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.
Fossa on cusp of history as club from ‘nine square miles’ eyes senior status
Kerry IFC Final
Fossa v Milltown/Castlemaine
Austin Stack Park
Never before in the history of Kerry football has an Intermediate final attracted so much attention.
On Sunday, two clubs go head-to-head with a trophy and promotion on the line – but this high-profile encounter has far more riding on it than that.
In fact, the consequences of the outcome of this second-tier decider are going to be massive. If Fossa win, they will graduate to senior for the first time in their 53-year existence. It would represent a monumental achievement for the club from the small parish to the northwest of Killarney; few, if any, believed it would ever be possible given their lowly standing as recently as a few years ago.
With two generational talents at their disposal in the form of the Clifford brothers from Two Mile, they have rapidly risen through the ranks. Now they are seeking their second successive promotion following on from last year’s extra time win over Listry in the Junior Premier final.
And if the idea of Fossa going out on their own in the Kery Senior Football Championship wasn’t intriguing enough on its own, there’s more. A Fossa win would mean that East Kerry, winners of four of the last five titles, would lose their Fossa contingent for 2024. Most notable amongst that cohort are Paudie and David Clifford, unquestionably the district’s two most influential players.
There is plenty of intrigue from Milltown/Castlemaine’s perspective too. The Mid Kerry side are aiming to get back to senior level for the first time since being relegated in 2016 following defeat to Kilcummin in a playoff. They were not considered to be amongst the frontrunners for this competition before a ball was kicked, and possibly not after the group stage either, so victory this weekend would be sweet.
Of course, a Milltown/Castlemaine win would also have a huge bearing on the 2024 County Championship. Mid Kerry (runners-up in 2020, 2022 and 2023) stand to lose five starters if Milltown are promoted: Pa Wrenn, David Roche, Gavin Horan, Cillian Burke and Éanna O’Connor. Such a loss would greatly weaken their hand and widen the gap that already exists between them and the reigning champions. Add to that the fact that East Kerry will keep the Cliffords if Milltown/Castlemaine win, and the significance of this game is magnified further still.
There is so much at stake for all the invested parties in East and Mid Kerry, and there is plenty to consider for the neutral fan as well. Many would welcome the weakening of East Kerry’s squad as it would potentially lead to a more competitive County Championship. However, there is serious concern amongst Kerry supporters that the Cliffords are in need of a rest after a long couple of years with club and county. If Fossa prevail they will advance to the Munster Championship and possibly beyond if they manage to keep on winning. This would likely interfere with their star players’ off-season.
There’s no doubt that the nature of Fossa’s matches to date have whetted the appetite for this final. They were involved in exhilarating extra time victories over Castleisland and Austin Stacks in the previous rounds and more excitement of that nature would be more than welcome after a largely disappointing County Championship.
Milltown/Castlemaine also bring plenty to the table and although the momentum from their own semi-final heroics against Legion may have dwindled somewhat over the many weeks between then and now, they can certainly take heart from that result against one of the pre-tournament favourites.
It’s all set up to be a fascinating match-up and a large crowd is expected in Tralee for this one.
The match will also be streamed live by Clubber.
Home double header for St Paul’s and Scotts Lakers
The St Paul’s women’s and men’s teams are both in National League action this Saturday at Killarney Sports and Leisure Centre with their games tipping off at 4.30pm and 7.30pm respectively.
James Fleming’s ladies take on the Phoenix Rockets on the back of that disappointing cup exit at the hands of the Cavan Eagles a fortnight ago and they will be keen to get back to winning ways on home turf.
Paul’s have a perfect 100% record in Division 1 but they are sure to be tested by the Rockets, who gave a fine account of themselves over the course of the 2022/23 season.
They beat Paul’s in Lisburn last February, though the Killarney side exacted revenge in the playoffs in March. The Rockets have made an inconsistent start to the 2023/24 campaign picking up just two wins from the seven games played. The second of those victories came as recently last Saturday when they got the better of the Limerick Sport Eagles at home, but they fell to another defeat against the Huskies back up north the following day.
The Rockets are coached by former Ireland player Breda Dick, a woman who cites Killarney’s own Paudie O’Connor as her role model. Paudie was her first coach at international level and obviously left a huge mark on Breda.
Dick will be looking to the McGrath sisters Charly and Georgie to carry the torch for them as well as American signing Jay Ashby.
For Paul’s, Khiarica Rasheed has been building a good understanding with Sofia Paska and they will be keen to work on that partnership again on Saturday. In the absence of Lorraine Scanlon, who will be attending the LGFA All-Stars, Meabh Barry may be pushed up the ladder. Lynn Jones and Rheanne O’Shea will also be expected to play prominent roles.
Under the guidance of Coach Brian Clarke, Scotts Lakers have established a winning record of 4-2 and as a result they find themselves fifth out of 12 teams in Division 1 of the National League.
They claimed their latest win at home to the Dublin Lions last weekend (81-71) with Americans Braden Bell (26) and Terion Moss (25) accounting for the bulk of the scoring. Jamie O’Sullivan, Oisín Spring and Cian Forde also made their mark on the scoreboard.
Coach Brian Clarke was very pleased with the contribution of his subs on the night. “Our bench was ready to come on and make the difference and I can’t emphasis enough the importance of that,” he told club PRO Enda Walshe.
“Braden and Terion are great shot-makers but they also have a sharp eye for passes to their teammates. Oisín Spring, and Paul Clarke in previous games, are alive to that and make themselves available. It’s a great opportunity for our young players to make their mark and provided they continue to dedicate themselves to their craft, they will get to enjoy that.”
Next up for the Lakers is the visit of the Limerick Celtics on Saturday. The Shannonsiders are currently second in Division 1 having won five of their six matches to date.
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