Here we were, the fearsome 12 back at another final. It really felt real this time around like everything else had just been a blur. We all walked into the sports hall with confidence, but really, we were just as scared as everyone else. Our coaches had a lot of faith in us just like everyone else did.
When we got there, we had to hurry down to the court and get ready for our first match. It was against Rush and we knew it wouldn’t be easy. From the look on the opposition’s faces alone, we knew this tournament was going to be tough! We stepped onto the court, took a deep breath and waited for the match to begin. The ref put his lips around the whistle and… there it was. Off we go. Only three minutes into the game, Doireann O’Sullivan took the ball and hammered it into the back of the net . We all cheered, and by the look on her coaches’ faces she knew they were delighted. Shot after shot was fired at their goal by Daisy Kehoe, Seóna Cunningham, Megan Lane, Lauren Doran, Isla Willoughby and Grace Smyth. With a line up like that we knew this game would end well. But the players outfield aren’t just the only important people we have on our team. Our goalie, Sarah Murphy is amazing. We’d be lost without her! She has saved so many goals I can’t even count on my own fingers anymore! She is just fantastic!
After the first game we got a break after working so hard. We walked up to the stands and got to happily tell all our friends and teachers what had just happened. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. We sat there is silence for a few moments and just thought “Wow! By the time we leave here we could be All-Ireland Champions!” We couldn’t believe it. We have been friends since Junior Infants and now as we were coming to the end of our time in primary school we were at an All-Ireland Championship with a chance of victory.
The second match came along, but we couldn’t let our excitement show. We had to keep our game faces on. When we saw Herbertstown we knew it wouldn’t be easy. We walked onto the court like it wasn’t our first game just to let the other girls know that they had tough competition. The whistle blew and our girls had all the possession. Shots were flying at their goalie from Doireann, Daisy , Megan, Lauren, Isla, Holly, Seona, Rose and Grace. No one was stopping them from getting their shots on target. But they were a tough team and they battled back. In the end the game finished 3-3 but it didn’t matter. We still topped our group and we were into a semi-final!! We were so excited. We knew we still had a long way to go but that wouldn’t stop us.
Walking onto that court in the semi-final, we really felt the tension knowing that we had to put our best foot forward. This group of girls aren’t just any ordinary bunch. Many of them have been involved in finals in Gaelic and basketball during their time in St. Paul’s. And they’ve done well in football and Athletics too. But right now, it was all about handball. Walking in and seeing Kildare Town we knew that we would have to put our blood sweat and tears into this game. Our coaches Mr Duffy, Ms. Ormsby and Mr Hogan were standing on the side line watching all the girls play and by the twinkle in their eyes you could just tell they were proud of every single one of us. The shots that were taken throughout that match were incredible. Holly Nannery, Lauren Doran, Isla Willoughby, Rose Dowling, Megan Lane, Daisy Kehoe, Seona Cunningham, Grace Smyth and Béibhinn Ryan all played exceptionally well. We switched out our goalie to Nicole Doherty in this game, who played unbelievably well to keep our nets safe! Where we would be without our two fantastic goalies; they have saved us in so many close matches and work so hard for our team just to keep us going to the end! We were getting close to the end of the game. Our hearts were racing from just looking at the countdown. Ten seconds left and Kildare had the ball. As their player was dribbling up the court it was all up to Nicole to save this one goal. The whole team was nervously watching what was about to happen and…. Nicole stuck her hands out and blocked the goal superbly! The whole team shouted “ YESSS NICOLE!!” We all jumped up with excitement. We couldn’t believe it. We had really made it to the All-Ireland final. The feeling was so surreal.
We only had a short wait for the final. It was a tense time; there was lots of leg jittering and nail biting. The worries were getting to all of us but none the less our coach Ms. Ormsby always had a way to cheer us up. She was always so proud of us no matter what. We really have had the best coaches. Mr. Duffy putting his blood, sweat and tears into our training. Mr. Hogan on the side-line, always there for support and always offering help. And Ms. Ormsby, the funniest and sweetest coach who never fails to make you laugh!
So here it was. Our last game. One more match and we could be All Ireland Champions. It was Rush again in this match and we knew that they would come back with all the strength they have! When they walked onto the court you could feel the tension between the two teams. As we waited for the first whistle to blow it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop in the stadium. Sweat was dripping from everyone knowing that this was our last chance. There was no going back. The ref stood still and waited for everything to be quiet. He blew the whistle and threw the ball up into the air. Rush really came out with guns blazing! Ball after ball, both sides just kept going back and forth. One team scoring, then the other. At this stage we thought it was going to be a tight game. But as we always do, we dug deep and found a way to get on top. With one minute to go the score was four goals to Rush and twelve goals to St Paul’s. We had it in the bag I could feel it in my bones. Five, four, three, two… one! We had done it! We really were All-Ireland Champions. We had brought home the win! Everyone was so happy for us! All of our teachers were so proud of us. They called us up and had a medal presentation for us during assembly and by the look on everyone’s faces you could really tell that they were very proud of us all
Written by Holly Nannery