Our Teams - Ladies Football

Dubai Celts Junior Ladies Football

“Drop the footballs… Everyone on the end line.”

Eight words that are enough to ignite the fear in you more than the Saturday morning that follows a brunch, as thirty-something Juniors prepare for sweaty bursts of sprints. Returning from a week of rest, this is our first night back to training after the Ladies Football Tournament that took place in Sharjah two weekends prior. We had three Junior teams in the tournament and all teams progressed to the final stages; two teams were defeated in the finals and one team lost in extra time of a semi-final. Yet, here we are; reunited on the end line, waiting for Oisin’s cue to sprint.

It’s a Tuesday evening in early September, which means the sweat is dripping off us before we even warm up. Many girls are wearing gloves and it’s certainly not because they are prepared for playing in the rain… Not that I know what that feels like. Like many of us, I never held a ball during my 22 years living in Ireland, but I moved to the Middle East and one of the first things I did was join the local GAA club. Typical!!  The first lesson learned: get a pair of gloves if my sweaty newcomer hands want to have any chance of catching the ball.

There is something unique about foreign GAA clubs; not only do they attract everyone from the clueless to the unpaid professionals, but they welcome people of all abilities and nationalities. Our first night at training involved soloing the ball to a cone that sat in the middle of the pitch and then kick-passing it back to the next person. Or at least, that’s what was supposed to happen. Balls went flying in all directions. Those of us running after them were simultaneously dodging those who could actually solo. Meanwhile, Oisin and Rachael were probably thinking that if they backed away now, maybe no one would notice. Despite this, the beginners and experienced players (and thankfully, our coaches) returned week after week. Why? Because when you tried, your attempt was met with encouragement and when you failed; your attempt was met with reassurance. Four short weeks of training passed before we were playing in the first tournament of the season at our own training ground in Sports City. We may have emerged from the day sun burnt, scratched, bruised, broken and without silverware to show for our struggles, but we were the first in the bar raising a pint for our efforts.

We had a lot to learn from the Dubai tournament and just under two months to prepare for Bahrain, where the next round of the League would be hosted. Meanwhile, the number of players at training was consistently growing. As Oisin was demonstrating one drill, Jarlath was setting up the next and Rachael was taking groups of us for ab sessions on the sidelines. Collectively, they transformed us into better players, gave us a tactical understanding of the game and somehow strengthened our bond as a team even more. Training intensified, but it didn’t stop us from having the craic and catching up on how everyone’s week was going. Renowned as the highlight of the season, Bahrain ignited a new buzz at training in the weeks leading up to the tournament. Dispersed across the city, unfortunately, we didn’t get the opportunity to watch our fellow Junior teams play in Bahrain, but we certainly still had support on the sidelines. The Celts’ Intermediate men’s team were making sure that we got water and words of advice at half-time, as well as support throughout our games. Out of our three teams, one team progressed to a semi-final that day. Less than three months later, all of our teams advanced to the final stages of the Sharjah tournament and we were the first (and probably the last) ones dancing at the Wanderers Club that same evening.

Tuesday and Thursday evenings have become more than just a habit. They are the evenings that many of us look forward to the most. It is an opportunity to learn a new skill for some and a chance to revisit an old hobby for others but for all of us, it’s simply a place where you can have the craic.

Dubai Celts Senior Ladies Football

By Aoife McGovern

The Senior section of the club has been growing in strength over the last few years, where we are now well established, as a force to be reckoned with. Last year saw us end Abu Dhabi’s magnificent winning streak when we beat them in the final of Bahrain. Although our neighbours and biggest rivals ended up winning the league and championship, they were well aware that we were hot on their tail.

This year we started with high hopes, although a few teething problems in the beginning, meant we weren’t set up with our fantastic trainers until the day of the Dubai tournament. This was the first tournament of the year, and we had 3 senior teams competing. This is the first time in the history of the club that we have 3 senior teams representing Dubai Celts in the Middle East League, and in fact, we are the only club to have 3 teams in this division. The Dubai tournament itself was a great success, but unfortunately, on the day we took home no silverware. It did, however, give some of the new girls a taste of what a tournament day entails and we retreated that day feeling determined and optimistic about the training that lay ahead of us.

Next stop was Qatar. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we could only travel to this tournament with 2 teams of 9. We split the teams evenly as a mini reward to those who did make themselves available, as we knew it was going to be a tough challenge to play a tournament in the intense heat of Doha, with no sub available. One team made the semi finals on this day but the most notable achievement of the day, was the heart that the 18 players showed, never complaining or giving up and fighting for every ball until the very final whistle. Friendships were fused that day and the bonding continued into the early hours of the morning on the rugby club grounds.

The biggest weekend of the year – Bahrain. The Senior A’s had themselves under immense pressure to repeat what they achieved the previous year, by putting a deadly halt in Abu Dhabi’s winning ways. This year was to be no different and the team was oozing with confidence. The Senior’s travelled with 3 very strong teams, and the club had high hopes. Again the girls proved through sheer grit and determination just how much winning, with a Dubai Celts jersey on their back, meant to them. The Senior A’s wowed the crowd in an outstanding Senior Cup Final, where from the very first ball, there was no doubt but who the winners were going to be. Abu Dhabi were left devastated for the second year in a row. Needless to say, the entire Celts Ladies Club were ecstatic, the scenes were reminiscent of an All-Ireland Final victory! The Senior C’s fought very hard in a tough group and did themselves and the club extremely proud on the day. The Senior B’s battled some very intense matches to become outright winners of the Senior Plate competition. Bahrain had everyone smiling from ear to ear until the last person left JJ Foleys on Saturday evening.

The 3 teams regrouped after the Christmas holidays and put in a solid effort at training, to rid the cobwebs and shed the (little bit of) winter weight! Alas, Sharjah was not to be our tournament on the scorecard. The B’s and C’s had a very tough draw, finding it difficult to advance to final stages. A hard fighting Sharjah team beat the Senior A’s in the group games and won their deserved spot in the Cup Final. However, the team of the day in this tournament were the Dubai C’s as the club rallied up players and friends from near and far to play with us on the day. This showed the true comradery and passion that these girls have for the game. It was an absolute pleasure to experience and there is no doubt but that these club members are like family. They are the essence of what every club should be about, and although there was no silverware, it was a proud day to be a Celt.

Next stop is Abu Dhabi, for the culminating event of the year, the Championship. The league is over and behind us, our sights are now firmly set on the cups. There is no reason why we can’t come home again with 2 pieces of silver and repeat our success of Bahrain. Paulie, Eoin and Darragh have worked so hard, and have full belief in us. If the battle is to be won on determination, loyalty, friendship and passion… we have it in the bag!