A reflection on a recent Féile experience
On October Bank Holiday Monday the Knockananna Féile girls set off on a memorable journey to Croke Park to participate in the Croke Park Féile Experience to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the national Féile competition. This year’s running of Feile saw it take place on a county basis in August, with the age-grade moving to under-15, ensuring children who missed out in 2020 got a chance to compete.
All clubs were then placed in a draw and Knockananna were so lucky to be one of the eight clubs from all around the country chosen to play an exhibition game at the home of GAA. It’s a lucky coincidence that Knockananna Camogie Club are also celebrating their 50th anniversary this year and special as Knockananna won the Féile competition in only its second year in existence.
They played Carndonagh from Donegal who were celebrating their own special milestone, their 100th anniversary. The girls were able to experience the inner sanctum of Croke Park walking the tunnels, running out onto the pitch like the camogie/hurling greats and playing the game of their lives.
They played 20 minutes a side and nerves settled quickly and neither the stadium size or roars of their supporters put them off and although scores were not being kept officially as this was more about the experience everyone was making a mental note of them as who doesn’t want to win in Croke Park!
We certainly were the stronger team for the first half with everyone playing well all over the field but by the second half the Carndonagh girls had settled and came strongly back into the game. Two frees in the final few minutes from Aine Mc Donald sealed a win for the girls. Win or not these girls had the experience of a lifetime.
Both teams and captains, ours being Aisling Fleming, were presented with a commemorative plaque by Camogie president Hilda Breslin. Larry McCarthy, the GAA President, also joined the girls for a photo. Aisling had to give an interview after the game and was asked to sum up the game and experience, what it was like playing for her club and also highlighting women in sport and she did a great job.
The girls relished this experience and left the stadium in celebratory mode to be greeted back in Knockananna by the new 2021 Senior champions with the cup and plenty of parents and supporters.
As a team we’re all great friends and all look forward to a Friday evening when we get to go training together. When we found out we were going to be playing in Croke Park we were all very excited.
On Monday morning, the bus started the journey from Crossbridge and did a second pick up in Aughrim. When we got on the bus, we got out the speaker and sang the whole way to Jones Road. We had a stop off at Coynes Cross to get goodies for the rest of the trip.
We were to arrive in Croke Part at 12 but it wouldn’t be like us not to be late. When we got over the rush of getting off the bus and we walked out to see the view of Croke Park, we were greeted by our tour guide.
As we walked through Croke Park and experienced what our role models do every weekend, the nerves started to kick in. We got to see all the great facilities that Croke Park had to offer such as the dressing rooms and warm up areas.
When we lined up, ready to run out to Croke Park pitch, Lisa of course had to capture the moment on video. When we began to play, our nerves settled, and it was almost like we were back home in Knockananna.
We all played our hearts out and managed to beat a strong Carndonagh team from Donegal. On the trip home we sang the whole way home to Knockananna. We were greeted by all our supporters and the Knockananna senior team who were holding the senior county camogie cup that they’d won the day before.
We got some photos with the older players and Kellie Byrne presented us all with trophies that the Carndonagh team gave us as a reminder of the occasion. We will get our Féile medals at our club’s anniversary celebration later on this year. All 17 players are so lucky and grateful to have experienced this once in a life opportunity.
Grace Mulhall and Aine McDonald