A party of 20 Year 7 – 9 students and 3 staff members, Joe Meade, Joel Weston and Eadaoin Devine travelled to the hills of Donegal for their Annual Girls’ Gaelic Football tour in association with Dulwich Harps. With an early departure from St Paul’s Academy, the girls were eagerly anticipating their trip to the Glenties.
Upon arrival at Belfast International Airport we were kindly by our Martin Mc Cabe our coach driver for the tour. Our first adventure for the day began at ‘We are Vertigo’ one of Europe’s largest trampolining parks and high ropes activity centres. The girls had a blast as they bounced and hopped their way around the trampolines, for many this was a first time experience and needless to say it was enjoyed by all, staff and students alike. After a quick pit stop, the girls travelled through picturesque country side before arriving at out fabulous host club, Glenties, organised by the current Donegal Ladies Midfielder, Aoife Mc Donnell. Students and teachers rested upon their arrival and got to know their host families and new surroundings.
Friday began with a sightseeing trip round local beaches, Maghery and Narin, taking in some breath taking waterfalls and amazing landscape on the way. Pupils and teachers were in awe of the gorgeous scenery and many selfies were taken along the way! On Friday evening, we took on our host club, Glenties in a friendly. Considering this was our first 15 aside game all year, the St Paul’s girls did a fantastic job. The first 10 minutes saw a nervous team start the game, however, come half time the girls had settled in to their stride. Even though the host team were in front, superb performances from Maria Borgues in goal, Sheilla Idehen, Chancess Mwanbiele and Shana Ajufo kept the dream alive. With 3 goals scored in the second half, the comeback was well and truly on. After a superb display of football from both sides, played with great sportsmanship, the Glenties came out on top. Our girls fought with grit and determination and many spectators commented on their fantastic fitness and skill level. A happy day all round, topped off by an evening of entertainment with our host families, with a visiting Magician to the host club, Glenties! Our girls got involved properly, many up on stage for the evening, amidst the tricks! Well done!
Saturday saw us take on a neighbouring club, Glencolmcille, and after yesterday’s performance, our girls were more than up for the game! We started strong and luckily stayed on top throughout! Again, excellent performances were displayed throughout the pitch, however, Tarila Yinfaowei, Faith Shoyomi and Antonia Adu were exceptional on the field of play. A fantastic welcome was had from all the Naomh Columba club, refreshments served in the local village and plenty of time for both teams to interact! It was a busy day, with a guided tour round Slieve League Cliffs, taking in the local sights. It is safe to say our girls had never seen anything like this before so many thoroughly enjoyed their tour! The evening was finished off with a trip to Waterworld in Bundoran and a trip to the amusements- no better way to end a fantastic day!
On Sunday morning, we made the journey to Termon, another local club within the beautiful Donegal hills. We found ourselves up against a very experienced team indeed, consisting of some very skilful Donegal county players. The opposition were amazed at some of the saves made from our Brazilian goalkeeper, Maria Borgues who only took up the game of Gaelic football a few months previous to the trip. They also commented on our mid field duo and our hard work ethic all-round the pitch. Our team put up a strong battle, however, there was no debating the fact Termon were too strong for the St Paul’s Academy girls. We were extremely gracious in defeat and after light refreshments in the club house, we stayed to cheer on the Termon Senior Ladies team play St Nall’s in a league game for the afternoon. A fantastic morning, with another very welcoming club.
Luckily, a short journey from Termon brought us to the scenic area of the Glenveagh National Park. Here, we rented bikes for the afternoon and cycled 8km around the lake and through to Glenveagh Castle. The weather conditions were ideal as we cycled our way up the hilly pathway taking in the delightful scenery around us. A fantastic experience for all the group, even our bus man joined in on the antics! On Sunday evening, we had a catch up with our Glenties families and had an evening of fun and laughter in the local sports hall. Faith Shoyomi entertained the crowd with a rap she had composed about her stay in Ireland – this certainly went down a treat for the locals!! We presented our host club with a plaque to show our thanks and appreciation for all their hard work, effort and generosity throughout the trip. It is safe to say a new friendship and bond has been formed with the Glenties and St Paul’s Academy.
Massive thanks must go to all the host families, (Rosaleen Doherty, Orlagh Regan, Imelda Gallagher, Maria MacIness, Teresa McDonnell, just to name a few) who gave up their time so generously, shared their homes and treated us like royalty on our stay! We are forever grateful and have made memories which will last a lifetime! Many thanks to Bernadette and Brendan Devine who came to visit the girls numerous times throughout the trip, supplying endless goodies and treats, you are too kind! Special thanks to Berndadette Carr and Terence Cunnea from Glencolmcille for their help organising fixtures, Kieran Gallagher from Termon in the run up to the trip, but in particular Aoife Mc Donnell, who instigated, arranged and planned the accommodation, solely on your side, we are really grateful!
Many thanks to Pat Winston, for his unwavering support each and every year in the run up to the tour, we are very grateful. The trip would not have been a success without the fantastic help of our coaches, from setting up warms up, organising equipment and providing lots of laughs along the way.
The girls have had an unbelievable experience, action packed from start to finish. It has been a learning curve in many ways, a new cultural experience for many but most importantly we have formed many new friendships along the way. The girls have been an absolute joy to work with, committed, driven, dedicated and have shown massive improvement from the beginning of the year. Each club we visited commented on their superb behaviour and attitude both on and off the pitch. Well done St Paul’s Academy, you have been fantastic ambassadors for the school and club!