There were some amazing achievements by sportswomen at home and abroad this month.
Camogie, bigger than ever in Europe
After the excitement of September’s finals, camogie players all over Ireland were enjoying a well-deserved rest in October. But over in Germany, Belgium’s GAA camogie team were busy claiming their fourth European Championship title in a row not bad for a GAA association only established in 2003.
"Winning the Championship after such a close final against Luxembourg was the perfect ending for us," said captain Grainne Corry. “I’m very proud of the girls and what we’ve achieved this season. The players put in a huge effort and commitment in terms of training over the nine months, attending five international tournaments and recruiting new players all season. Looking forward to 2017.”
Winning the Championship after such a close final against Luxembourg was the perfect ending for us
GAA President Aogán Ó Fearghaíl, Camogie Association President Catherine Neary, Camogie Association CEO Joan O'Flynn, and Irish Ambassador to Germany, Michael Collins all made it to the finals, the largest European hurling and camogie tournament to date. It’s great to see the sport’s popularity growing outside Ireland.
A bright future for young Kildare goalie
On to football, and exciting news for young Kildare goalie Mary Hulgraine, who was named as September’s Croke Park Player of the Month. Mary was one of the heroes of Kildare’s Intermediate All Ireland win against Clare and won player of the match after producing a string of vital saves. It was this outstanding performance that led to her 2016 TG4 All Stars nomination, for which we wish her every success.
U17s and U19s on target for the UEFA European Championship Finals
Soccer now, where both the U17s and U19s Republic of Ireland Women’s teams have been playing some brilliant football in their respective UEFA European Championship qualifying rounds, ahead of the 2017 finals.
Republic of Ireland Women’s teams have been playing some brilliant football in their respective UEFA European Championship qualifying rounds
First up the U17s, who clinched qualification to the Elite Round of the Championships, following a 2-0 victory over Belarus in Turner's Cross, Cork. Top spot in the group now comes down to their November clash with Iceland, but so far they are on course for next summer's finals in the Czech Republic.
Three wins in a row saw the U19s top their qualifying round group after beating Italy 2-0 in their final game. It means they finish the first qualifying stage as Group 2 winners following their previous triumphs over FYR Macedonia and Wales.
If Ireland top their group at that stage, they will be one of seven teams joining hosts Northern Ireland in the finals. So far, it’s looking good.
A dramatic finish at the Dublin marathon
It was a beautiful autumnal day for this year’s Dublin marathon, perfect conditions for which the record-breaking 19,500 entrants were no doubt grateful for. And in the women’s race there was high drama as Helalia Johannes of Namibia and Ethiopian Ehite Gebireyes were neck and neck at the finish line. In the end, first past the post was Johannes, who repeated her 2011 victory with a winning time of 2:32.32, just one second ahead of Gebireyes. The first Irish woman was Laura Graham from Newry, a latecomer to marathon running but who at the age of 30 ran an impressive 2:41.54, finishing 10th overall.
It keeps me mentally strong, and I’m always motivated. And I’m always telling people you’re never too old to start, even into your 70s and 80s
A special mention to Collette O’Hagan too - mother, grandmother, foster parent to around 85 children and serial marathon-runner at the grand old age of 67. Collette only started running at the age of 40 and Sunday marked her 426th marathon. As well as Dublin, she’s completed marathons all over the world, including Belfast, Boston, Barbados, New York, New Zealand, China, London and Japan.
“It keeps me mentally strong, and I’m always motivated. And I’m always telling people you’re never too old to start, even into your 70s and 80s” says Collette. A true inspiration for budding sportswomen of any age.
World of athletics says goodbye to Jessica
October 13th was a sad day for the world of athletics as Jessica Ennis-Hill, one of the all-time greats, announced her decision to retire from heptathlon. Confirming her retirement on Instagram, the Olympic gold medallist, double World Champion and face of London 2012 said ‘“From my first world title in Berlin 2009 to Rio 2016 I’m so fortunate to have had such an amazing career within the sport I love and this has been one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make.”
Her coach Toni Minichiello summed up her career best: “For an athlete to work from the ages of 13 to 30 and then win an Olympic medal is considered a significant achievement. For an athlete to come back from a serious injury and win a World Championship is classed as outstanding. To win gold at a home Olympics whilst carrying the expectations of a nation on your shoulders is celebrated as remarkable. To have a baby and become World Champion a year later makes you one of a very small group of elite athletes. To do all four in your career? Consistent doesn’t do it justice. It’s off the scale. The best ever? I’d say that’s more like it.”
To do all four in your career? Consistent doesn’t do it justice. It’s off the scale.
Well done Jessica on an incredible career, and good luck for whatever the future holds!
Former Ireland Captain makes European Rugby History
Finally, Bath might have beaten Bristol in the (men’s) European Challenge Cup on October 20th, but it was an assistant referee who proved to be the real talking point of the match. As the first woman ever to officiate in a European rugby match, Limerick native and former Ireland’s womens captain Joy Neville has certainly staked her place in rugby history.
After the game she said “I didn’t really think about it in terms of being ‘the first woman’, but after the game I was blown away by the publicity and the support from different people, so I suppose it hit home then. There were quite a few decisions that had to be made and I was quite happy with my performance. I think that’s probably why I got such a positive reaction, there were a few 50-50 calls and as it happens I got them right.”
Well done Joy. A brilliant achievement and hopefully a step closer to a future where a female official on the pitch won’t raise any eyebrows at all.