Sunday, 20 September 2015

Its all kicked off....

What a fantastic couple of weeks we have had as a club. The season was a little later than normal kicking off because of the hurling All Ireland but once things got going it got going very quickly.

This weekend over 400 Colga players kicked off their training or the first matches of the season. Our youngest recruits, the Colga Cadets, began their football journey and how many football stories will these little people have to tell in the coming years is anyone's guess.
Colga's league and cup campaigns kicked off in earnest across all of the age groups competing in the Galway District Leagues. Our under 12 squads, numbering over 35 in total, began competitions in the Connacht Cup and Championship and Division 2. What a wonderful sight on Saturday to see our 2 under 12 teams compete on our new pitch versus Craughwell and Corrib Celtic. Despite the results all of these lads and these teams have bright futures.
The under 13 lads opened up their premier and Division 2 competitions with games versus Athenry and Kiltullagh. Great to see the U13A side kick off with a great win and I have no doubt the B squad will recover from an early turnover. Not many people will note, Colga is one of the few, if not only, community based clubs providing A and B football from under 12 to under 16.
The under 14 league and cup kicked off with our u14A team in the Connacht cup first round. Great win for Gerry, Dave, and the team against Athenry and this was followed up with a premier league victory against Barna. Colga's u14B squad began with a league loss away to Corofin.
And, our under 16 boys teams have already won a Connacht cup first round and began both the Premier and Division 1 leagues. Great to see 2 Colga teams competing at this age group in boys as last season we did not compete at this age group.

For a couple of years the men's junior team has struggled. Unbeknown to most club members, Dermot Finn, the junior manager, and Ollie Mullins, our new junior (and u15 up) coach, got the men's team back into pre-season in mid July. Lot's of runs, training, friendly matches, coupled with ensuring all of our former members know they always have a home, and the team kicked off the Division 3 league with a great 7-1 win vs. Loughrea. I am a firm believer that any club has to have a strong senior team, a goal for all our players to aspire to, and as a club we can all look forward to successes with this team ahead.

This year, unlike others, the girls season kicked off in September. Colga is fielding teams at under 17/18 Premier, under 16 Premier, under 14 Premier, and under 12 Premier and Division 1. The girls under 12 and 14 premier leagues have already kicked off and our girls under 16 team had a fantastic result in Sligo this weekend. This team, competing in the 2015 Connacht Shield, travelled to Sligo and won their semi final 6-2. Already we have a Connacht Final to look forward to as a club.

Finally, with as much football going on, it is easy to forget the great weekend the club had last week. In conjunction with the Clarenbridge Oyster Festival, Colga co-hosted the annual Oyster Festival Family fun day. Despite the awful weather, over 400 club members attended to enjoy the outdoor "wet" activities and listen to the entertainment from the Amazing Apples. One of the highlights for the day was the annual Colga Duck Race. This year we got our club President, Mike Bindon and our junior coach Ollie Mullins into the Clarin river to collect the winning ducks....given the torrent flow this was well beyond the call of duty. It was great to see so many of the club together, volunteering, playing, talking, and it certainly demonstrated the importance of being a club.

This season will be exciting, we will be fielding the most number of under age teams ever, and, whilst participation and enjoyment is everything, I have a sneaky suspicion the club will also be celebrating some silverware this season.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

A club - what is a club?

What is your club? Is it a place to play, a pitch, a team you play with every Saturday, train with during the week, a conversation, something to argue about, a shared experience with a group where otherwise you may struggle to make a connection, a connection with your child, a place to be with people you have grown to call friends....this question has become more and more relevant recently with football debates and concerns over player poaching, young lads leaving for other clubs, with supposedly better facilities and coaches, leading to better opportunities and advancement....I have been involved in football all my life - over 45 years now. I have played with some great players, they  played in World Cups and in premier leagues, and I have been blessed to be influenced by some amazing mentors and coaches, and through football, I have met my greatest friends.
Normally, I would not write about my personal feelings or influences but I believe this is important. For me, a club is about where you belong - it is about how you feel deep inside, what makes you tick, what motivates, what makes you want to play with the guy beside you, what you feel when you arrive at your home ground, the gate, the wall, the familiarity, how you sit in your own dressing room, probably the same seat, when you put on your jersey, how you run onto your own pitch, and how you feel strange when it is not yours....the pitch is different, the smell, the feel, the ref, yet, not at home, you look around, familiar lads, your coach, your jersey, your club, still away from home, but at least together, a team away from home, representing your club.

