DROGHEDA's boys and girls came agonisingly close to reaching their first ever Irish Finals on Sunday last at the NAC, both teams losing at the semi-final stage.
The boys were grouped with tournament favourites Corrib, Leinster rivals Clontarf and Setanta from Belfast. They started really brightly and scored an 8-6 victory over Clontarf in what proved to be the pivotal match in the group. In truth, the scoreline flattered Clontarf as Drogheda were always in control.
Next up came Corrib, who justified their favourites tag for the title as they despatched the local lads by eight goals to four.
Drogheda's third group game saw them easily overcome the challenge of a weak Setanta outfit from Belfast, to set up a semi-final with St Vincent's from Dublin.
Despite a sluggish start against a very mobile St Vincent's side, Drogheda battled back from being 4-0 down mid-way through the second quarter to close to the deficit at half-time to two goals.
Vincents once again turned on the gas and pulled away with what looked like an insurmountable 7-2 lead at the start of the final period. However, Drogheda showed fantastic spirit to score three without reply, bringing the score to 7-5 to set up a very tense final few minutes. Despite their fantastic effort at a comeback they just couldn't get level with Vincent's to force extra time.
The final saw Corrib beat St Vincent's by eight goals to five.
Star players for Drogheda on the day were Cillian Crosbie, James Healy, Tadhg Kelly and debutant Jack Dunne.
Meanwhile, the Drogheda girls were looking to go one better than last year when they went down by a single goal at the semi-final stage to Kells, and they set off on the right path, beating Cathal Brugha 5-3 in their first group game. Much like the boys the scoreline was kind to the Belfast girls as their goalkeeper had an inspired game, thwarting the Drogheda girls at every turn.
The result of the second group game would determine the semifinal pairing and once again Drogheda faced Belfast opposition, Clonard. This time the girls made no mistake in despatching their northern counterparts 9-2, setting up a semi-final against Clontarf.
The semi-final turned out to be the match of the tournament. Clontarf surged out of the traps and despite Drogheda's best efforts they found themselves 3-0 down at half-time. At that stage they looked dead and buried, but straightaway in the third quarter they suddenly found their way and somehow forged 4-3 ahead at the start of the last period.
Heartbreak was to follow, however, as tiredness set in, and despite the Drogheda girls' best efforts Clontarf forced their way back, scoring two without reply to win 5-4, securing a final berth against Tribes from Galway.
Tribes are a very classy outfit and they ran out easy winners in the final to complete a clean sweep on the day for the Connacht teams.
Consolation for Drogheda came in the shape of an invitation for five of their players to attend a National Squad Training Camp in Limerick in early January. Chloe O'Connor, Suzy Connell, Una O'Shea, Amaia Mc Donnell and Caoimhe Gradwell all caught the eye of National ladies coach Tadhg Murphy on the day. -On Saturday Drogheda's Under 16 boys lost out to St Vincent's in the Leinster Cup Final at the NAC on a scoreline of 12-6.
St Vincent's were much more clinical on the day and while the result was disappointing, there is plenty of scope for improvement for the Drogheda lads in the run up to the Irish Cup in Lisburn in late January.