It has been a long road for the girls of Davitt College in Castlebar to get to tomorrow’s All Ireland final against Cross and Passion Secondary School, Kilcullen. This will be their eighth championship game this year, but their path to the final has been rooted in coming back from disappointments time after time over the past half-a-dozen years for most of their panel.
Having tasted defeat at provincal final stage on a few occasions over the last few years, this year saw the girls and their managment decide to leave nothing to chance and everything on both the training field and on the pitch during game time. Their preparation this year has seen them gather in the gloom of winter mornings, not long after dawn had broken, and put their bodies through the ringer during training sessions before most of their classmates had even raised their heads from their pillows. But winning an All Ireland is something that does not come without sacrifices.
First cousins Danielle Caldwell and Bethany Duffy are two of Davitt College’s key players tomorrow, with Bethany lining out in the full back-line and Danielle in midfield. The duo spoke to the Mayo Advertiser last week in the build up to the final, with both girls agreeing that their early morning training sessions have been great preparation and a bonding experience for the girls.
“Yeah, we’ve been training at 7.15am, up at 6.30am every Tuesday morning. We’d train, then we’d have our breakfast in school after and then go to school. It’s been worthwhile, the early mornings were good craic as well. Everyone would be so tired, but then you get into it and everyone gives their all,” explained Danielle. Bethany added there were a few thoughts that they were crazy on the first morning, saying: “The first morning, we were so enthusiastic about it. But then we were out there and everyone was going, what were we thinking? But it’s been great. When we decided to do this, it was this is a great idea, but then when we woke up, it was what are we doing? But once we were out there it was great and then we got used to it.”
With the vast majority of the squad being in Leaving Cert this year, it was now or never for the girls, and that is something that has inspired them all, according to Bethany. “We’ve all been together since first year, so this is really great. With it being our last time together we really want to win it more than ever really. We’ve had so much disapointments down through the years, this will be a great way to finish it off.”
Danielle added: “I think the more you lost, the more it means to you to try and win and it’s great. I think one of the girls maybe last year thought, no I’m not doing this next year, but then she did and is one of our main players. I think the more we lost, the more we wanted to come back and win again. I’m kind of happy we lost last year nearly, because it made this year a bit more special.”
In the Connacht final the Castlebar school got the better of Ballinamore Community School who had previously defeated them in the round robin stages of the competitoin. They followed that up with a crushing display against Coláiste Oirall from Monaghan in the All Ireland semi-final a fortnight ago. In that game they ran in seven goals and even though they were well ahead they never took their feet off the gas. They were not going to take any chances, the girls explained, with Bethany saying: “We knew we had to keep going and not let them get any chances, or leaving anything to chance.” Danielle added: “We were thinking that last year in the Connacht final we were 18 points down and we came back out and lost by two points, so we knew that there was that chance there and we weren’t going to let them have it.”
The management team is made up of Michael Gallagher, Sinéad Flynn, and Andrea Silke-O’Connor, with TY students Fintan Borotto and David O'Donnell also on board. And both girls have nothing but praise for them. Danielle said: “They’re great, it’s just like a family environment, everyone gets on great and gets on so well.” Bethany added: “They’d do anything for us, they really would.” Summing them up Danielle said: “It’s great, if we have a problem we can go to any of them, they’d take it on board and make sure it was dealt with. They have us so well prepared, we’d know everything we needed to know about the other teams a few days before, they put in such dedication to it.”
The team draws players from Castlebar Mitchels, Carnacon, Breaffy, Islandeady, Burrishoole, and Louisburgh, and they have joint-captains all year, Belinda Patterson and Erina Flannery. Belinda was the captain for the Connacht final so Erina will be captain for the All-Ireland final.