Naas Ladies, Aisling Dempsey, Louise Shaw, Niamh Bergin; front Caoimhe Carberry, Aisling Archibold, Aisling Kelly, Grace McEntaggart
2020 has been an usually difficult year in the shadow of Covid-19 but sport has been resilient and everyone has been a winner on the training pitches and participating in the various competitions.
Naas Ladies’ Gaelic Football Club certainly bear testament to the afore mentioned statement.
Adherence to social distancing and non-contact on the training pitch didn’t detract from the enthusiasm and eagerness to play and ladies’ football served as a major resource for the wellbeing of all our players whether u6 or playing in the senior ranks.
Health questionnaires and sanitising your hands became frequently used phrases in relation to all the sporting activities in the club.
The co-operation between all the mentors, players and designated Covid supervisors in the Club as regards the playing regulations was exemplary. This approach allowed the smooth and safe organisation of the training sessions and matches since last March.
The training for all the underage groups has continued throughout the winter, with the final training sessions last weekend until after the Christmas holidays.
Numbers continue to increase in the Nursery section, girls aged four and five years ,as there are almost fifty girls playing every Sunday morning.
The main focus of the mentors of these groups is to introduce the basic skills and generate a relaxed environ-
ment where all the girls have fun and enjoy the sport.
As with all the groups, the U6 girl are divided into pods of 10-12 with an average of two to three mentors supervising each pod.
The U7 group are making great progress too in preparation for the U8 league in 2021. There were no U8 blitzes organised this year due to Covid-19 but in spite of this situation ,all the players continued to enjoy training, developing their skills and meeting their friends.
The older age groups ranging from U9 to U12 are all enjoying the training sessions and also have huge numbers attending training sessions which have been held in K Leisure since mid- November while the Club pitches were closed for maintenance during the winter months and will be re-opened for training in the New Year.
The club are very well served by the Grounds’ Committee who do Trojan work throughout the year to maintain the pitches and provide excellent playing facilities for all the players in all codes in Naas Gaa Club.
These teams were able to play some challenge matches after resumption of play following lockdown and the girls enjoyed practicing their skills while making new friends and developing a sense of teamwork.
The U13 girls tasted their first competitive matches in July in the U13 League Division 2 , winning four out of the five matches.
The girls and their mentors look forward to building on these positive results in the 2021 season.
The U14 squad were training twice a week in preparation for the Féile competition in spring. Unfortunately , the lockdown interrupted the season and this event was cancelled. Fortunately, after the resumption of play in autumn, this group of players competed in U15 Division 6 League and managed to play five matches before the league was abandoned.
The mentors ensured all their squad of 26 players enjoyed a lot of match play and they performed very impressively, finishing on level points with Sallins but Sallins won on the head-to- head results. This squad performed very well, considering they were playing a year out of their age.
The U15 girls trained very enthusiastically and the mentors' policy was to give all their squad game time in order to develop and maintain their interest in the sport. They performed well and have started their Strength and Conditioning programme in November until mid-December. This group of 24 players look forward to competing in the U16 league next season.
The older girls playing at U16 level were unable to play their U16 Division 6 league as it was scheduled to take place from February to mid-April 2020 but lockdown deprived them of their event which was eventually cancelled.
On their return to training in July, these players commenced training with the Junior panel and this arrangement proved to be a very positive experience as all the girls had game time in the Junior Championship and acquitted themselves very well.
This event provided them with an ideal opportunity to play football this year and playing at this level will assist the girls to make the transition to minor and senior ladies’ football in the future.
The Junior ladies team had very good performances in the Junior C Championship. This squad of players was a blend of senior, U18 and U16 players, a mix of experience and enthusiasm which generated very positive teamwork. They narrowly missed out on a semi- final position but the future looks very bright. These performances will stand them in good stead next season.
Finally, the Senior players, the flagship of the club, showed great enthusiasm and initiative throughout the fragmented season but all the players trained consistently in their pods during lockdown and took ownership of their fitness and training.
They participated in online gym sessions focusing on strength and conditioning while running in small pods to increase their stamina in preparation for the Intermediate and Junior championships respectively.
There were phenomenal numbers at training as the Junior and Senior panels joined forces, training in their pods and being very conscious complying with the playing regulations, submitting health questionnaires prior to each training session and match.
Lockdown had its positives also as it encouraged players to return to the sport as Ladies’ Football provided them with an ideal forum to exercise and remain fit during these surreal times.
As a club, we have many dual players and consequently there is a great working relationship between the Ladies’ Football and Camogie sections in the club which contributes to player welfare and creates a very positive sporting environment within the club.
The Naas Senior players participated in the Intermediate Championship and showed great spirit, resilience and teamwork throughout all their matches only to miss out on a semi — final slot by the narrowest of margins. This experience will act as a motivational driving force for next season in 2021 as the players and mentors look forward to all the challenges and excitement associated with representing your club and striving to develop as a player and ambassador of Ladies’ Football.
Players, mentors and supporters have travelled a long journey together during lockdown and restrictions but it is encouraging to witness all the players from Nursery age to senior ranks training and enjoying their sport in the midst of adversity. It proves that we can overcome any difficulty and become stronger if we work together:
Ní neart go cur le chéile.
Let us all look forward to a bright future on our playing fields in 2021.