On the weekend of the 28th to the 30th of June 2013 the Harps Gaels team travelled to Derry having been nominated by Laois County Board as the second team to represent Laois at Feile Peile na nOg 2013. We were drawn to play in Division 5 of the tournament and our hosts for the weekend were Glen GAA club, Maghera. There was an early start on Friday morning with the bus departing shortly after 8am for Derry. We had a brief stop in Moy, Co. Tyrone to stretch the legs and have some lunch. We arrived at Watty Graham Park, Maghera shortly after 1pm and we were given a very warm welcome by the officials and members of the Glen club. Our first game was against the home Glen club with the throw in at 2pm. There was a very strong wind and unfortunately we lost the toss and had to play against it in the first half. We started well and after 10 minutes the sides were level at 3pts each. We the got caught by a couple of quick goals and ended the half trailing by 3-06 to 0-04. We regrouped at and started the second half well and we were awarded a penalty which Thomas McCann scored, however we played poorly after this and Glen ran out comfortable winners. This game was followed by refreshments provided by the home club.
Shortly afterwards we departed for the city of Derry for the Feile parade. This proved to be one of the highlights of the weekend. The sun came out and it was a glorious evening. The President of the GAA Liam O’Neill met us on the field at Celtic Park and had some words of encouragement for the players and also stood in for a photograph. The parade left Celtic Park and proceeded through the Bogside and up the hill under the arch of the old city walls and into the city centre and along to the review stand near the Guild Hall. Large crowds of people lined the route and there was a tremendous atmosphere as the people of Derry gave all the participating clubs a very warm welcome. It was fascinating to march through the Bogside and to see all the murals on the gable end of buildings etc. which were familiar watching the news during the ‘troubles’. It was also amazing to have to explain to the boys who were born since the peace process and had no great knowledge of the ‘troubles’.
It was 10.30pm when we got back to Maghera at which time we dispersed to all corners of Maghera with the host famillies. On Saturday morning we travelled to Ballerin GAA club. Our first game was versus the home club. The team performed much better and we ran out comfortable winners on a scoreline Harps Gaels 3-12 Ballerin 1-09. All twenty players participated as is the rule and played very well. Adam Kenna was very prominent at full back. Our centre field partnership of Thomas McCann and Ronan Quinn, once they settled down, got on top. Killian O’Shea, Rory Deegan, Seamus Fitzpatrick and Stephen Brennan shone up front. After this game there was a skills competition for all the teams in the group. Ronan Quinn represented us in this competition and did so in style as he emerged the winner of the group and qualified for the final. We played Philadelphia in our final group game. They were a big strong physical team but our boys were well up for the battle and won a tough hard fought encounter on the score of The Harps Gaels 1-09 Philadelphia 1-07, much to the delight of the large contingent of supporters who had travelled to cheer us on. Liam O’Neill met the team prior to the throw in and wished us well. Adam Kenna, Padraig Delaney, Daire Quinn and Oisin Fitzpatrick played well in defence. Ronan Quinn held their main player well in the middle of the field. Our forwards worked their hearts out but we owed the victory to a superb exhibition of free taking from Thomas McCann.
Our host club Glen qualified for the semi finals out of our group. After some refreshments we travelled to St Mallachys GAA club Castledawson to support our host club Glen versus San Francisco and also to support Ronan Quinn in the final of the skills competition. Glen won a close match with San Francisco to qualify for the final. Ronan gave a gallant performance in the skills competition but was unlucky to lose out to the representative from the host club St Mallachys. That evening we attended mass in the Glen club house in Maghera which was followed by entertainment of music, song and dance. This was followed by presentations by the clubs present and then a disco. We had an early start the following morning as we decided to travel to Owenbeg which was the venue for some of the finals. Glen played St Cailins of Leitrim in the final and after a very entertaining game ran out winners on a scoreline of 4-06 to 3-02. At this stage it was time to bid farewell and we began the long journey home.
The party arrived back safely to the pitch in Durrow at 5pm on Sunday evening. A great week-end was had by all. The feedback from the host famillies was very complimentary to our boys who performed exceptionally well on Saturday after a dissappointing start on Friday. It was a great learning experience for the team and they put it to to good use on Monday night when they had a comfortable victory over Park/Ratheneiska in the first round of the championship. One of the remarkable features to take from our trip was the excellent facillities of the GAA clubs in Derry, each club we visited had better facillities than the last. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the officials and host famillies of Glen GAA club Maghera for their outstanding hospitally to us. We would also like to thank (and there was quite a crowd) all those who travelled to Derry in support and also all those who supported our fund raising events without whose support this trip would not have been possible. A big thank you to our bus driver David who got us there and back safely without any fuss. To the Chairman Barry Murphy, secretary Enda Murphy, treasurer and mentor Martin Deegan who could not travel and the other committee members of the juvenile club and also fellow mentors Enda Whelan, Pat Dunne and Adrian Fitzpatrick. Finally we would like to thank the players themselves and our kit man Diarmuid Irwin who behaved impeccably both on and off the field and were brilliant ambassadors for our club. Photos will follow on the Harps website shortly.
Report by: Gabby Irwin