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Sport

A futsal first for Ballyphehane!

Wednesday, 10th January, 2018 5:01pm

In a long tradition of sporting success on Leeside, futsal may not be at the forefront of your mind.

However, a double All-Ireland in futsal has landed in Cork thanks to the girls of Presentation Secondary School in Ballyphehane and the boys of St Francis College Rochestown. It's the first time in nine years of the schools competition that a county double has been achieved, while it's also the first time that Pres has won the competition in its history.

Pres were coached by Wilton United's Barbara O'Connell, who herself had her first taste of football while attending the same school 24 years ago, and PE teacher Sheila Daly, along with Vivienne O'Grady and Gavin Forde.

Unlike other games of indoor football, futsal is played on a hard surface delimited by lines. The South American game is a quality, fast, paced action game focusing on skill, pace, speed and technique.

The tournament began in October when Pres overcame Regina Mundi and Christ of the King to qualify for the Cork finals two weeks later. There the girls became Cork champions after hard fought games against Midleton and Christ of the King.

The next stage was in Waterford to represent Cork schools in the Munster Final. Here the girls had to go through five games in which they won four and drew one beating schools from Clare, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford. After superb displays by all of the girls, captain Alix Mendez and her team were absolutely thrilled to be crowned champions with the All-Ireland series beckoning. As well as this, the team's wins tied in with the school's 50th anniversary celebrations, much to the delight of school principal Nicola Barrett.

In December, the girls represented Munster at the All-Ireland where they had to play three games, against Leinster, Connaught and Ulster. However, despite their excellent run of results, the girls were faced with the prospect of a three-way penalty playoff but, a superb exhibition from goalkeeper Amy Noonan along with excellent spot kicks from the Pres girls, secured the All-Ireland title for the first time in the school's history.

Speaking on the hugely successful year, coach Barbara said: “So much work goes in to underage and grassroots level that is not always recognised and for our own girls, they've been working very hard since September. I know a lot of people didn't even know what futsal was but in Ballyphehane they're always willing to promote all sports. Futsal was something new for most of the girls this year, and that's what it's all about, introducing people to new sports and they came on board and worked really hard.

“There was so many teams involved, we had to win 14 games to be crowned the All-Ireland champions.

“We could have been knocked out in the first round in Cork, with a little bit of luck we weren't, and from then, I think the girls really drove on and it was an unbelievable final. I don't think I've ever heard of a three way playoff for a penalty shootout, even at the end we didn't know that we'd won it!”

A huge achievement for her young team, Barbara acknowledged the achievement of the girls, saying: “It was fabulous to represent Munster in an All-Ireland Final, regardless of how the day went, it was great to be up there having won the Munster final. It was a brilliant achievement for all the girls and I think just to be part of it and to see what sport is at that level. Each and every one of them got such a buzz from winning and it was fabulous for the school and it tied in perfectly for the school with the 50th anniversary celebrations.”

For their historic win, Presentation Secondary School Ballyphehane were presented with the Cork City and County Youth Award for December. The squad of Amy Noonan, Alix Mendez, Claragh Callanan, Sophie Thompson, Lya Gilhooly, Kaitlin Power, Laura O'Sullivan, Shianne Butsana, Sophie Murray and Abi Callanan were joined by Barbara, coach Gavin Forde, their principal Ms Barrett as well as Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald, President of the FAI Tony Fitzgerald at the Metropole Hotel who jointly sponsor the awards scheme with John Buckley Sports.

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