How do you word and record a night like this in Donaghmore Ashbourne’s excellent set up? Well Anne Dungan and Jimmy Duff record the pictures that save a thousand words and I try and put together a similar amount of coherent words that captures the magic that filled the Ashbourne May air.
The Meath LGFC Board decided to give something back to their communities. Fearghal O’hAthairne Ladies chairman and his merry band settled on an inaugural Green Stars v Royal Stars match that would showcase the finest girls of Meath football. They didn’t disappoint. The legendary Meath trio of Sean Boylan, Graham Geraghty and Grainne Nulty were in charge of the Green Stars. The Royal Stars were under the leadership of Rory Stories Rory O’Connor and Fergal Lynch of the Meath Chronicle. Boylan and Geraghty stated to the press afterwards that it was an eternal regret of theirs that both Rory and Fergal weren’t around in 1996.
The cream of Meath ladies football were on display. Someone forgot to reprogram Megan Thynne, Stacey Grimes and in particular Niamhy G Gallogly, it would be fair to say that they don’t do “friendly’s” . It’s one gear only for them, fifth and flat out. That’s the great thing of the night. Fun for sure but no slacking on the skills. We were treated to some beautiful moves, superb finishing and excellent team work. Grainne Nulty rolled back the years with a clever move from the managerial bench that would end up with a Green Stars point. Not to be outdone on the Royal Stars, Niamh Lister roamed from her number 3 spot and posted two points and earned herself ‘’man of the match’’ award. Look out Meath forwards, Niamh’s shooting boots are scorchers.
Colm McManus as referee gave a faultless display, keeping the match flowing with judicious use of the whistle and a flick of a hand pass here or foot there. The sideline commentary mixed with song and word were supplied by Siofra Cleary. Rory has contracts ready for her as part of a future double act on Rory’s Stories. Not just a good keeper but also riding shot gun to Siofra, Laurie McClean kept the interviews going. She explained to our American friends what a “gaff party” was. Nothing lost in translation there.
The match ended Green Stars 0-14 Royal Stars 1-11. Eamon Murray Meath senior manager, seriously, had to be impressed by the talent on view. All of this as chairman O’hAthairne intended was to A – showcase the excellent talent the county currently possesses. B – give back to the community. The Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and the Gary Kelly Cancer Support Centre were the charities chosen this time to benefit. They both do sterling work and Meath LGFC is happy to recognize this work. Well done to all concerned on the night.
When I arrived at seven at the Donaghmore Ashbourne GAA ground, what makes us uniquely Irish was at work. The pitches were filled with Camogie and hurling for the under age groups, men’s senior footballers training along with Skryne v Ashbourne Ladies U12 match taking place. Upstairs in the superb complex Bridge was studiously under way. The stands were full and I heard a young lad shout, “come on America”. He was correct. Under the watchful eye of Fixtures guru Padraig McDermott in his role as referee, Ashbourne’s senior ladies were hosting Charlotte James Connolly’s LGFC team. James Connolly’s are current American senior ladies GAA champions, breaking the grip of the Big 4 cities and their burgeoning Irish communities. Charlotte possess two Irish girls, the rest of the team are American born. Wow. And boy could they play Gaelic. Fleet of foot and fast of hand, they showed the not inconsiderable talented Donaghmore girls what they could do. You don’t win big in the USA unless you are good. This writer was deeply impressed.
Afterwards the good hosts of Ashbourne fed and watered all in the complex. Youth mixed with older people, lads and ladies, all equals under one roof. The magic of the GAA. A presentation was made to the visiting Charlotte team. I have to say I was moved by the occasion. Mary O’Shaughnessy in her address to the assembled crowd made a great point. She used the metaphor of the Wild Geese and their impact on the Irish psyche. Mary’s girls were on opposing teams tonight, Máire with the home outfit, Caitriona with the Wild Geese. It was a poignant moment.
Mary in her address correctly tied in the gifts that the Irish brought with them over the centuries of travel, music, education and sport. Tonight we saw the success reversed and acknowledged. Charlotte James Connolly’s came back to the mother country, American born and accented bar two and beat us at our own game. Magic! Mary then introduced
Pat Quill former LGFC chairman. A humble man who plainly cared about women’s place in sport, a man who saw the prospect that women’s football holds, the seeds of a global game, it was plain to see the mutual respect that permeated between our American cousins and Pat.
Trophies and souvenirs were exchanged between both sides. Fearghal of Meath LGFC presented on the Irish side behalf. In return Kevin Devin of Charlotte spoke warmly of the trip they were on and the welcome they received. A clear favorite of the Charlotte outfit was Jan Henry whose appearance brought whoops from her own girls. Jan gave a very emotive speech and one could hear a pin drop. She thanked Pat Quill for his support and predictions many years ago. That part of the evening was brought to a conclusion by Donaghmore Ashbourne GAA chairman Mick McGill. In welcoming our American visitors and thanking the club for hosting them, Mick mentioned the massive work both Mary and Tom O’Shaughnessy have contributed to this excellent club. Seeing their daughters there on the night, it reminds us that without the family, there would be no GAA or community.
Finally I’m going to be political here! Relax Anne and Fearghal …can I thank Charlotte James Connolly’s for their use of the full title of an Irish patriot James Connolly whose execution took place this month 102 years ago. We named a hospital after him in Blanchardstown. It was called the James Connolly Memorial Hospital. As we throw out our imperial past and search for what a new Ireland should be, we drained the great mans name to Connolly Hospital. Beautiful to see the Wild Geese roost back at home and not be ashamed of our noble past.
Fògra Eile. Reminder that the Brendan Martin cup was in attendance on the night. I reminded the talented Cleary girls that the next time I’m in their club house at such an occasion, that cup better be there. Bí ullamh a chaliní, as another Yank once said, “is feidir libh”. Go get it! The journey has just begun, like Pat Quills prediction to Charlotte James Connolly’s a few years ago, aim high and it will happen. It might be nice to see that the seed was planted in Ashbourne on this great night.