Women's and men's footballers win in Hamilton
National titles for our women's and men's footballers at the New Zealand Championships, with our women's footballers completing a historic treble for the season.
An action-packed New Zealand Championships were hosted by Naomh Críostóir on 25 and 26 March 2023 at Hamilton Marist RFC. With the cancellation of the 2020 and 2022 competitions due to COVID, the competition was welcomed back by all players and supporters with open arms.
Five Wellington/Hutt Valley teams along with coaches and loyal supporters made the trip to the Waikato for the two-day competition. Senior and junior women's football teams, a junior men's football team, camogie and hurling teams comprising 56 players lined out for our teams over the weekend. 20 counties were represented across our five teams, with players from the UK, Australia and several New Zealanders also on our teamsheets.
It was another tournament to remember as our women's senior footballers and men’s junior footballers won their respective competitions. The women's football team defeated a strong St Pat's team in their final, while the men's footballers overcame hosts Naomh Críostóir in a final that came down to the wire. Andrea O'Reilly (women's football) and Lewis Fordham (men's football) were duly awarded player of the final awards.
For our women's footballers, the win completes a historic treble for the season, adding to the Australasian State Games and Wellington Sevens victories earlier in the season – an amazing achievement.
Like the 2020/21 season, we're thrilled to have picked up silverware in each of the four codes. Such a feat is rare and it’s without doubt a testament to the hard work and commitment from our players, coaches, club administrators, as well as the culture of our club. We look forward to celebrating these successes with you all at our awards night on Saturday 29 April.
Finally, huge credit to Naomh Críostóir on hosting their first New Zealand Championships. It was a well-organised and enjoyable occasion, and we already can’t wait for our next trip back to ‘The Tron’.
You can view photos from the competition on Naomh Críostóir's Facebook page and on photographer Norrie Mailer's Facebook page.
Read a recap of each team's weekend below.
Our women’s senior footballers won their first New Zealand Championships since 2015 with a four-point final win over St Pat’s Emerald City.
Our junior footballers played in a five-team tournament over the weekend and gave a great account of themselves, beating St Pat’s Emerald City and reaching the semi-finals. Several players played across both teams over the two days.
With two competitions under their belt for the season, our senior footballers were undoubtedly favourites heading into the weekend. Nevertheless, three Auckland sides – St Pat’s Emerald City, Marist Rangers and a Harps/Celtics amalgamated team – would be no pushovers.
Saturday’s round robin couldn’t have gone better as we topped the group with three wins in three games. The tightest game being that against St Pat’s where we eked out a narrow victory.
Sunday’s semi-final was a comfortable win against Marist Rangers, which set up a rematch with St Pat’s in the final. It was going to be another tough test against St Pat’s whose team – and overall club – have experienced a renaissance in the last 18 months.
The final would be the fifth game of the weekend – a ninth for some of our dual players – and fatigue and injuries were taking their toll. However, we started the sprightlier and built up a solid first-half lead. Andrea O’Reilly landed two quickfire goals following some trademark lung-bursting runs from midfield. Eilís Ní Chaiside similarly put in the yards and carried ample ball into attack for lively forwards Éimeár Ní Rodáin and Niamh Kelly. In defence Jenny Downey, Carol Carmody, Tiaré Verenitani and Mairéad Bogue did brilliant work to stifle the St Pat’s attack.
The second half did see the Aucklanders claw back at our lead, landing a goal and a few points. It led to a tense final quarter as we were forced to withhold wave after wave of attack. Captain and custodian Heather Williamson pulled off some excellent saves in the dying minutes, but St Pat’s did raise a second green flag through a converted penalty to narrow the lead to three points.
The game was in the melting pot, but thankfully we won the following kickout. Andrea O’Reilly, like she’s done so many times this season, gathered the ball in the half-back line and made a beeline for the St Pat’s goal. En route she was fouled, won a free, and put it over the bar. It was the final action of the game, and four points the better (2-9 – 2-5), we were crowned New Zealand Champions for 2022/23. Well done to St Pat’s on an excellent game of football.
