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Nothing can overshadow something this big and this bright

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by Adam Moynihan

As a footballing community, our happiest memories together have almost exclusively been narrated by RTÉ’s Belfast-born commentator George Hamilton.

From a nation holding its breath in Genoa to Ray Houghton doing the job for Jack in Giants Stadium, from getting no more than Ireland deserved in Kashima to Robbie Brady bringing us all to our feet in Lille. Hamilton has always been there, first to savour the moment and then to convert the pictures into words, at manic junctures when the best the rest of us can muster is a guttural, drawn-out ‘yes’.

Thankfully, and fittingly, Hamilton was on the mic in Glasgow on Tuesday night to once again lend his voice to another iconic moment in Irish football history.

“Fahey standing firm. Now it’s O’Sullivan. And there’s the run of Barrett… And Barrett’s given herself a chance here… Amber Barrett in on goal… Amber Barrett makes the breakthrough!

“That was sheer brilliance from Amber Barrett. The first touch to take her clear was absolutely terrific. And Amber Barrett kneels in celebration in honour of the Donegal folk who passed away in the disaster in Creeslough. What a moment for the Donegal girl.”

I’m not sure if anything I’ve ever written in my capacity as a sports journalist has brought a tear to someone’s eye; that transcription is probably as close as I’ll get.

The goal itself was superb. Niamh Fahey’s cushioned header scuppered a Scotland attack and regained possession for the Irish. Denise O’Sullivan’s turn and pass lit the fuse. Barrett’s first touch with her left was like something out of a video game. Inch perfect in its execution, it rapidly propelled the Potsdam striker from a threatening position into a deadly one. Amber Alert to Red Alert in an instant.

The second touch with the right improved the angle and settled things down. And then the finish… The finish was world class. An impudent toe poke that left the unsuspecting keeper flat-footed, a flash of brilliance that could easily grace any of Ronaldinho’s highlight reels.

From beginning to end, the move was perfect. Unstoppable. Unbelievable. Unforgettable.

Then came the celebration. A celebration not only of the joyous goal that preceded it, but also of the people represented by the armband around Barrett’s left bicep. The Donegal woman took a knee and bowed her head as she pointed to the black band. The 10 victims of last Friday’s tragic accident at Creeslough honoured amid the outpouring of emotion.

It took a brave defensive effort to keep the Scots at bay for the remaining 25 minutes or so. An assured display by goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan (the American-born granddaughter of a Kerryman, I hasten to add) was pivotal. Her first-half penalty save from the boot of Scotland striker Caroline Weir seemed to fill her and the players in front of her with confidence.

Beautiful scenes followed the final whistle as Vera Pauw and her players, many draped in tricolours, danced arm in arm and basked beneath the Hampden Park floodlights.

Misguided individuals would have you believe that singing an offensive-to-some pub song in the dressing room “overshadowed” what happened on the pitch. Nothing can overshadow something this big and this bright. It would be like trying to cast a shadow over the sun.

At last, Ireland’s dream of World Cup qualification has been realised. Now it’s time for another, larger dream to take its place: the World Cup finals in Australia and New Zealand beckon for the girls in green.

With Katie McCabe on corners and Megan Campbell launching grenades from the sidelines, no team on Earth will fancy taking on the Irish.

More memories to be made. More moments for George to savour.

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Kerry ladies must bounce back at home to Waterford

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All-Ireland Senior Championship Group 2

Kerry v Waterford

Saturday 3pm

Fitzgerald Stadium

The Kerry ladies will be looking to get back to winning ways against Waterford on Saturday following last weekend’s frustrating draw against Donegal in Ballybofey.

The Kingdom led with seconds remaining in treacherous conditions but a late Donegal free snatched a draw for the home side (Donegal 1-6 Kerry 0-9). It was a game that Kerry would have been expecting to win and the result puts a lot more pressure on them this weekend as they try to top the three-team group and earn a home quarter-final.

If they beat Waterford and Donegal do likewise next week, Kerry and Donegal will be level in first place on four points each. The top seed will then be decided by the head-to-head record between the teams. As Kerry v Donegal was a draw, the deciding factor will be whoever scored the most points in that draw. That would be good news for Kerry as they scored nine points to Donegal’s six.

When Kerry and Waterford last met (in this year’s Munster Championship), Kerry needed a late winner by Fiadhna Tangney to prevail by narrowest of margins (1-8 to 1-7). If Waterford beat Kerry and then lose to Donegal, Kerry would be eliminated from the championship.

The Kerry squad has been boosted by the return of Síofra O’Shea who came off the bench against Donegal following a lengthy period out with a knee injury.

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US-bound Kerry runner Lynch hopes to emulate Mageean magic

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by Adam Moynihan

Killarney middle distance runner Oisín Lynch is taking inspiration from newly crowned European 1500m champion Ciara Mageean as he gets set for the next stage of his career in the United States.

This week Lynch confirmed that he will be heading Stateside after accepting a scholarship at Adams State University in Colorado. The promising 800m and 1500m competitor caught the eye of coaches at the leading American college after representing Ireland in the Youth Olympics and also by winning two national titles in recent months.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, the 18-year-old Killarney Valley AC athlete, who is currently doing his Leaving Cert at St Brendan’s College, says he one day hopes to emulate Mageean’s heroics on the international stage.

“The Irish are on the up at underage and at senior level,” Lynch notes. “We have been improving a lot in recent years. When you see Ciara Mageean winning the 1500m it just shows that it can be done by Irish people.

“Sometimes Irish athletes don’t really believe in themselves when they’re getting knocked out of championships by English or European athletes. Mageean winning that European title is definitely something to drive me on. It shows that I can actually do it.”

DREAM

For Lynch, moving to the United States is a hugely significant step, and one that he has dreamed about making since he was a child.

“It’s unbelievable. I always hoped I could earn a scholarship. I worked hard over the last few years, so it’s nice to see that work paying off.

“I had a few schools onto me but when Adams State got in touch, I sized it up and I knew it was a really good opportunity.

“The fact that the college is at 7,500 feet… That’s a crazy altitude. It’s double the height of Carrauntoohil. Altitude training has massive benefits for distance running and nowadays nearly every pro spends most of their year training at altitude. The chance to get that training for the next couple of years is great.

“And their athletics programme is unbelievable. Coach Damon Martin has been there for 40 years and he has coached 12 Olympians. Adams State is in the top 15 for distance in the country and the standard out there in America is very high.”

STRIDES

Killarney Valley AC have made enormous strides since building their new, state-of-the-art facility in 2020 and Lynch is a grateful beneficiary of that progress.

“I can’t thank the club enough. Going back a couple of years we were training on grass in parks. When you want to be a track runner, it’s just not the same. After a lot of hard work by a lot of good people, we managed to get a 200-metre track in Killarney. That’s massive for us and it’s all we need for training.

“The coaches down there are putting in the hard work, including my dad (Con), Tomás Griffin, Jean Courtney, Jerry Griffin, Bríd Stack, Alan Delaney… I could go on. It’s a great club and there are some good athletes coming through. It’s an exciting time for Killarney Valley.”

After Lynch completes his Leaving Cert, he will start preparing for life as a college athlete. He will study kinesiology in Colorado and on the track he hopes to keep on moving in the right direction. That means getting his times down (his current PBs are 1.50.59 over 800m and 3.51 over 1500m), representing Ireland, and hopefully winning a national title in America.

“Obviously I’ll take every step as it comes,” the ambitious Kerryman says, “but the Olympics is the main long-term target, hopefully in LA in 2028.”

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