THE Thomastown under-14 ladies Gaelic footballers earned the right to represent Kilkenny when they overcame the challenge of a new team to lift the county Feile title.
The Grennan girls will, for the fifth year in succession, fly the flag for Kilkenny when they compete in the Feile na nOg football finals this Summer. They earned that right with a clinical, but hard-fought, 4-7 to 0-3 win over new team Kilkenny City in an entertaining in Bennettsbridge.
With James Stephens being the only adult side in the city a number of senior players took on the role of mentor to form the Kilkenny City juvenile club in 2010, combining the talents of more than 30 girls from the city parishes and neighbouring areas. Development work progressed into 2011, and as the Kilkenny City girls took to the field for their first competitive game the future looked even brighter for ladies football in the county.
The game was a much tighter affair than the scoreline suggests with some passages of play from the City side which belied their lack of experience.
Thomastown, however, had the edge in the first half with three Aoife Farrell goals and points from Becky Walsh, Eimear Donnelly and Ciara Nevin giving them a commanding 3-5 to 0-1 at the break. The city girls made Thomastown work hard for their scores as Neasa Galwey, Lauren Valentine, Niamh Deely and Lucy Teehan blocked and harried like seasoned campaigners. Niamh Butler was excellent in goal for City while Sophie Dwyer and Jenny O’Keeffe posed a constant threat up front.
The second half developed into a very enjoyable game of free-flowing football. The Thomastown full-back line of Laura Tennyson, Ellie Barcoe and the excellent Aine Butler had to be at their best to withstand some good pressure from Kilkenny. Jenny O’Keeffe caused havoc with some mazy runs and converted a free before setting Sophie Dwyer up for a well-taken point.
Thomastown remained in control with points from Enya Foley and Becky Walsh before Eimear Donnelly capped a superb performance with a goal to put the game beyond reach. Lucy Teehan and Ally O’Keeffe tested Niamh Sheehy in the Thomastown goal but the young shotstopper was well up to the task.
As the final whistle sounded Thomastown celebrated sealing their place in the national Feile finals, which will be held in Cork in July. The girls will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of their club colleagues who won the Division Four title in 2009 and were within seconds of securing a place in the Division Three final last year. While the day belonged to Thomastown the City girls can look back on a very good performance in their first competitive outing and the emergence of a string of new talent augurs well for the development of ladies football in Kilkenny.
Thomastown captain and playmaker Sarah Walsh accepted the trophy on behalf of the winners and was very generous in her praise for the City side who played a huge part in a very enjoyable game. There were several contenders for Player of the Match and the award went to Kilkenny City corner-back Lauren Valentine, who gave an outstanding display of defending and intelligent play. Like many of her team-mates Valentine has a bright future in ladies football.
Thomastown - Niamh Sheehy, Laura Tennyson, Aine Butler, Ellie Barcoe, Maeve Egan, Eimear Corr, Megan ConlOn, Sarah Walsh, Ailish O’Shea, Becky Walsh, Eimear Donnelly, Aoife Farrell, Bonnie Comerford, Enya Foley, Ciara Nevin, Rachel Walsh, Ava Comerford, Rebecca Nevin, Eva Walpole, Blanaid Galwey, Deirdre Donohoe, Niamh Farrell, Aoife Farrell, Ashling Cullen, Tara Treacy, Ashleigh Morrissey, Ria Lawson, Sadbhe Behan, Ciara Gardener, Orla Gardiner, Sinead Fitzpatrick, Katie Quinlan, Kelsie Rice, Zoe Walsh, Aoife Holden, Aoife Naddy, Caitlin Skehan.
Kilkenny City - Niamh Butler, Shauna Valentine, Neasa Galwey, Lauren Valentine, Michelle Teehan, Isabella Carey, Aobha O’Gorman, Niamh Deely, Lucy Teehan, Aoife Cantwell, Sophie O’Dwyer, Jenny O’Keeffe, Ally O’Keeffe, Hannah Scott, Ciara Delaney.
Referee - Maurice Flynn (Kilmacow).