Foxrock-Cabinteely within touching distance of the ultimate prize Mary Hannigan
Only formed in 2005, today the Leinster kingpins bid for senior glory
Foxrock-Cabinteely v Mourneabbey Parnell Park, today, 5.15pm Live on TG4
It was when she got an email from Marla Candon last week that Amy Ring sat back and had a think about Foxrock-Cabinteely’s journey since she began playing Gaelic football two decades ago.
Now 28, she will captain the team in today’s final against Cork’s Mourneabbey, putting a club that didn’t even exist 14 years ago within touching distance of the ultimate prize.
“And sometimes you do have to step back from it all to actually appreciate what we’ve done,” says Ring. “I just thought, ‘God yeah, we’ve come a long way’.”
Candon, who captained the club to All-Ireland junior success in 2007, told Ring how proud she was of her and her team-mates for taking Foxrock-Cabinteely to the level they’ve now reached, having won the Dublin and Leinster senior titles for the last four years.
“It meant a lot coming from Marla, she was there right from the start and was someone we all looked up to.”
Ring and three other schoolgirls, Sinead Goldrick, Niamh Collins and Amy Connolly, all of whom went on to become key players for Dublin, were in the team that day and, 11 years on, will line out again today as they attempt to land the senior club title for the first time.
It would make them just the second Dublin club to achieve the feat, Ballyboden St Endas, in 2005 and 2006, the only previous winners from the county.
Back in 2007, the ‘Fox-Cab’ girls were something of an oddity in their south Dublin neck of the woods, hockey and basketball being the chief sports in most of the secondary schools in the area.
“We didn’t even have a Gaelic football team in school,” says Ring, “so girls who would have played with the club generally gave up the football once they went to secondary school where the focus was mainly on hockey and basketball.”
Hockey remains the chief sporting rival in the area. “It’s still a bit of a black spot for GAA,” says Amy’s father Pat, a Cork man who has been living in Dublin since 1984 and who was one of the founders of the club. With Peter Clarke, Ring makes up the current management team, the pair having previously worked with the Dublin, Monaghan and Mayo women’s teams.
“Hockey is a huge challenge for us. It’s massive, and the Irish team’s success in the World Cup will only make it bigger. Most of our girls either go to Loreto Foxrock or Holy Child Killiney and they’re all hockey. We’ve lost four key players to hockey in the last while, they were all top-class footballers but they had to give it up, they just couldn’t fit it all in.
“It’s not that easy to negotiate with the hockey authorities, they can be quite strict on their players, whereas it’s a little easier with the soccer. Roisín McGovern [who scored the team’s winning goal in the semi-final against Donaghmoyne] is a soccer international – we give a bit, they give a bit, everyone wins.”
But despite the challenges, the club, which was formed when Foxrock and Cabinteely merged in 2005, is thriving, largely due to the work it has put in with local schools.
“We have 22 teams now,” says Pat Ring. “They start at age five, five to eight is our nursery and we have 150 girls in every Saturday morning. That’s huge, that’s a big animal in itself to feed.
“We played our first games in 2005 and then in ’06 we started building up very close partnerships with the three girls primary schools in our catchment area, St Patrick’s in Hollypark, St Brigid’s in Cabinteely and Johnstown in Killiney. I do a little bit of coaching one day a week in each of the schools. What do we get out of it? We get the recruitment. It’s a partnership that works really well and works both ways.”
“It’s important too that the club is run well. I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but we do manage it, we have a healthy bank-balance. We try and keep a surplus there for a rainy day. You see so many GAA clubs getting in to debt, and then having problems with Nama and so on. We’re never going to go down that road.
“We keep our operation tight, but our teams, particularly our senior team, are well-funded. It would cost us ¤10,000 or ¤12,000 a year to run this team but the players bring in half through fundraising, and then the club would come up with the other half.
“It works really well. We have our own pitches in Cabinteely. And we have a number of sponsors, we have so many people involved in the club. We get donations all the time. A fella rang me the other night and said he put ¤300 into the club account. You get that local stuff and it generates goodwill. That pays for the bus next Saturday, it’s marvellous.”
“And I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of it being a ladies only club either, that was key, it made us fairly unique, most teams would be attached to a men’s club whereas with us all our efforts go in to the ladies’ teams, there’s no competition there. That’s a huge plus.”
With six of the team on the Dublin senior panel and another five with the county’s minors, Foxrock-Cabinteely have played no small part in Dublin’s success in recent years, although long-standing tendonitis problems with her knees forced Amy Ring to step away from intercounty football two years ago.
“It was a tough decision but club was always number one,” she says. “If it meant stepping back from Dublin in order to get another two or three years playing for club, then it was worth it all day long. I’ve played with some of these girls since under-10s, we’ve grown up together, so this means more than anything. “We have often talked about leaving a legacy, leaving the club in a better place than when we started, and I think we’re doing that. Yeah, we’ve come a long way.”
With six of the team on the Dublin senior panel they have played no small part in Dublin’s success