On Saturday 9th September, history was made at Fr Leonard Park with St Brigids Cloughmills newly established ladies football team competing in their first game against Loachra Loch Lao, Belfast. Not only the first fixture for the ladies but also the first time ‘big ball’ had been kicked in Fr Leonard Park.
Rewind to December 2022, we held our annual AGM in Cloughmills Community Centre with mounting concerns over the age profile of our senior squad alongside lack of youth and closing of our local primary school creating a worry for the future of our club. As one of the smallest clubs in County Antrim and perhaps even Ulster, we decided actions were required immediately.
In Spring 2023, we began discussions with the Antrim LGFA board who believed the best chance of success would be to launch social football with the potential of launching a competitive team down the line. We therefore decided to proceed with launching a social ‘Gaelic 4 Mothers & Others’ side. We created a google form document, posted on social media and could not believe the response we had received, with 100+ expressions of interest from ladies between the ages of 18 – 50+, from Cloughmills and surrounding areas. Following the amazing response and discussions with the county LGFA board we decided to move ahead with our competitive ladies team and G4MO alongside it.
In early July 2023, on a sunny Monday evening, we held our first training session and with 60+ in attendance it created an incredible buzz. Since then, our club has been revolutionised with a great spirit throughout the club and the local community. Previously ladies in the village had no opportunity to represent the Biddies and have had to play in Dunloy or Loughgiel for Camogie which makes this even more special for these ladies and their families.
We wanted to give the ladies a taste of competitive action before the end of Summer and we are extremely grateful to Loachra Loch Lao, Belfast for accepting our invitation on Saturday. Loachra Loch Lao are a well established football team with some very strong players, winning Junior B last year and therefore this was always going to be a tough task for our ladies after only a handful of training sessions. It was an amazing occasion, with a huge crowd flocking to Fr Leonard Park to cheer on the ladies in orange and black and there was some exciting football on display.
The historic first score for Cloughmills came from Sinead McAllister with a well-placed finish into the back of the Loachra Loch Lao net, a score that even drew applause from the the Loachra players. With a huge panel of 33 available on Saturday, continuous rotation of substitutes allowed for each lady to participate in plenty of game time and enjoy the occasion.
Prior to the senior game, our ‘Mothers & Others’ competed in their own in house game, showcasing their abilities and passion for the game. Many of our Mothers & Others did not believe they would be playing Gaelic football or in fact competing in a sporting environment this year and therefore it is a huge testament to how much they have improved over the last few weeks and no doubt many have the ability to play in a competitive setting.
The future of our club now looks much more promising and 2024 looks to be a hugely exciting year. We will enter our senior ladies into Division Three and Junior B Championship in Antrim and following Saturdays performance we have no doubt they will ruffle a few feathers next year. We hope our Mothers & Others will continue working hard and compete in local blitzes with the view to attend the National Blitz in Dublin in 2024. Finally, the potential of launching underage girls football is a possibility for 2024 to continue the growth of our club.
Huge thanks must go to our management team Joe McErlane, Stephen O’Boyle, Cathal Kearns and Anthony Doran for all the hard work they have done so far and will continue to do in the future.
The future is bright, Up The Biddies!!