Ladies Football « South Kerry GAA

By: South Kerry Gaa  05/12/2011

Ladies football was non-existent in South Kerry in the first half of the 20th century.

Mary McGill from Portmagee was the first girl to represent South Kerry at county level playing with Kerry in 1973 wearing the no. 4 jersey. Having beaten Cork in the Fitzgerald Stadium they went out to play Tipperary in the Munster final but were beaten. At that time Mary played with the post office, as there was no club in South Kerry. In 1975 Sheila Donnelly of Cahersiveen was a member of the Kerry Senior Team. In 1987, 1988 and 1989 Mary Ellen Cronin of BaUinskelligs won three Senior All Ireland championships with Kerry. In 1991 and 1992 a number of senior players played with Beaufort. At the time there were three minors from South Kerry on the Kerry Team, Jackie O’Sullivan (Dromid), Julie O’Sullivan (Derrynane) and Olivia Fitzgerald (Waterville). As there was no local team the girls registered with Beaufort. Others to line out with Beaufort were Mary Sheehan (Renard), Bernadette O’Connor (St. Mary’s), Kitty Mangan (Dromid), Aoife Fitzgerald and the 0′Shea sisters Caroline, Eileen and Angela from Waterville. In 1991 and 1992 the Beaufort Ladies won the Co. Junior Championship with Olivia Fitzgerald as captain. In 1995 the South Kerry Ladies Club was formed. Also in that year Marie Fitzgerald and Mary Sheehan were members of the Kerry team who defeated Laois in the All-Ireland final.

Southern Gaels or South Kerry Ladies, as they were known as until 2001, first entered an under age team in a Kerry competition in 1995. This was in the U14 and U-16 league. At this time also two other factors came together, which had major significance in promoting ladies football in the South Kerry area, i.e. coaches  Brendy Donnelly, Seamus “Baff’ O’Connor, Connie Murphy, Jimmy O’Connell and Peader 0 Se were going into every school and local schools were taking part in Cumann na mBunscoil which was spearheaded by Denis Fenton, Micheal 0 Muiris and John Clifford. In 1995 also, Marie Fitzgerald won her second all-star award having won her first one in 1993. This is a fantastic achievement for Marie even though she won these awards while playing with Austin Stacks club in Tralee as South Kerry Ladies had no senior team at that time. This gave the girls an opportunity to be in a league and to learn the skills at an early age and this has been a tremendous boost to the club since success at under age arrived in 1996 when the U-16 championship was won. 1996 was also a special year as the club entered their first U-12 team in the Kerry competition. In the same year it was also decided to enter a U-14 team in Feile Peile na nOg, which was held in Co. Mayo. This is an event for both boys and girls even though the South Kerry girls failed to qualify at the final stage that year the experience they gained would stand to them in the years ahead.

1997 was a poor year with only the U-14 league won. All competitions in the county were contested from U-12 to junior level and a lot of work that was being done was beginning to show fruition.

1998 was a year of mixed emotions; the U-12s and U-14s won their respective Co. Championships. Again the club travelled to Feile, which was held in Co. Donegal, and was beaten in the final by a single point. The U-16s and minors lost finals to Beaufort that were the clubs only rivals at the time.

1999 was the year the club came of age, a year that probably will never be equalled again, a unique year as every competition i.e. league and championship from U-12 to senior was won. Minor, junior and senior were won for the first time and there was great celebration among players and parents alike. The U14 girls also had success at Feile, which was held in Clare that year, on their third attempt they won the competition, this was their greatest achievement to date -winning an All-Ireland competition. That year also the players from the club represented their school St. John Bosco in the All-Ireland college’s competition and won both Junior and Senior AllIreland’s. Kerry had double success that year also with U-14 and U-16 teams winning All-Ireland’s, South Kerry were well represented on both teams and the club had its first under age captain -Evelyn O’Connell. The senior team never got the chance to represent Kerry at the Munster competition due to a petty technicality; this was a big disappointment in an otherwise truly memorable year.

The start of a new millennium, the year 2000 again the club won Co. Championship and Co. League from U-12 to Junior, the senior team having lost the final to Ballyduff/Abbeydorney. The highlight of the year was the U-14 girls winning the Feile Peile Na nOg competition, this time they travelled to Dublin to defend their title and the final was played in Croke Park. They were the first team to achieve this success, being in three finals in three consecutive years and having won two of them. Southern Gaels had truly arrived and were here to stay. Later on that year the club were invited to take part in an All Ireland senior 7s which was held in Kilmacud Crokes club in Dublin, this was their first appearance in this competition and they won it comprehensively.

The club has since 1999 contested the All-Ireland 7s in both junior and senior which is held in conjunction with the Ladies All-Ireland final, and in 2000 and 2002 they have been runners up in the plate competition. In 2000 the club entered a junior team in the Kenmare 7s and won the competition, it was back again in 2001 to defend the title and again the top prize came to South Kerry.

In 2001 the club won Co. Championship and Co. League from U-12 to Minor. Sarah O’Connor was awarded an All-star award in 2001 and her achievement is a source of great pride to the club.

2002 was pretty much the same with the same under age teams having success. The big prize, which is the senior championship, has eluded the club on both years having been narrowly beaten in the final both times by Corca Dhuibhne. The club has had captains in all under age county teams since 1999. All of the hard work is due mainly to one person -Peadar 0 Se -who works tirelessly to promote the skills and coaches the girls in all aspects of the game. He has instilled great discipline and while winning is a great triumph he also makes sure his team is gracious in defeat. He is most definitely the cog in the wheel. In conclusion, what started out as a Cumann na mBunscoil dream in ’94/95 has now mushroomed into a club that can hold its head with the best in the country.

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