When more than 150 children turn out for the St Canice’s Ladies GFC summer camp in August, they’ll have their fair share of role models to coach them.
Among them is one of the first women to play senior county football for Derry, Tricia Harkin (née Cooke).
The Dungiven woman played in the first Derry ladies team in the nineties, and also captained the team at a stage.
“It was an amazing feeling but, I suppose, you don’t really realise how special that is, or how lucky we were, until you get older,” said Tricia.
More than two decades on and the pride of wearing the Oakleaf jersey came back with a vengeance for Tricia as she watched Derry’s U14s play in the All Ireland ‘C’ Championship final in Co. Longford on Saturday afternoon.
“I know how it felt for the girls, although I don’t think they really realise how special it really is, and how not everyone gets that chance,” said Tricia. “I was in my twenties at the time, but these girls are 13 and 14 and have already experienced an All Ireland final. That’s amazing.”
The team was gutted after a six-point defeat to Limerick, a loss that left them heartbroken. Three of the players are members of St. Canice’s Ladies GFC - Deabhana McElhinney (14), Orlaith McCloskey (14) and Hannah Mullan (13).
The trio are still sore about the All Ireland defeat, but are determined next time they reach a final the only tears will be those of joy.
Meantime, they’re delighted this year they’ll be helping coach at the St Canice’s Ladies GFC summer camp.
The teens all have people in their lives that have been an inspiration to them over the years.
For Deabhana one of those encouraging figures was her father, Padraig who took her to watch games as a young child; for Orlaith they include her daddy Cormac, and uncles who played for Drum GAC; and for Hannah they include Ashleen McCaul (née Kealey) who was a neighbour and who played football. All girls say playing for their county is something that makes them proud, but that being chosen for the panel has taken nothing less that 100 per cent hard work and commitment.
At the summer camp they want to pass on that sense of pride and achievement to a younger generation, and show what hard work can achieve.
“I feel really proud playing for Derry,” says Orlaith, while Hannah says: “It’s probably my biggest achievement in my 13 years!”
Deabhana is just as proud, and says when she puts on the Derry jersey: “It feels amazing.”
Tricia says it’s fantastic to see how far the girls have come from the days when they were coming to the summer camp.
“Having the three girls this year to help out will give the younger kids something to aspire to, and show them what can be achieved. They’ll be great role models,” said Tricia.
Tricia said the week-long camp is very much about fun and friendship.
“The camp is based on gaelic games skills,but it’s also about fun and friendship. We also have a lot of children who come to the camp who don’t play gaelic football any other time of the year, and the week gives them a chance to do that,” said Tricia.
The St. Canice’s Ladies GFC summer camp takes place at Kevin Lynch Park from 10.30am until 1.30pm from August 3rd-7th, and caters for children from P1 age to U14.