A club to me is being absolutely part of something. Not only the team you are playing on but passionately wanting the other teams to succeed and's checking the weekly fixtures, it's praying the weekly results go our way, it's revelling in the success of a team from our home, it's being proud of wearing that hoodie to school, it's liking your club, it's sharing a tweet, it's posting a photo, its instagramming your greatest moment....and ultimately, in person, it's so obvious to everyone what you love, why you love it, and it is part of what you are and most likely where you came from. It's your club.

Next season, Colga FC celebrate our 20th year as a club. Lot's more will be written and shared about the genesis and the experience to date, but, for now, we want to recognise what we are as a club. We want to begin our celebration about what it means to wear the red and white, what it means to debate are we from Clarinbridge, Kilcolgan, Kilcornan, touching Kinvarra, and kissing Craughwell, but ultimately, a club which recognises the importance of the past as we build for the future. For those of you who read this blog, potentially from far and wide, irrespective of your involvement in our club, recognising it does not matter if you have left us for a period of time, we want to reach out and reconnect. We want to hear from you and ensure you feel part of what the club wants to become.
As part of this, on Saturday, June 6th, Colga will celebrate our annual World cup day in Kilcornan. Later that evening, in Paddy Burkes, we are hoping to get everyone, past and present, involved with the club, to get back together and share experiences...share memories...share stories...but most importantly, share what it means to be part of our club. Colga FC.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

What is it?

"What is it," he asked. "What is it?"

The Irish cup is a love affair. Teams travel the four corners of this country searching for an elusive prize. From under 12 to 18, three hundred team across Ireland enter this great competition. The big teams sail through their regional/divisional games. They presume national success....six nil, five one, maybe a close 4 nil thrown in...four games in and they are relishing success...they showed up against the same old teams, won, and moved on. 

From an original 300, 16 clubs remain from across the land. The draw is made and the tide changes. No longer facing the same old rivals; no longer sitting in their own dressing room; no longer recognising the referee; no longer knowing the wind and the slope of the pitch; only knowing and fearing what you don't know.

2 of these clubs, last Saturday, followed a set of directions...from the midlands, from off at Oranmore, took a left at the roundabout, a right at Fury's cross, continued for 2 miles, stopped, Casey's Cross, stayed right at the fork, went up the hill, entered the woods...they looked right and saw our "home in the woods."
Any visiting team arriving would be struck by the setting. The trees and the woods, the rolling landscape, the panoramic view. They park their bus, look around, and wonder, Colga FC, and they try to figure it out....many come from the big leagues, with carpet perfect surfaces, majestic clubhouses, warm showers and dressing a club we know, it's coming, not quiet there yet, but it's coming...
And they all got a welcome, nearly in the hundreds, as little men from Portloaise and Bray and Colga pitted themselves against each other, my goodness, they got a welcome. Our home in the woods reverberated with shouts of anguish, of nearly's of what should have been, and eventually what was...both sorrow and joy. Between heroic penalties and injury time goals, joy for the home team, sorrow for the visitors, the tide had turned....and they all shared a cup of tea, a coffee, a cake, a sandwich, all welcomed and included in our home....and they talked about the love affair that began months and months ago and what they dreamed about.
And, as the buses departed, the crowds left, and our home in the woods became quiet again, 2 teams still had that dream. And, he looked up, and asked, "what is is, Dad, what is's belief."