The Shamrocks are in bloom

By Michael McMullan

THREE years ago Áine Bell realised it was now or never for Ballinderry to roll out ladies football across the club.

In her playing days, she togged out for nearby Artrea. More recently, players from the parish were playing for Ballymaguigan, Loup, Moortown and Ardboe.

With three young daughters coming into the underage ranks, Bell wanted them to wear the blue and white of the Shamrocks.

“I just took it to the committee one night, and here we are three years later,” she said.

The selling point was talented players blossoming in other clubs and the powers that be rolled out the red carpet for the ladies game.

Their baby steps in early 2022 have grown into progress and now success.

Following their recent Féile success, at grade A, the community are preparing to send a team to the All-Ireland stage.

“We had players playing for other clubs and they were a really good standard,” Bell said. It was time to get them into the Ballinderry GAA family.

The committee, coaches and parents threw their arms around the new venture. Now, the club is buzzing. It began with u-6 all the way up to u-13 in the first season.

The current Féile winning team that were their first team that won the Féile was their first team in competitive football.

Two years ago, they entered their u-13s in grade B of the Féile, a full two years before their time. To their surprise, they went all the way to the final. Last season they moved to A. It was a tough ask but a platform for 2024.

“We overcame Lavey by a point in the first group match, and Lavey were always our benchmark,” Bell said of last year’s Féile win over a club also new to the ladies’ scene.

Ballinderry backed it up with wins over Dungiven and Loup on their way to the title.

“We really have had a really exceptional, talented group of girls, but also obviously we’ve got really good coaches in place,” Bell said.

“There is a buzz about it and the wee ones coming behind them are watching them win now, so they can’t wait.”

In the week after winning the Féile more players liked what they saw and joined the younger ranks. There is chat in the school, photos of the success and they want a piece of the action.

The football and camogie rub off on each other for fitness, coordination and how to work as a team.

“Our camogie girls have started doing well too through the backing of good coaches but I think the football has definitely been an addition,” Bell sums up.

“We do have a good few girls that only play football so it gives them a chance to play for Ballinderry when they’re maybe not interested in camogie.”

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