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Coventry University Ladies Gaelic Football team taste British Championship glory

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Coventry University Ladies Gaelic Football team taste British Championship glory

Coventry University Ladies Gaelic Football team have brought home the British University Championship title for the very first time.

The team lifted the division one championship trophy after a gruelling weekend of competition culminated in victory over University of Liverpool in the final. The success was down to the players’ and coaches’ bond off the pitch as much as on it, with many of them having already known each other for years before arriving at Coventry University thanks to its link with Atlantic Technological University (ATU) in Letterkenny, County Donegal. Students on specified healthcare courses can study for two years at ATU and then a further two years at Coventry University – which is what many of the Gaelic football team squad did.

The family feel continues in Coventry with the university’s Gaelic football team described as a “home away from home” for Irish students and many of the players’ loved ones flew in from Ireland to cheer on the team at the championship weekend which took place at Páirc na hÉireann, the home of Warwickshire GAA, near to Birmingham Airport.

Mairi Keogh was once a player herself while studying at the university and is now a very proud member of the coaching team. She said: “It was amazing. It’s what you work the whole year for – those feelings of excitement and the nerves.” adding, “It was great to have it on our doorstep so there wasn’t too much travelling and we had families fly over from Ireland to cheer us on, so there were parents and siblings, as well as all the friends from the players’ clubs. A lot of the players are in their final year at university, so it was their last chance to win this and to win the division one championship for the first time for the university and create that bit of history was really special.”

Mairi said the university’s Gaelic football team was originally set up to be a “home away from home” for Irish students now in Coventry and a number of the students play outside of university for Roger Casements GAA in the city. The strength of the Irish community in Coventry has also thrown its weight behind the team with Irish pub The Four Provinces being the university team’s sponsor.

The team includes students from all years of study, as well as five Gaelic football sports scholars and one football scholar. One of the players, Aoife Hands, is a final-year dietetics student who made the move from ATU to Coventry University and says the championship victory was the icing on the cake of her time here.

The 24-year-old said: “It was absolutely amazing and there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that we weren’t going to win the title. We worked for months and it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in Cov and also in my life. It was really supportive to have people on the sidelines and some of the girls also ran a Facebook Live for those that hadn’t been able to make it over so that nobody missed out. It was really, really wholesome.

“It was a big part for me coming over here that I knew a lot of the girls and it helped me to settle in a new city. It’s mad to think that we are all over here together and living the university experience. The link between Coventry University and ATU is amazing and you wouldn’t get that sort of offer in many places.”

Fellow player Orlaith Connolly, who is studying physiotherapy, added: “We won all of our games on the first day and in our semi-final we were unbelievable – I didn’t know we could play that well. We had already played Liverpool on the Saturday and won by two points ahead of playing them in the final on Sunday. I played last year when we lost in the semi-final, so to win this time…I don’t think anything will beat that feeling. My mum and dad came over which was great. Our families see us play all the time at home but not over here so that was nice for everybody.”

Find out more about Coventry University’s sports scholarships.

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