By Donie Butler, Kilkenny soccer historian
Fifteen Kilkenny soccer women were reunited at the weekend to celebrate their extraordinary achievements on the soccer fields of Ireland from over 50 years ago.
The Mayor Cllr David FitzGerald accorded them a Civic reception at the City Hall and presented each of the players with a parchment listing their achievements. At City Hall the Mayor was very gracious in his congratulatory message to the women and their guests. Michael Walshe Manager/Coach to all three teams replied. Anne Griffith Fit Remoulds/Evergreen LAFC Captain and Kilkenny’s first international women’s player responded on behalf of her colleagues. Rob Higton Chairman of Kilkenny & District League spoke in glowing terms of the women and their achievements. Donie Butler read a remembrance prayer/poem by Charles Dickens ‘These Things Shall Never Die’ for departed team colleagues.
In the evening, sporting ecumenism was very evident when events moved onto St John’s Park, O’Loughlin Gaels GAA club, where a commemorative plaque was unveiled by the Mayor Cllr David Fitzgerald and guest of honour, Piltown native and 35 times capped Republic of Ireland international, Karen Duggan. The players received Kilkenny & District League certificates acknowledging their National Cup achievements from Karen Duggan.
There was a champagne reception on arrival at O’Loughlin Gaels clubhouse and a beautiful meal was enjoyed by the 30 players and guests. Donie Butler Honorary Trustee Kilkenny & District League and event Convenor paid a special thank you to O’Loughlin Gaels GAA club and Joan Galwey, Honorary Secretary replied on behalf of the club. Donie also extended his thanks to the sponsors of the events, Fran Grincell Properties, Kilkenny & District League, Evergreen AFC and Glanbia Nutritional’s.
A most relaxed and enjoyable evening was had by the players at the Balcony Lounge at OLG overlooking the playing field where they had performed their skills in that first final in 1972. Most of the time was spent reminiscing and recalling great stories and a few tall tales or two about events of 50 years ago.
Fit Remoulds/Evergreen LAFC spectacular achievements included:
• Playing as Fit Remoulds AFC, they played in the inaugural Irish Women’s Soccer Cup Final in 1972. They lost 0-1 to Suffragettes, Dublin.
• The playing of the 1972 inaugural Irish Women’s Cup Final at St John’s Park, Kilkenny City was also unique in that it happened at O’Loughlin Gaels GAA grounds.
• Playing as Evergreen LAFC they won the next two cup finals in 1973 versus Avengers, Dublin.
• 2-0 at Galway and Galway Town 2-1 in 1974 at Kilkenny.
• Evergreen LAFC were the first Kilkenny team to win a national soccer title at any level either male or female.
• Evergreen LAFC were founder members of the Women’s National League of Ireland in 1973.
• Four Kilkenny women namely Anne Griffith, Kay Ramsbottom, Connie Jordan and Ursula Grace obtained international caps for the Republic of Ireland across games versus Wales, Northern Ireland and France.
• The international game versus Wales played at Stebonheath Park, Llanelli in May 1973 was Irelands first Women’s International game. Anne Griffith, Kay Brennan and Ursula Grace all had been chosen for the game but only Anne was able to partake.
Congratulations to the Kilkenny Soccer Belles and heroines of 1972-1974.