On an All Ireland Final weekend that was dominated by talk of ‘football systems’ and ‘defensive formations’, we are proud to report that the Geraldines U7’s ensured that the age old sporting values of attacking flair and ball skills are alive and well. Free flowing football, traditional ground hurling skills, and great team spirit were in plentiful supply on the freshly cut grass of Shankill GAA club on this sunny autumn morning. The date Saturday September 20th 2014 will live long in the memory as it represented a milestone moment being the first ‘away’ assignment of an U7 squad that goes from strength to strength with each passing week. A great turn out of players, coaches, parents, and supporters saw both of our U7’s teams put all their training into practice as they donned yellow bibs and blue bibs against the green of Shankill. Most importantly though was the fact that under those brightly coloured bibs, it was clear to all in attendance that the Geraldines colours were being worn with pride on socks, shorts, t-shirts, and jerseys !
The Geraldines U7’s yellow bibs team started their first hurling game strongly by sending wave after wave of attack into the green shirted defenders of Shankill. Our formidable full forward line of Frankie Rowley, Owen Twomey, and Eoin Daly put the sliotar in the back of the Shankill net twice in the first 10 minutes and on both occasions demonstrated some very innovative airplane-like goal celebrations which had clearly been perfected on the training ground ! With James Kearns guarding our net and a determined defensive line of Conor Foley, Mark Fitzgerald, and Christian Kenny, the early Shankill attacks were held at bay while David Healy showed strongly in midfield. Great positional discipline in a 3-2-3 formation by both teams meant that this game was a joy to watch for all. By the time the second half got underway, some smart tactical substitutions and positional switches by yellow bibs head coach Noel and his backroom team meant that many of the squad added their name onto the scoring sheet. The final whistle was greeted by enthusiastic celebrations as this U7’s team tasted victory in their first ever inter club hurling game. We absolutely want to recognise the Shankill U7 players and mentors for the spirit in which the game was played with great sportsmanship and open hurling throughout, rounded off with handshakes and smiles by both teams after the game.
The yellow bibs then built on this winning momentum as they moved on to the football game with growing confidence. As a forewarning of what was to come in Croker the next day, a tight game ensued with both sides giving it their all with first half tactics relying on plenty of long distance shooting. Some of this shooting occasionally found the target as our defenders, midfielders, and forwards (and possibly the goalkeeper at one stage !) all tested their range. Keelin O’Farrell made a great arching run down the left wing with a trail of defenders in her wake and the Geraldines tactical approach now shifted toward a running game with a number of our forwards displaying their ability to get into more accurate shooting range. Whenever our goal was threatened, Geraldines were robust in the tackle and this was exemplified by a moment of bravery by Sean McKiernan, which saw the crowd take a sharp and audible intake of breath, as he took man and ball in a fair but heavy collision before bouncing back up onto his feet and chasing the play. Patrick Burke and James Donohue harried and chased successfully for possession as the game entered its final phases. Overall Geraldines just about shaded it, with a late pointed free from Johnny Donohoe being one of the key turning points in an enthralling encounter. As the final whistle sounded, news reached us from the pitch next door that our blue bib team mates had performed equally strongly throughout the morning displaying all the same characteristics of team spirit, skill, and bravery that are fast becoming hallmarks of this U7’s squad.
A big thanks to all at Shankill GAA club for a great morning’s sport and for their generosity in providing refreshments to all the players before we headed for home. Speaking with Garry Cleary (Club Chairman) after the matches, its clear that Shankill are building out a great underage structure through their academy and we all look forward to seeing both club’s young players continue to develop and progress in the seasons ahead !