Relay silver for Tralee at San Francisco Games
Three Tralee teams returned from the San Francisco International Children’s Games on Saturday last with the experience of a lifetime behind them and with 4 precious silver medals in their grasp. The medals were achieved in the 4 X 400m relay by Sinead O Connor, Molly Mc Gilton, Ciara Walshe and Louise O Connor in a scintillating run which brought great satisfaction and relief after the disappointment of a baton drop in their 4 X 100m heats. This was the highlight of a thoroughly enjoyable and action packed 10 days in San Francisco, which centred on the 42nd International Children’s Games but also included some extra days to enjoy the beautiful sights and attractions of the Bay area.
The Track and Field team performed with distinction, reaching three ladies finals in the 100m, 800m and 4 x 400m relay on the track while Ciara Walsh and Louise O Connor were in contention for the High Jump until late in the competition. The performances of Louise O Connor throughout the Games were quite extra ordinary. Over a very demanding two days she achieved a personal best in her opening 100m heat (12.79) and went better again in her Qt Final (12.71), despite the fact of a very disappointing 4 x100m team run not 20 minutes before. She reached the final of the 100m in the middle of her high jump event where she finished 10th of 24, and finished 7th in her 100m Final. She finished her Games by bringing the relay team home in second 15 minutes later in the 4 x 400m and has to be a very serious prospect for Tralee in future Games, as she is still only 13 years of age!
Michael Godley also reached the boys 100m Quarter Final in a personal best time, as did Molly Mc Gilton, -who also turned in a magnificent second leg in the 400m relay, while Ciara Walsh reached the 800m final and only trailed off on the final straight. In the high jump Ciara jumped clear at 1:55m but was unlucky at the next height of 1:60m catching the bar with her trailing leg on her third attempt. The winning jump was at 1:65m and Ciara was in 8th place overall. Sinead O Connor picked up an injury to her calf muscle in training and withdrew from the 400m to help the relay team, and while it didn’t happen in the 4x100m, her opening leg of the 400m relay was the foundation for the silver medal performance.
The soccer team also provided many moments to cherish in San Francisco. Powered by team captain Ian Mc Carthy at the back, Anthony Forde in midfield and Darragh O Brien up front, the Tralee boys overcame a very strong Sparta side from Greece in their opening game. Trailing one nil at the break, Anthony Forde levelled in the 8th minute of the second half, before Mc Carthy put Tralee in front four minutes later, after a superb cross from Scott Monaghan, one of Tralee’s most consistent performers at the Games. Sparta equalised with 15 minutes gone, but Tralee rallied and pushed forward in search of the winner, which came with two minutes to go from Ian Mc Carthy, after the goalie could only parry a fine effort from O Brien. The next group game was against Ravne of Slovenia, and with greater confidence Tralee displayed all their attacking skills to overwhelm their opponents 8-0. Darragh O Brien scored 5 goals, one of which has gone into legend for its brilliance, and the scoring was completed by rock solid defender David o Sullivan, Scott Monaghan and Eoghain Sheehy, who relinquished his place on the Athletics team to replace the injured Adam Pigott at the Games. The third game pitched Tralee against a very weak team from Vadovara of India, who were no match for any team in the group and were ruthlessly dispatched by Tralee to top their group and qualify for the semi Final. Highlight of the game was the wonder goal scored by Aaron “Gaza” Houlihan, who having beaten two men, chipped over the advancing keeper with precision and aplomb, to record his first goal at the Games.
The Semi Final was against Polish side Plock, who were the eventual winners of the competition. Physically stronger than Tralee and very skilful in all departments, it was their ability to finish which made the difference in the end. P J Galvin had an outstanding game for Tralee and pulled off many fine saves to keep Tralee in the game at different stages. The Poles led 1-0 after 7 minutes and in the 15th minute their goalkeeper pulled off a top drawer save from Darragh o Brien, which should have brought the equaliser for Tralee. Instead Plock hit their second on a counter attack from the goalie’s save. While Tralee dominated possession for much of the game, very few clear-cut chances were created and it took a penalty from Ian Mc Carthy midway through the second half to finally breach the Polish defence. In a frantic effort to find an equaliser Tralee left themselves exposed at the back and were hit with a sucker punch goal with 3 minutes left to send Plock through to the final where they overcame Athens on a 3-2 score line. Tralee faced Lanarkshire of Scotland for a bronze medal but the pre tournament favourites, who lost controversially to Athens in their semi-final, were too strong for an injury depleted Tralee team and won comfortably 6-0.
Avril Peevers and Deirdre Lawlor finished 10th of 24 overall in the golf competition, played over two days at Harding Park. Both players played consistently throughout, with Deirdre finishing on level par over the two rounds and Avril on 3 under par on both days and the experience gained will surely stand them in good stead in the years ahead.
The travelling party of 30, including athletes, coaches and parents, had a memorable few days after the Games, visiting Alcatraz on a guided tour, cycling across the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge – this will always be a special memory for everyone – participating in a few hair -raising rides at the Great America Theme Park, and of course downtown shopping in Union Square.
The group as a whole will also remember the special reception they received from the Irish Community at the United Irish Cultural Centre and at the Irish Consul’s Office at the beginning of their visit, along with the Cork ladies soccer team, who played brilliantly to secure Silver medals on their first participation at the Games, only losing the final on penalties after extra time.
Once again the International Children’s Games has provided a wonderful opportunity to children from all over the world to compete on an International level and 16 Tralee children will always remember the whole San Francisco experience as special, not only for their own performances, but also for the new friends they have made and for the city itself, which is quite magnificent. “We are extremely grateful to everyone who have made it all possible and in particular to John Byrne, Siobhan O Nuallain and Michelle Culloty for their excellent work with the children both on and off the field while at the Games. Without them, and indeed the co-operation of the children, their parents and the very supportive general public, the experience of participation at the Games might not be possible at all”, said Michael Culloty, Chairman, Tralee ICG. “Next year’s Games are scheduled for the Olympic Arena in Athens in the month of June and we hope to again organise teams to attend and represent Tralee and Kerry in the historic home of the Olympic Games. Now that’s something to really look forward to” he added
San Francisco Teams
Soccer: PJ Galvin, David o Sullivan, Ian Mac Carthy, Daragh O Brien, Anthony Forde, Scott Monaghan, Eoghain Sheehy and Aaron Houlihan
Athletics: Louise O Connor, Molly Mc Gilton, Ciara Walsh, Sinead O Connor and Michael Godley
Golf: Avril Peevers and Deirdre Lawlor