Friend­ships forged on magic trip

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT - JACK CAF­FREY North Wick­low Gaels

THE North Wick­low Gaels formed at the start of March 2019, and was made up of play­ers from two clubs: my own hurl­ing team U13 Éire Óg Grey­stones, and our neigh­bour­ing club, U13 Kil­coole GAA.

Our coach­ing team also came from both clubs which was great as we learned dif­fer­ent drills and got to know new team­mates who we pre­vi­ously would have com­peted against in past hurl­ing matches!

Train­ing ses­sions were held twice a week on ei­ther the Éire Óg or Kil­coole pitches, and were high-in­ten­sity – we nor­mally fo­cussed on a par­tic­u­lar new skill or tac­tic fol­lowed by train­ing matches. We also had some very com­pet­i­tive games with other nearby club teams, to help pre­pare us for Féile.

We qual­i­fied for Divi­sion 7 Hurl­ing Féile na nGael 2019 which was be­ing held in Cork and Kerry this year - our hosts were Gre­nagh GAA, who couldn’t have made us feel more wel­come – our host fam­i­lies were also amaz­ing.

How­ever, to make our Féile dream a re­al­ity, we had to fundraise for the trip and our par­ents really helped by or­gan­is­ing dif­fer­ent events like a fun Ta­ble Quiz night in The Hot Spot in Grey­stones and also did clothes col­lec­tions to help to­wards the cost of travelling to Cork.

We were very lucky to get some great spon­sor­ship from SIS Pitches, m3 Med­i­cal and Frame Com­mu­ni­ca­tions for our stylish new gear, which even had our ini­tials on it!

When we got the gear, we really felt like a proper unit and it made us even more ex­cited for the com­pe­ti­tion!

We were also very lucky to get brilliant sup­port from lots of other com­pa­nies around Wick­low who helped with spon­sor­ship. We even setup a ‘North Wick­low Gaels’ page on Face­book to keep ev­ery­one up-to-date!

Day 1 - Fri­day, June 7

At noon, we departed on the bus from Kil­coole church head­ing for Cork – our des­ti­na­tion was Donough­more GAA club, where we would play them in our first Divi­sion 7 game.

On the way, we stopped for a bite to eat in Cashel. When we fi­nally ar­rived, we im­me­di­ately got our gear on and joined the pa­rade of all the teams par­tic­i­pat­ing, led out by two bag­pipers!

Af­ter the na­tional an­them, we got warmed up for our first match against Donough­more.

It was very evenly bal­anced game, and we trailed by a sin­gle point at half-time.

We upped the ante in the sec­ond half and outscored our op­po­nents to go on to win 2-5 to 1-3.

How­ever, we couldn’t cel­e­brate for very long as we were im­me­di­ately play­ing a very strong Durlas Óg 2 team (from Tip­per­ary) who were really fired up for the game from the start and they kept the score­board tick­ing over, leading by 1-04 at half-time.

Af­ter some words of en­cour­age­ment from our coaches in our team hud­dle, we pulled the game back and came out tri­umphant in the end, win­ning 1-7 to 1-6. That was our last game that day, so we re­grouped, changed and boarded the bus to Gre­nagh GAA.

Gre­nagh vil­lage was dec­o­rated with wel­come signs for North Wick­low Gaels and West­port Camogie which was great to see, so far from home.

We were warmly wel­comed by our hosts for the week­end with a guard of hon­our. In­side the hall in their club­house were sand­wiches and buns along with drinks for ev­ery­one.

This was when we first met our host fam­i­lies and the Gre­nagh play­ers.

Af­ter getting to know our host fam­ily, my team­mate Dar­ragh and I headed back to their house. We set­tled into our new sur­round­ings and had our din­ner which set us up per­fectly for the big day.

Day 2 – Satur­day, June 8 First thing in the morn­ing, we pre­pared for the big match against the lads from the host club - Gre­nagh GAA.

Before the game, we did a pa­rade around the pitch in the rain, fin­ished our warm-up, then got straight into the match. We started strong, leading 2-2 to 0-4 at the in­ter­val.

How­ever, to­wards the end of the match, we gave away some un­lucky frees that they cap­i­talised on, draw­ing the game just before the fi­nal whis­tle at 2-3 to 0-9.

This draw in our third game meant we were Group C run­ners-up based on points dif­fer­ence, which meant that we played the win­ners of Group D, Hos­pi­tal Her­bert­stown GAA, a very strong team from Lim­er­ick at the Bal­ly­hooly GAA ground. We put up a good fight but they got some great scores and un­for­tu­nately, our Féile jour­ney ended at full-time.

All through­out the com­pe­ti­tion, we had amaz­ing sup­port­ers who cheered us on ev­ery step of the way, and I know it was much ap­pre­ci­ated by all the play­ers.

That evening, back in the Gre­nagh GAA club­house, ev­ery­body was brought in­side and me­men­tos were given to the travelling teams and we gave some gifts to the lovely peo­ple that hosted us. The night was great and ev­ery­one from all clubs had a great time.

It was great to see our hosts Gre­nagh GAA con­tinue on in the com­pe­ti­tion and get into the Divi­sion 7 fi­nal the fol­low­ing day, but un­luck­ily, they were run­ners up to Ruairi Óg GAA from Antrim, who went on to win the Divi­sion 7 Cup. Day3–Sun­day,June9

Next morn­ing, we said good­bye to our host fam­i­lies and the Gre­nagh play­ers who we had be­come friends with and headed back to Wick­low.

On the bus home, some of the lads were re­flect­ing on how well the week­end went and that we had achieved our goal of do­ing the best we could and had be­come closer as friends and play­ers.

On be­half of all the play­ers, just to say a spe­cial thanks to our fan­tas­tic coaches: Owen, Mark and Phe­lim, for preparing us so well for the Féile and for their commitment to the team. Thanks to our team sponsors, host club at Gre­nagh GAA, our own clubs Éire Óg Grey­stones and Kil­coole GAA and in par­tic­u­lar to our par­ents and guardians for a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence.

The North Wick­low Gaels side.

Ready for the off. The Aughrim camogie team pre­pare to head south.

Ciara and Rory Con­nolly of Aughrim Camogie club.

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