Sinéad Donovan, from Coláiste Bhaile Chláir, became an International Soccer player in February this year when she played two International friendlies against Northern Ireland on 20th February in Oriel Park Dundalk and against England in Knutsford in Cheshire on 6th March. These games were all in preparation of the Bob Docherty U15 International tournament which this year took place in Newport, Wales from 1st to 4th April.
The Tournament consisted of two groups of three teams with Ireland grouped with Northern Ireland and Wales (1) and second group of England, Scotland and Wales (2). Each team would play two games each and when finished top two teams of each group would play each other in final while second and third place teams in each group would play off for final positions.
First up for Ireland was a fancied Wales team, boasting players from Everton, Liverpool, Aston Villa and several other Centres of Excellence in UK, taking place in Dragon Park in Newport at 6pm on Friday 1st April. Sinéad began on starting team and Ireland got off to a blistering start with a goal within three minutes of start. Finishing the first half at 2 nil, Ireland team was playing superb football and loudly supported by large travelling contingent. Final score was 5 nil to Ireland and the score reflected the performance of Ireland team but Wales were always dangerous and never gave up.
Sinéad put in a sterling performance and was substituted very late in second half having contributed to what was a fantastic team performance and a standout result.
The Ireland camp was in top form going into second game versus Northern Ireland on Saturday 2nd April. Playing in Newport Sportsgrounds Pitch 2, there was a lot of expectation on both sides. Sinéad was carrying a slight injury and was rested for game and Ireland had made some changes to starting team. The first half ended with Ireland 2 nil up and also having missed penalty near end of half so all was going well. Ten minutes into second half, Northern Ireland scored to make 2–1 and game got very scrappy and nervous. With few minutes to go, Ireland scored a third and game clinching goal to seal a deserved win although while being the better team, the second half was less than perfect. By end of second game, each player in squad had played some amount of game time and this was to the credit of the management to have played each player and finishing top of group 1 to ensure qualification for the final on Monday 4th April.
Sunday 3rd April was a rest day for team and the Presentation of International Caps to Players took place in team hotel on Sunday at 11am. Sinéad, with all her team mates, were presented with official caps in front of a large audience of parents, relatives and officials from FAI Schools and FAI who had all travelled to Wales for tournament. Afterwards, the team were taken to Cardiff for some relaxation and well earned rest including some retail therapy.
While Ireland team were off, England defeated Scotland 2 nil to set up a final between Ireland and England at 11.30 on Monday 4th April.
Having now spent three days of sunshine and cold weather, Monday began very wet and windy. The final game was set for Dragon Park in Newport with a kick-off at 11.30. Having played on top class pitches, the pitch at Dragon Park was immaculate and included superb facilities for both players and supporters. Both teams had great support and were in fine voice from start to finish. Ireland showed some changes from previous games with Sinéad starting as substitute.
The first half was dominated by England playing in top form while Ireland were finding it very difficult to get some momentum going. An unbelievable top class save by Rachel Kelly in Ireland goal was the highlight from first half as England had dominated and really should have made more from their chances.
The second half brought a change to Ireland team with Sinéad coming on and Ireland began to play better. With Ireland beginning to get to grips with game, England scored a well taken goal ten minutes into second half. To their credit, Ireland upped their game and dominated the last twenty minutes but could not get the breakthrough needed and England finished winners by the least of margins.
The presentation at end of final included all teams that had participated in tournament. All players were presented with a participation medal and the Bob Docherty trophy to England. While Ireland players were disappointed to lose final, it was without doubt a very good tournament with outstanding performances and a group of players that should make it into older age groups at Ireland level.
Sinéad, who also plays for Cregmore-Claregalway FC, is first player from both school and club to play at this level and we hope to see her keep playing in an Irish jersey over next few years.