Ballyholland girls make club history

By Kieran Lynch

A GROUP of u-12 girls made history in Ballyholland Harps at the end of April, as they became the first ever ladies team to take to the field for the South Down club.

Paul McAteer, who is Chairman of the LGFA branch within the club and coach of the u-12 girls, was the chief organiser and the club have set up teams from u-6 grade to u-12 – with the latter involved in playing league football.

He detailed the level of excitement and involvement the club has seen from the girls.

“At the end of February, we had an open day and over 70 girls turned up,” McAteer explained.

“We knew then that the girls had been bitten by the bug of LGFA in Ballyholland and we took it from there. We started out the first five weeks with an u-10 and u-12 team, then after that we started u-6 and u-8 teams.

“So in the space of a few months, we went from nothing, to having our girls training two nights a week, and having matches on Wednesday nights.

“We’re playing against teams that have been established for a while and we’re holding our own, so the future is bright.”

As for why now Ballyholland wished to start a girls team? McAteer said that after years of seeing generations of girls leave the club for pastures new once they left primary school age, he had seen enough, and he campaigned to start an LGFA team in his local club.

“Four years ago I petitioned to set up an LGFA club, as I saw that we had many girls at training, but they had to leave for other clubs. But the idea was turned away at the time,” McAteer told Gaelic Life.

“But at the last AGM in November, I brought up the motion again, and this time I wasn’t taking no for an answer, because I have girls of my own and I didn’t want to see them moving on to neighbouring clubs. So the main reason behind setting up the club was to keep Ballyholland girls, in Ballyholland.”

McAteer was far from alone however in wanting to set up a female branch in the club, and after wonderful backing from the club and community, a committee of people dedicated to the cause was set up.

“I knew that there was a good collection of people with girls who played in Ballyholland, and wanted their girls to stay within Ballyholland,” said McAteer.

“So we had a meeting in January, to sort of put the feelers out and to see who would help create the club – basically if the help wasn’t there, the club wouldn’t happen. But nearly 40 people showed up to the meeting and everybody was willing to put their shoulder to the wheel and give a hand.

“That night we put together a committee – Alexis Mulholland, Kieran Murtagh, Brendan McAteer, Cheryl Breen, Helena McAteer, Jenny McKee, Louise Campbell, Mary Beth Duffy, Ruth Ellison and Shona Murphy, and all these people have worked tirelessly into getting the club going.

“We also have a local woman, Patricia Heaney, who owns IM Digital, and she’s sponsoring the LGFA team in Ballyholland.”

As for the future of ladies football in Ballyholland, McAteer isn’t holding back his ambitions.

“Our numbers are through the roof,” he said.

“It’s a massive step forward for the club, and it’s been well received across the board.

“As for our long term goals – it’s the same as every club. We want to win matches, we want to win championships, and we want to win leagues. We have a senior camogie team and it would be great to have a dual club, here within Ballyholland where the girls are playing both codes.

“We have a good crop of coaches, the girls are flying. There are girls there who never played football before, but you could have swore that they’ve played for years.

“I just hope we can all get behind the Ballyholland badge, and drive the club into the future.”

READ MORE – Meet Down dual star Jess Foy. Click here…

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