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In September 1994, a group of girls led by Tina Dolan asked me if I would train a ladies Soccer Team. Three years on I am glad I said I would.
We started off in the Presentation Sports Centre learning the skills and the rules of the game. In April 1995, the ladies started training outdoors in Moanbawn and they also had their first game, a friendly against Puritan Bennett which ended 2 – 2 with our first goals coming from Catherine Seymore. We only trained and played some friendly games that season.
The following season the team commenced training in march l996 for the upcoming league season which started a great learning process and girls acquainted themselves well with competitive soccer. The Player of the Year for Season ‘96 went to team Captain and commanding centre back, Elaine Kelly, from Derrydonnell.
The girls were now beginning to look like a very good soccer team. Their physical and technical ability had improved immensely. All the girls needed now was to be confident in themselves. We decided to stay training right through the winter in preparation for the 1997 season. It was very time consuming but the rewards were soon to follow.
The team went through the first half of the season unbeaten, scoring twelve goals in the first six games. The first defeat came against Connemara O – 1. This seemed to knock the team off its stride and they also lost the next two games in the league but they went on to win their last three games. They finished the season with five wins and four draws from twelve league games finishing third on nineteen points. The team scored seventeen times with the goals coming from, Laura O’Brien – 6; Catriona Bownes – 4; Elaine Kelly (Cullairbaun) – 3; Elaine Kirwan -2; Emma Murphy – 1; and Fiona Cooley- 1.
I wanted the team to put in some extra training for the cup competition which started in September and the girls obliged by doing the men’s preseason training in August. Their attitude was spot on and the team spirit of the cup was excellent.
We got into the last sixteen and in the quarter final we were paired with local and friendly rivals Colemanstown who were by then League Champions. The game was a dour affair as both teams were nervous and gave each other too much respect and it was no surprise when the match ended O-0 after extra time. So it was down to penalties and Athenry won 4-3 with Nicola Nally saving two penalties. Our four scorers were Catriona Bownes, Elaine Kelly, Nicola Nally and a superb spot kick from Gilian Murphy.
Written by Terry Nolan
Published here 20 Feb 2023 and originally published December 1997
The Athenry Journal
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