By Niall Gartland
THE Castleblayney ladies are on their travels – again.
Last weekend they traipsed to the Netherlands – not your usual venue for a game of football – to take on Belgian side Craobh Rua in the All-Ireland Junior Championship quarter-finals.
It was a gruelling weekend right from the word go, when they convened at Castleblayney in the early hours of Saturday morning (3am to be precise) before heading to Dublin airport, but it was ultimately worth it as they carved out a 2-19 to 5-2 victory on Sunday.
Joint-manager Paddy McNally was still a touch jetlagged when he took a call about this weekend’s All-Ireland semi-final clash against Cork side Naomh Aban.
And they’re being made to sing for their supper, once again – they only have a week to prepare and the clash has been scheduled for Cork, but it’s a golden opportunity nonetheless for the band of girls from Castleblayney.
McNally, a young coach who plays his football with nearby Cremartin Shamrocks, said: “It’s not easy with the tired bodies, girls had to go back to work this morning [Monday] after getting home late on Sunday night. But we have to get on with it, we’ll get back onto the training pitch and go from there. It’s another busy weekend ahead, we’ll be leaving Saturday morning at 11am.
“It does feel like we were away for a week, there was a lot of travelling involved. I’ve been trying to catch up on a bit of sleep but we’ll refocus and try to get into a routine ahead of the game in Cork.
“It begs belief in a way, you’re in Belgium one weekend and in Cork the next but it’s not under our control unfortunately.”
While Castleblayney were deserving victors, one source of concern is that they conceded five goals to their Belgium-based opponents. Partially it’s because their opponents were mad keen for goals, but ‘Blayney could’ve been tighter defensively.
McNally said: “I’d a good chat with their manager, he’s a high level coach who led Galway u-20s to the All-Ireland title two years ago. They generally play nine-a-side in their tournaments over there, and he said they wouldn’t be as comfortable kicking points. They did have that goal threat and one of their forwards is a top soccer player and scored a penalty and two other goals against us. Defensively there are things that do need sorted.”
This weekend represents another massive opportunity for the ladies in the club, who had never won any silverware whatsoever at adult level prior to this season.
It’s fair to say things have snowballed in 2022, a year which has seen them win league and championship honours in Monaghan, as well as the Ulster Junior Championship.
The supporters are rowing in behind the team and many of the diehards were able to come along to cheer them on in Holland.
“Apart from the team and management and different officials, around 37 travelled with the team and another 30 flew separately into Brussels. Fair play to them, it was a huge effort at a financial cost to themselves.”