The U-14 Girls Gaelic Football team have been training very hard every week to prepare for their annual Ireland tour. Often, over 35 girls attending training every Friday afternoon at St Paul’s Academy, it gave Miss Devine a very difficult task to select just 20 students for the trip. It was delightful to see so many Year 7 students involve themselves in a new sport this year and excel, many striving for places on the team. The skill level these students have shown is incredible after only playing the sport for such a short period of time and the commitment and dedication which the students give to Gaelic Football is exceptional.
Our St Paul’s Academy students in conjunction with Dulwich Harps Gaelic Football Club departed on the morning of Saturday, the 9th of July, 20 girls accompanied by Miss Devine, Miss Buckley and Mr Meade. The girls flew into George Best Belfast City Airport and enjoyed their first day relaxing with some lunch, soaking up some atmosphere in Belfast City Centre. The girls visited City Hall and had a chance to shop in the Castlecourt before departing. At 4pm, the girls’ team arrived at their very welcoming host club, Cavan Gaels. Greeted with big smiles and our club colours, we knew from the outset, we were going to have a fabulous time!
The first adventure in Cavan took place in Kingspan Breffini Park, with our students going to watch one of the GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Qualifiers- Cavan Vs Carlow. A wonderful experience for the girls and a first for many of them. They certainly made themselves noticed, many of the girls involving themselves in the game, chanting and cheering for the home team! Our girls had a chance to mingle with our host team before going back to Terry Coyle Park, home of Cavan Gaels for some food and evening entertainment! After a few games of darts, pool and table tennis, our St Paul’s girls in true style showed off some of their infamous dance moves to the locals! Plenty of laughs were had before the girls departed back to their host houses for the evening.
After recharging the batteries with plenty of sleep, our girls made their way back to Terry Coyle Park for the 4 team Tournament which the girls had been eagerly anticipating. The girls played 4 games in total, two 15 aside and two 9 aside games- the first contest was against our host team, Cavan Gaels. Our girls put up a good fight after a tight first half scoring 2 points against Cavan Gaels 1 point. After the half time team talk, hard work and determination saw the girls come out on top, winning 2-5 to 0-1. Our next game saw St Paul’s Academy split into 2 teams, the girls played their socks off, but were unfortunately were narrowly beaten in both games by Baileboro and Ballyhaise. Both 9 aside games were played with great spirit, it was excellent for our girls to get such experience in all three games, playing against teams of this calibre in Ireland.
The final game of the day saw St Paul’s Academy take on an All Star team, comprised of players from the other two visiting club teams, Baileboro, Ballyhaise and our hosts Cavan Gaels. The game was tight from start to finish, with every player on the field giving their best. With the school motto instilled in our girls, LINOA (Losing Is Not An Option!), they fought hard to the bitter end. The game resulted in a draw which thankfully kept both teams happy! Some fine displays of football came from Alex Barnes in midfield, Sheilla Idehen up front and Shana Ajufo our half back, however, the player of the tournament on the St Paul’s side must be awarded to Tarila Yinfaowei with her super saves in goal!
On Sunday evening, our team were treated like royalty once again, fed like Queens in the club house before heading off to the local bowling alley for some down time. Afterwards, girls had the option to catch the European final, play pool or table tennis or just hang out as they wished with their host families. Again, the evening was finished off with some song and dance, before presentations were made to both clubs. St Paul’s Academy presented Cavan Gaels Mark Leddy and Sophie Graham with their plaque in appreciation for all the hard work and effort which the club had given to making this such a memorable weekend. Cavan Gaels very generously presented Miss Devine, Miss Buckley and Mr Meade with a framed Cavan Gaels club jersey which will take pride of place at St Paul’s Academy. A lovely memento which the school will cherish for years to come.
On Monday, our girls said their ‘Goodbyes’ to their new friends and wished their host families well. So many lovely comments were made throughout the weekend about how polite, well- mannered and behaved our pupils were, a credit to the girls themselves, their families and teachers.
Monday saw the girls make their way to Croke Park, not just for the stadium tour but the the Etihad Skyline tour. This offered the girls panoramic city views and insights into Dublin’s celebrated landmarks combined with the thrill of walking on top of one of Europe’s largest stadiums.
Special thanks must go to Mark Leddy (Cavan Gaels U-14 Coach) for establishing the link between the two clubs and for working so hard to arrange the visit, Noeleen Tully, (Secretary of Cavan Gaels LGFA), Sophie Graham, (Chairperson) and Niall O’Riordan for their relentless help throughout the weekend. A massive thank you must go to all of the host families from Cavan Gaels, who looked after the team and teachers so well throughout the weekend. We are forever grateful to all those individuals who facilitated in any way- for their time, organisation and preparation to ensure the weekend was a massive success for all involved. Thank you to Miss Buckley and Mr Meade for their support throughout the tour.
Last but certainly not least, a massive well done to all the girls of St Paul’s Academy who represented the school so fantastically on their trip. They were an absolute pleasure to have on tour and every one they met commented on how charismatic and charming this group of girls were! To come over and compete against girls who have been playing the sport for years and to play so well is an amazing achievement! You have made St Paul’s Academy very proud! Well done ladies!