For the fourth year this competition was held at Lilleshall Hall National Sports Centre, Shropshire, providing excellent accommodation and facilities for the four schools taking part. The competing schools were:
Shenfield High School (England), Carndonagh Community School (Republic of Ireland), Ysgol Glan Clwyd (Wales) and Crompton House CofE School (England).
The Irish girls were first to arrive after an early flight from Belfast and the pronouncement, ‘It’s a castle,’ certainly showed their approval. A tour of the grounds sampling the outdoor vines on the way certainly impressed. By 1:30 all teams were in attendance and ready to start the first series of games.
Crompton House took the lead in the first game but it was short lived as Carndonagh replied within a minute. The English girls scored again in the 16th minute but were unable to hold the lead for long as Carndonagh equalised again three minutes before half time. The Irish girls gradually took a hold on the match early in the second half and a further goal four minutes from time saw them worthy winners.
The second game between Shenfield and Glan Clwyd was also a closely contested affair. Shenfield went ahead shortly before half time only to see the determined girls of Glan Clwyd pull one back shortly after the restart. It was end to end with both defences and goalkeepers working hard until Shenfield eventually broke the deadlock with just three minutes to go. Two excellent games to start the competition!
For day two we had been promised a deluge by the weather forecasters so it was a pleasant surprise to see the sun beaming down. Shenfield v Carndonagh in the first game promised to be a tight contest but the edge was slightly taken off the game when Abbie Harding, the Shenfield ‘keeper, injured her hand in the warm up and had to be replaced by reluctant volunteer, Amye Swinney. Whilst the Shenfield girls were coming to terms with their reorganisation Carndonagh took full advantage and raced to a two goal lead within four minutes but were competently held at bay for the rest of the half. The second half started in the same way as the first, two further goals in four minutes! Shenfield determinedly battled on and Amye put in a brave performance but were unable to penetrate the Irish defence.
The game between Glan Clwyd and Crompton House was a much closer contest. Glan Clwyd opened the scoring in the 21st minute only to see an equaliser scored on the stroke of half time. The two teams gave their all in search of a second goal and the match seemed destined for a draw until Cora Belle broke clear to hit the back of the net with minutes to go.
Both games on day 3 kicked off at the same time with Carndonagh only needing a draw to win the competition for Ireland. Shenfield and Crompton House each needed to win to share the Championship should Glan Clwyd grab the points in their game. Tense stuff.
Crompton House took the lead in the 10th minute only for Shenfield to pull back before half time. The girls from Essex then went on to score two more in the second half ensuring they finished in fine form. Glan Clwyd were showing real determination against a strong display from Carndonagh who finally cracked the defence just on the break to take a half time lead. The girls in green went further ahead shortly after the restart but were pegged back following a flowing move which put Megan Galeandro through to finish in style. The game was finally put to bed when goal scoring machine Ailish Doherty scored her sixth of the competition.
At the presentation ceremony following the conclusion of the competition, SAFIB Executive Committee member Mr Alex Harkin congratulated all of the girls on their skills and determination to do their best for their schools. He mentioned that every player should be proud that they had not only represented their school but also their country. It was with great pride that he was able to present the Rod Houston Cup to Carndonagh Community School.
The Nigel Brown Award for the player of the tournament was once again presented by Carol Brown, Nigel’s widow. There were a number of players in consideration; Ellie Long had been outstanding for Cardonagh and Ailish Doherty had scored in every game, Elise Jennings had been influential throughout and Amye Swinney, as stand in goalkeeper for two games, had helped Shenfield considerably. Cora Belle, Crompton House, had continuously caused problems for opposition defences but the judges eventually decided upon the bravery and acrobatic skills of Cardi Doran in the Glan Clwyd goal as being an outstanding feature of the tournament.
Once again this competition for U14 girls has proved to be a success where football, friendship and appreciation of others efforts have come to the fore. Looking forward to next year…