What a difference a few years make. Not so long ago, Malin Head’s fledgling Sea Rovers girls football teams were taking hammerings on a regular basis.
The club’s Ann-Marie Coffey was involved in the coaching in those early days, but no matter how many goals they let in, she never gave up on the dream.
Fast forward five years to last Saturday, when the club's U16s completed an impressive treble after beating Lagan Harps 6-0 to add the Ulster Cup to their Inishowen league and cup trophies.
And for Mick Fildara, who coaches the side with James Ball, the turnaround is a testament not only to groundwork done by pioneers like Ann-Marie, but to the girls themselves in refusing to be beaten. He told the Inish Times: “I remember going out a few years ago to watch my daughter Erin (current U16 player) play, and on that day they took a right hammering off of Greencastle, who were flying at the time.
“And to be honest they took plenty of hammerings in those days, but Ann-Marie stuck with it, and the girls themselves worked hard and showed great commitment in the face of it. Ann-Marie then stepped aside because of family commitments, but a lot of our success now is down to people like her and James, who never gave up.”
And Fildara says he hopes other clubs in the peninsula will look to Sea Rovers as an example of what can be achieved.
“You’ll have girls on Inishowen teams that are struggling a bit saying ‘what’s the point keeping playing, we’re just going to get beat’, and what I would say to them is ‘your time will come’.
“The likes of Moville, and Quigley’s Point and Clonmany are all steadily improving, and it’s only going to make the league stronger in the long run. The most important thing is to stick with it and stick together, and the cycle will come around.”
Having already secured the domestic double, Saturday’s Ulster Cup victory was the icing on the cake for the club’s U16s. And though nobody was more delighted than proud dad Fildara to see daughter Erin score five goals in the match, he insists that teamwork lies at the very heart of this talented young squad.
He said: “You have senior players like Roisin McGonagle marshalling the defence, Shauna Ruddy and Sophie Murphy in midfield and Erin up front with Lauren Greene.
“These girls have shown great leadership to the younger girls and the players from the U14s who have stepped up to help us out throughout the season.
“When I saw the Lagan players on Saturday I thought ‘we might have our work cut out here’ but in the end we won it easy enough because our girls knew exactly what they had to do and the right passes to make.
“I can’t speak highly enough about the dedication they have shown over the last number of years, and I’m delighted that all that effort is being rewarded.”
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