Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG on brink of first Munster soccer final

In North Mon's 210-year history, they had never entered a soccer team before, better known for their hurling exploits in the Harty Cup and on the basketball front
Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG on brink of first Munster soccer final

The Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG soccer team who will be contesting the Munster semi-final.

ON TUESDAY, Cork school Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG will make history and compete in their first-ever Munster soccer semi-final.

In North Mon's 210-year history, they had never entered a soccer team before, better known for their hurling exploits in the Harty Cup and on the basketball front. However, led by experienced coach Paul Bowdren and ably assisted by teacher Eimear Tobin they've reached a Munster U19 A semi-final, where they'll face Tralee CBS.

It's a huge day for the school which is traditionally associated with GAA. For now, it’s all about the soccer team and Bowdren and his players are hoping to create history and upset the odds. 

A huge crowd is expected to travel to Mouthawk Park in Tralee.

“It’s fantastic to have reached this stage of the competition being down to the final four teams out of the 70 entered but we hope we can go one step further and reach the final,” said Bowdren.

“There is a great squad of players with plenty of talent but importantly they are a great bunch of young fellas with a great attitude. There has been a great buzz within the school and I hope the lads can perform to their potential today and hopefully they can make it to the final. 

"It would be brilliant for everyone involved." 

With wins over Midleton, St Clement's of Limerick and, most notably, Douglas Community School, the northsiders will have huge confidence heading into this tie. However, they expect a tough physical battle.

“The lads have been exceptional en route to today’s semi-final. We had comfortable wins but the big game for us was against Douglas Community school. We won this game 4-3 after extra time. 

"It was a cracker of a game and I think from this win, the lads have gained a lot of confidence as Douglas are a school traditionally known for their soccer success. 

"I expect that win and the hard-fought attitude the lads had that day, will stand to the lads going forward. We were 2-1 heading into injury time and got a penalty to equalise. When we thought the game was over we fought hard and two goals scored by Jake Freyne ensured us of today’s place in the semi-final.

“We expect a tough game. They’re a good side and their goalkeeper is an international but we’re ready for the challenge and we will be concentrating on our own game as opposed to theirs. 

"We have lads who play outside the school with clubs such as Cobh Ramblers, Rockmount, St Mary’s, and Blarney to name a few so there is huge interest and credit to their clubs for allowing them time to play for the school at this time.” 

 Team manager Eimear Tóinín with Darragh Búdrén, Darragh Ó Sìocháin, Conchúir Ó Briain and Pádraig Breathnach, members of the Gaelcholaiste Mhuire AG North Mon soccer team. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Team manager Eimear Tóinín with Darragh Búdrén, Darragh Ó Sìocháin, Conchúir Ó Briain and Pádraig Breathnach, members of the Gaelcholaiste Mhuire AG North Mon soccer team. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Principal of the school Donál Ó Buachalla is a founding member of Leeds Football Club in Cork alongside his mother Mary. So in a way, it's a wonder it has taken this long for the school to have their first soccer team! 

He is thrilled with the achievements of the teams this year though and very proud of everyone involved, regardless of the result in Kerry.

“It’s fantastic to have soccer teams at all age groups in the school this year and long may it continue,” he explained.

“I suppose traditionally we were a hurling school and we also play basketball at a very high level winning the U19 National Cup a few years ago but since our numbers have grown and we saw more interest for soccer from pupils that don’t play other sports. 

I thought it was only fair and important that we try to accommodate everyone and I’m glad that we have such a huge interest. 

"Darragh, son of Paul Bowdren was persistent in starting a team alongside other pupils and so when his father was asked to get involved, he didn’t hesitate and we are delighted to have him involved. Both Paul and Eimear have done a great job with the lads and we are all really looking forward to today’s game.

“There is a lot of talent on the squad. A lot of young fellas who come from sporting family backgrounds. Darragh, son of Paul Bowdren, Callum, son of Rockmount's Derek Clarke, Jake, nephew of Patsy Freyne and Conor, son of Cork TD and well-known Cork City supporter Jonathan O’Brien, to name a few.” 

So while it would be amazing to reach the final of the competition, Principal Buckley is proud of their achievements to date.

“Reaching this far is an achievement in itself because the other three teams involved in the semi-finals, Thurles CBS, Tralee CBS and Rochestown College, are all large, all-boy schools so we are very proud to be in the situation we are in. 

"It would be fantastic for the lads to reach the final but we know they have a tough task ahead today and no matter what happens, we are all very proud of them. But I have confidence that they can do the job today.

“Also I'd like to thank Declan McGinn and Ashdale Catering for their continued support. They have been amazing and we appreciate the fabulous gear they have supplied for the team. 

"Let’s hope it can be a great occasion today and we can all enjoy a build-up to our first ever school soccer final.”

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