More than a game for St. Canice’s Ladies GFC

When St. Canice’s Ladies GFC was formed 20 years ago it was during the glory days of GAA in Derry.

The senior footballers had won the National League in 1992 and went on to bring Sam Maguire back to the Oakleaf county in 1993. In Dungiven, the appetite among women to play football was growing.

The 1998-1999 St. Canice's Ladies GFC team.

The 1998-1999 St. Canice's Ladies GFC team.

“In July 1992, the ‘ladies’ of Dungiven were invited to gather up two teams to play an exhibition match at the Parish Sports. Derry won the National League in ‘92 and the Sam Maguire in ’93 and many young girls yearned to play Gaelic, just like the boys,” explains Mary Cooke (known by the players as Nana Mary). “By 1995 we had a ladies team and affiliated to the newly formed Derry Ladies County Board together with Glen, Magherafelt, Swatragh and Desertmartin. In that inaugural year, our Senior Ladies won both the County League and the Championship, the Evelyn McGonigle Memorial Cup dedicated to the mother of our very young manager, Gregory who is currently managing the Dublin Senior Ladies.”

Initially, the ladies played under St Canice’s GAC but went on to form their own Ladies Club and Committee - the first St Canice’s Ladies GFC.

There was plenty of success, including at County Intermediate and Junior levels.

“But in 2010 the ladies Club was in a bad way,” said Mrs Cooke. “Most of the original committee had taken a break, morale was low, there were no funds and the club was only weeks away from hosting New York in the All Ireland Féile. None of us wanted to see the club fold, so the players and committee from before rallied together. The New York Ladies and their families were hosted and entertained for almost a week.”

The Club hasn’t looked back since. It has 150 members, from age five to senior level, seven teams, enjoyed several successes, and hosted three summer camps.

“Who said it was only a man’s game?” said Mrs Cooke.

“As we have no playing facilities we are also indebted to the local schools and clubs who allow us to use their playing facilities, and for the support from parents and businesses in our community. This sustained support has enabled our club to grow and develop greatly in recent years,” said Mrs Cooke. “As a club, we are extremely proud of being an integral part of the Dungiven community. We don’t just play football. We encourage our girls to showcase their confidence and teamwork. To celebrate our 20th Anniversary, St Canice’s Ladies GFC will present ‘The Show’ tonight, 7.30pm in St Canice Hall, featuring acts from club members and others.

“We look forward to seeing all our friends and supporters there , and at other anniversary events planned for 2016.”