First Gaeltacht title for brilliant Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh

Ben Searten came up with a massive performance as the favourites from Donegal were seen off in the final
First Gaeltacht title for brilliant Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh

It’s all hands on deck as Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh try to clear one of the many the high balls launched by Donegal team, Naomh Conaill, in a desperate bid to close the gap in the final minutes of the Senior Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta final. Picture: Seán Ó Mainnín

A FIRST ever Comórtas Peile Na Gaeltachta senior title was just reward for Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh.

The Muskerry side overcame Bearna (Galway) and An Ghaeltacht (Kerry) before seeing off Naomh Conaill (Donegal) to claim the national senior trophy for Gaeltacht-based clubs over the June Bank Holiday weekend.

A pipe-band, numerous bonfires and huge turnout for Ballingeary’s homecoming underlined the importance of claiming a senior title that had previously eluded the Cork representatives.

Mentor and manager for Comórtas weekend, Shane Ó Duinnín, understood the importance of such a special achievement.

“We last won a junior Comórtas Peile back in 2022 but this is our first time winning a senior one and it is special,” Shane O’Duinnin commented.

“That’s why it is such a big deal for everyone associated with Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh. When I was growing up you always supported Naomh Abán with Míchéal Ó Cróinín and Anthony Lynch when they played in the senior Comórtas finals.

It was nice to make a bit of history for Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh. We honestly didn’t expect it.” 

Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh certainly earned their place in the history books having been tested to the maximum by both Bearna and An Ghaeltacht in consecutive days. That led to a Bank Holiday Monday showdown with favourites Naomh Conaill.

A large attendance was present for the senior decider at Páirc an Mháimín in Leitir Mór and in front of TG4’s live cameras. Inter-county players Odhran O’Doherty and Charles McGuinness were released by Donegal senior inter-county manager Declan Bonnar to represent Naomh Conaill, adding to the importance of the occasion.

It was a weekend Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh utilised every member of their squad during an intense three-day period.

“We used 24 players over the weekend which is a huge amount,” Ó Duinnín added.

“All 24 played their part. You have to chop and change the team every day. We were lucky enough with injuries. Adrenaline got a lot of the boys through the three days!

“Held in Connemara, ‘Bean an Tí’ Ann Callanan Keady looked after us brilliantly. She was top class and good auld fun throughout the weekend. The lads were delighted with all her help, it meant a lot.

“That is all part of the Comórtas Peile Na Gaeltachta weekend, the craic and the banter. We were well looked after alright.” 

Captain Cian Ó Duinnín celebrates Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh’s senior team triumph in the Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta. Picture: Seán Ó Mainnín
Captain Cian Ó Duinnín celebrates Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh’s senior team triumph in the Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta. Picture: Seán Ó Mainnín

Comórtas Peile is a tough competition to qualify for let alone win. Ballingeary had to get past Naomh Abán and Cill na Martra before booking their weekend in Connemara. Béal Átha’n had failed to reach the finals weekend in the previous decade but made their presence felt once they reached the western Galway venue.

“It was quite a difficult task just qualifying for Comórtas Peile,” Ó Duinnín said.

“Naomh Abán are always very strong while Cill na Martra are going very well at the moment. Just getting there took a huge amount of hard work and effort but the lads were brilliant and full deserved their success.

“The night before the final against Naomh Conaill, we were just saying amongst ourselves that we had nothing to lose. They were the Donegal champions and beat Chill Chartha who had the McBrearty’s amongst their ranks.

“They had guys with All-Ireland medals in their back pocket and were clearly a very strong team. They also beat the likes of Gweedore on the way to reaching Comórtas Peile so we knew the challenge that was ahead of us.” 

Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh got off to the best possible start in the Comórtas Peile decider. Conchúr Ó Loinsigh scored a goal inside three minutes but Naomh Conaill responded with four unanswered points.

Their opponents produced an equally impressive response, kicking six points in a row, Ben Searten contributing five, to lead 1-7 to 0-5 at the break.

Naomh Conail were reduced to 14 men following Brendan McDyer’s red card early in the second period. Yet, it took a 53rd-minute Ben Searten goal to solidify Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh’s 2-9 to 0-11 win.

“We earned it, we definitely earned it at the end of three very intensive days,” Ó Duinnin concluded.

“It was into recovery mode straight after the win over Bearna the first day. Then we were analysing An Ghaeltacht before playing them the next day and repeating the process all over again on day three.

“On top of that, our trainer Dan Reen was away on holidays that weekend but watching the games live on TG4! We were constantly in contact and he was thrilled with the outcome, as was everyone involved with Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh.”

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