Westmeath hurling team wins in Croke Park

posted 2 Aug 2011, 13:09 by Kieran McCarthy   [ updated 2 Aug 2011, 13:10 by Unknown user ]

It’s not too often a Westmeath hurling team get’s to compete in Croke Park . So last Tuesday the 12th of July was a very proud day for the members of Southern Gaels hurling club.

The GAA are currently running Croke Park U8 Activity Days where clubs from around the province are invited to send an under 8 team to play a challenge match on the Croke park pitch. This is a great opportunity for the younger players to experience playing in the famous stadium. The scheme has been running for three years now and by the end of this year all of the clubs in Leinster will have been given an invitation to attend.

            This was Southern Gael’s second trip to Croke Park under this scheme. In 2009 Southern Gaels played against Salens from Kildare. This year they were drawn against Clann na Gael from Meath.

            Southern Gaels Club PRO Kieran McCarthy had the following to say about the trip on Tuesday: “This is a great initiative by the GAA. We had 22 very excited players coming up here this morning. They all received great support from a coach full of their friends and family. This is a wonderful stadium and it’s important to keep it in good condition to present our national game to the country in the best light. But we are all members of the GAA and our younger members are our most important as they are the future of the organisation. By opening the stadium up like this the GAA are allowing the young players to walk in the footsteps of their heroes.”

            Before the game the Southern Gaels team were taken down to the changing rooms where they got to see the dressing rooms where the match defining team talks are given and the warm-up areas. Then they were lined up with the opposition and led out onto the field while the roar of the crowd was played through speakers in the tunnel.

            The pitch was in perfect condition and the Southern Gaels team excelled themselves. The two teams were evenly matched in the first half. Play switched from end to end with both sets of players showing all the skills of the game in striking and blocking. Just on the stroke of half time Adam O’Grady grabbed the first goal of the game when he was the first to react to a chance close in. This was greeted by great cheers from the Southern Gaels supporters who provided lots of encouragement throughout.

            Clann na Gael were not finished yet and they managed to get the goal back at the start of the second half. An excellent strike from long range seemed to be losing power but just had the legs to beat Peter Mulvihill in the Southern Gaels goal.

This put the match back in the melting pot. Southern Gaels redoubled their efforts and a period of sustained pressure yielded a great goal from Liam Ward. This was celebrated extravagantly by Liam and cheered to the rafters in the stand. It was all one way traffic now and Peter Mulvihill put the icing on the cake when finishing expertly. The Clann na Gael keeper nearly kept it out but to ensure no dispute about the ball crossing the line Sean Murphy whipped it to the net decisively.

            Afterwards coach Tommy Murphy said: “The win was fun but what we are happier about is that all the kids enjoyed themselves. It was great to see all the smiling faces today. At this age group our main focus is inclusion and giving everyone the same chance. Whether strong or weak all the kids get the same kick out of playing in Croke Park . We tried to give everyone the same playing time today in as many positions as possible.”

            Coach Cormac O’Sullivan agreed “We have a really nice team of children here and it’s been a pleasure training them. We’ve had the attitude from the start of the year that all the kids deserve an equal chance when it comes to taking part in blitzes or taking frees etc. You can see everyone’s standards rising. Everyone there today was striking and fighting for the ball really well. Our next blitz in Westmeath is on July the 23rd and I’m looking forward to it already. And if anyone wants to join before then, they will be welcomed in and given an equal chance just like the rest.”

            After the match the team were presented with commemorative medals and then  climbed the steps of the Hogan stand to lift the cup. Not for the last time!



Cian McCarthy, Sean Murphy, Cian O'Suilleabhain, Patryk Gitlar, Liam Ward, Shane Harrington, Sinead McCullagh, Luke Whelan, Oisin O'Flaherty, Cian Geary, Paidi O'Leochan, Peter Mulvihill, Kian Mitchell, Dano Mconagle, Eva Fitzpatrick, Cara Fitzpatrick,  Chulainn Dowd, Aileen Ward, Tristan Connolly, Oisin Finn, Cillian Geary