Athenry All Ireland Community Games Camogie Champions 2002

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Crowds of excited supporters and hooting car horns marked the homecoming of the Athenry All Ireland Community Games Camogie Champions – by Ann Dwyer, Assistant Secretary of Athenry Camogie Club.

It was Sunday evening, August 25th, 2002 and we had just won gold medals at the Community Games Camogie Finals at Mosney, the first time this had been achieved by a team from Athenry.

We knew that what we had done was a wonderful achievement and our hearts were full of pride at the way the girls had conducted themselves both on and off the field — it had been a pleasure to share the weekend with them and to be a part of the energy, fun, tension and elation that were all part of our weekend in Mosney. The sun had shone for us both weatherwise and in terms of our victory over a very strong Cork side.

Welcome home

We knew that what we had achieved was wonderful and we expected those people who were closely involved with the team to share that excitement with us but what we didn’t expect was that so many others with no direct affiliations to the Camogie Club would turn out to welcome us home. We had our first hint of it in Craughwell in the number of people who had gathered to join us for the journey into Athenry. There was a buzz of excitement as we drove from Craughwell, the girls sitting forward in the cars, every inch of window space taken up and club jerseys at the ready to raise aloft at the first opportunity.

All thoughts of tiredness and pains of a hard-fought final were forgotten in the building excitement. We all had our own thoughts but I’m sure the girls’ thoughts were on the number of times they had stood on roadsides waiting for their senior hurlers heroes to pass – the lads who were inspirational to these young players and who no soccer player or pop star would ever replace in their estimation.

Awestruck

Bonfires blazed at Derrydonnell in honour of the team and Tom Page their trainer whose relentless commitment and dedication had brought them to this day.

On into Athenry and the hooting of car horns and yelling of the girls enticed people away from their pints and onto the streets. The girls were awestruck at the crowd of people waiting on the square — the square that had seen so many homecomings of sporting achievements over the years. I don’t think that any of these girls, some as young as ten years of age, imagined that they would be climbing onto the trailer as guests of honour on such an occasion so early, if ever, in their sporting careers.

Team rollcall

Proudly wearing their gold medals and with their Captain, Mary Ward, carrying the winners shield, the team were named individually, Deirdre Ward, Mary Ward, Katie O’Dwyer, Jessica Gill, Marie Carroll, Maeve Carr, Madeline McDonagh, Rachel Waldron, Laura Loughnane, Stefanie O‘Dwyer, Natalie Jordan, Noreen Coen, Ester Devally, Emma Loughnane, Maeve O’Sullivan and Kayla Hallissey.

lf the homecoming of Sunday night wasn’t indelibly printed on the minds and hearts of the team, memories of the tour of the parish on Monday night certainly are. Bonfires blazed in each players‘ townland, flags were flown, jerseys were strung together across the road in Newcastle and rooftops decorated in Rahard (thanks Jimmy).

Hopefully, this is the first of many victorious homecomings for these girls but none, l think, will compare with this or replace it in their memory.

It is, after all, no mean feat to have your first All-Ireland Medal under your belt before the age of 14!

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About this record

Written by Ann Dwyer

Published here 15 Aug 2023 and originally published Winter 2002

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