that it’s the first time a
Down underage team have made it to this stage.” Co-manager John McCarthy had a
word of appreciation for the support the team has received over the course of
the year. “The support from players’ families has been immense. There is as
much of a time commitment from parents as players in terms of providing
transport to training and support at games. The last number of weeks especially
has been fantastic in terms of fundraising efforts from parents, clubs and
schools. The support from our sponsors, the Quays, Newry has also been
excellent throughout the year in raising the profile of the team.”
The success experienced by the team this year
bodes well for next year as many of the players are still in the age bracket for
2007. The quality of the team is also reflected in the fact that the player of
the match awards for both the Senior and Intermediate Championship finals this
year went to members of the squad, namely Grainne Kelly (Annaclone) and Paula
Gribben (Clonduff). A repeat of the scoring accuracy and commitment shown in
the semi final may well result in some silverware crossing the border on
Saturday evening and a first ever all Ireland title for the team. The game
takes place in Pairc Taileann, Navan at 2.30pm.