Cluain Tarbh U14 squad, mentors and supporters all arrived at Cremartin, County Monaghan on the 23rd June for the start of National Féile 2017.
A squad of 25 travelled including our two injured players, James Dalton and Shane Spring. The first to arrive at the ground were the Belmullet seven who left that morning on a special bus from the Mayo Gaeltacht. Sam Owens and Conor Davitt also travelled from Gaillimh.
Our first game was a tough one versus Maynooth. Early in the second half they scored 3 quick goals to go 6 points ahead. However a great comeback including a goal from Dylan Doyle and an own goal by Maynooth ensured Clontarf won by by 5-3 to 3-5, a four point win. A tough encounter with Harry Lynch the first of a number of players to get injured over the weekend.
The second match was against local team Cremartin with the full squad now used. CT won well to keep their 100% record intact. Clontarf 5-3 Cremartin 1-1.
We were beginning to experience the wonderful hospitality of our Monaghan hosts with refreshments aplenty at Cremartin. Thanks as well to Club Chairman, Donal Nolan, who travelled for the Friday evening games and spoke to the squad with words of encouragement.
We then travelled to our host Club Latton GAA and their splendid grounds and new Clubhouse. Latton is a small Club in a rural area with 300 homes. The boys had their chips and nuggets and all went away with their host families. The parents and mentors all went to their accommodation with Ballybay and Castleblaney popular choices. Aussie Carroll was the ring-leader as expected for the Ballybay crew who settled in quickly to their base for the weekend.
The next morning we played our final pool game against our hosts Latton. Spectators had to look twice to see none other than All Ireland ref Pat McEnaney take charge. Clontarf won an entertaining game on their main pitch in front of a stand full of Clontarf support. A further word on our hosts who were amazing all weekend and they followed the team in big numbers for the semi-final in Clones.
Next stop was a quarter final versus Derry team Desertmartin at Cremartin. This was another mammoth struggle in front of a big crowd with big support from Derry. Again Clontarf went down by seven points after playing uphill and into the wind in the first half. However on the resumption of the second half quick goals by Dylan Doyle and Andrew Keegan got us back in front. The link play from the back through Jamie Carroll and Shane Finnegan was immense. The forward play of Senan, Sam, Dylan and Andrew Keegan cut open the Desertmartin defence. Clontarf were helped by an injury to the Desertmartin midfielder and a costly penalty miss. Clontarf were winners in the end by 5-4 to 2-8, a narrow five point win. There was plenty of tears and anguish from the Desertmartin squad and supporters which showed the absolute passion and commitment of both teams.
Clontarf now faced a semi-final against South London on Sunday morning at Peacelink park in Clones. The boys and supporters all headed back to Latton for a meal and to watch the Monaghan v Down game. The boys had a great night at Latton GAA with a disco for all the Latton boys and girls and the San Francisco girls u14's who went on to win their Féile. The team also lost Robin, Kilian Keogh and Sam Owens who had to return home early and who would be missed for the semi.
After a great (and late) night in Latton we all headed to Clones for our semi v Sth London who were unbeaten to date. SL were a huge team with an abundance of strength and speed. Again we had a tight game with the score 1 point each at half time. CT went behind by seven points in the second half. A massive effort by the whole team lead by Senan, Andrew, Shane F, Cian Goode and Jamie Carroll got us two points ahead with 5 minutes left. However a disputed square ball goal and a late point saw SL win by 3-3 to 1-7. A further word on our hosts who were amazing all weekend and they followed the team in big numbers for the semi-final in Clones. SL went on to win the final that afternoon in the main pitch in Clones.
A fantastic weekend and experience for the boys which they will always remember all their lives. Thanks to club sponsors Nolans who allowed the group have a bucket collection on the Thursday and thanks to all the customers who supported it.
Monaghan and Latton GAA were such wonderful hosts and we would love to see them again. Squad depth and tiredness cost us in the end but the result was secondary to the bonding and friendships made over the weekend. It should be a priority of every Clontarf team to win Féile to experience the weekend be it hurling or football.
Féile Squad: Daniel Lloyd, Alex Nolan, Jamie Carroll, Shane Finnegan, Brian Gaffney, Conor Davitt, Conor Bateman, Jack Dolan, Harry Lynch, Calum Ahearne, Dylan Doyle, Jack Dolan, Robin McGill, Max Deane Wannagat, Senan McCann, Andrew Keegan, Cian Goode, Alex Murray, Kilian McGloin, Senan McCann (Cpt), Sam Julian Grace, Sam Owens and Kilian Keogh.