All Ireland heartbreak for brave Oak Leaf Ladies in Longford

The Derry team form a huddle with manager Ciaran Brown, before the start of Saturday's All Ireland Ladies Football U14 'C' Championship in Ballymahon, Co. Longford.
The Derry team form a huddle with manager Ciaran Brown, before the start of Saturday's All Ireland Ladies Football U14 'C' Championship in Ballymahon, Co. Longford.

DERRY Ladies U14 boss, Ciaran Brown claims his brave young side has brought ladies football onto a new level in the county despite their All Ireland ‘C’ Championship journey ending in heartbreak at the final hurdle in Co. Longford on Saturday afternoon.

The Ballymaguigan clubman revealed that he was faced with the most difficult post-match team-talk of his life when attempting to console his U14 panel following their six point defeat to Limerick.

With an historic All-Ireland victory locked firmly in their sights as they led by four points at half-time, two ‘freakish’ goals by the opposition settled the destination of this year’s title in Ballymahon.

Despite scoring a terrific points tally of 3-9 throughout a dominant performance by the Oak Leafers, the Derry girls let the game slip from their grasp late in the second half as their historic campaign came to a disappointing end.

Securing their place in this year’s showpiece was, according to Brown, ‘a phenomenal success story’ but having come so close to securing a first ever All-Ireland win for the ladies county team, it made the defeat all the more difficult to take.

Reflecting back on Saturday’s showpiece, the Derry manager was still finding it difficult to come to terms with the loss last night.

Leah McGonagle, Derry, in action against Iris Kennelly in the All Ireland Ladies Football U14 'C' Championship.

Leah McGonagle, Derry, in action against Iris Kennelly in the All Ireland Ladies Football U14 'C' Championship.

“I’m absolutely gutted,” said Brown. “I still can’t get it out of my system. We were four points up with five minutes to go and conceded two freakish goals. We actually had it back to three points at one stage but that’s underage football for you,” he lamented.

Dominant Display

“We were so dominant throughout the game, so I think that makes it harder to take. It was the hardest after-match speech I’ve had to give in my life.

“I just told them how proud I was of every one of them. They all represented the Derry jersey with pride and stood up and were counted.

The girls have brought ladies football in the county to a new level. We were struggling to get funding for the ladies game and hopefully their achievements will help in the future.

Ciaran Brown

“I told them sometimes you have to learn how to lose before you learn how to win. We have big plans for this team and for a Derry Ladies team to reach an All-Ireland Final for the first time in history is a remarkable achievement.

“I couldn’t be any prouder,” he continued. “It’s one of those things. The girls did everyone in the county proud. It was a fantastic experience for the girls.

“The girls have brought ladies football in the county to a new level. We were struggling to get funding for the ladies game and hopefully their achievements will help in the future.”

Brown will take charge of the Under-16 panel next year and he’s hoping he can keep hold of the majority of the current U14 girls squad and build on this season’s success.

Nicole Nugent, Derry, in action against Sinead McElligott, Limerick.

Nicole Nugent, Derry, in action against Sinead McElligott, Limerick.

“I’m moving on to the U16 panel next year and hopefully we can keep the crux of this team together and join others on the other side and try and create something really successful.

“It’s a phenomenal success story. It really is magnificent,” he concluded.

Leoni McIroy, Derry, in action against Aoife Rowsome, Limerick.

Leoni McIroy, Derry, in action against Aoife Rowsome, Limerick.