Andrea deservedly won player of match, and at this stage she must be hiring out storage space to fit the glut of team and individual awards she’s picked up this season.
The victory completes a famous treble season – another historic milestone for our club. Congratulations to all players and coaches on this tremendous achievement.
A big shout out to this season’s management team of Ronan O’Malley, Paul O'Hare and Davey Rynne on guiding the team to three trophies.
Our men’s footballers claimed the New Zealand junior footballer title following an epic clash against Naomh Críostóir in the final.
Having won the senior competition for the first time in 2021, our men’s footballers lined out in the junior competition this year. With a good blend of youth and experience (mainly experience), the lads were going well at training and quietly confident heading into the weekend.
Four other teams just as eager awaited them: hosts Naomh Críostóir; two Auckland teams in Marist Rangers and St Pat’s Emerald City; and Queenstown.
A string of fine performances saw the lads record three wins and a draw against Queenstown in Saturday’s round robin. This set up a semi-final bout against Marist Rangers on the Sunday, where we put in a controlled display to book a spot in the final.
Playing on home soil and in front of a home crowd, Naomh Críostóir would always be the most testing opponents in the final. However, with the wind at our backs in the opening half we held a decent lead at the short whistle. This was thanks in no small part to the sharpshooting forward line of Mike Lawson, Trevor Mangan and William O’Connor. In the middle and at the back, John McCabe, captain Brian Kelly and Angus Howden showed great leadership in thwarting the hosts’ attack, while fresh-faced newcomer Lewis Fordham was proving a real handful.
The second half was a different proposition as the Waikato men, now aided by the wind, upped the intensity. Strong around the middle with the likes of ex-Wellington/Hutt Valley player Ollie Macken leading the charge, Naomh Críostóir chipped away at the scoreline and hit the net twice to narrow the margin. The final few minutes were nervy, but defenders George Daly and Eoin ‘Brick’ Norton worked tirelessly to keep the home team at bay. Keeper Davey Rynne commanded the goalmouth well and, after succumbing to injury, his replacement Ronan O’Malley pulled off a point-blank save with a goal in it.
The ensuing final minutes continued to be backs to the wall, but the final whistle was soon met with great relief and jubilation as we got over the line on a score of 1-11 to 2-5. Thanks to Naomh Críostóir for a competitive and entertaining final.
Well done to Lewis Fordham on his player of the final award. His enterprising play and boundless energy were a great asset to the team. Lewis just joined the club at the start of 2023 and we’re sure he’ll have a bright future in Wellington/Hutt Valley colours yet.
Congratulations to all players as well as player-coaches John McCabe and Enda Costello on a terrific win in a competitive tournament.
After a great weekend of performances, our camógs were outdone by a clinical Auckland team in the final.
Following the Wellington Sevens victory in October last, there was much excitement in the camogie camp travelling to Hamilton.
Like the sevens, Canterbury and Auckland would serve as the opposition. Saturday saw a couple of tight contests with a win over Canterbury and a narrow loss to Auckland. With Auckland topping the group they earned an automatic spot in the final. It meant we would play Canterbury for the second final spot, and this semi-final turned out to be one of the games of the tournament.
The shooting prowess of Aisling Coleman and Eilís Ní Chaiside saw our women grow a comfortable lead mid-way through the second half. But like any Canterbury team, they did not throw in the towel before the final whistle. Four points up with two minutes left, the Cantabs landed 1-1 in a trice to level the game and bring it to penalties.
Penalties were best out of three. Having gone 2-1 up, keeper Heather Williamson pulled off a magnificent save. Eilís followed up by landing her penalty and booking a place in the final against Auckland.
The final, however, went in Auckland’s favour as a salvo of goals brought them home the silverware. Still, much to be proud of over the weekend and great to see the progress our camógs make with each competition.
Well done to all players on a great season which saw them win silverware at the Wellington Sevens. And of course a huge thanks to Eilís Ní Chaiside and Heather Williamson on leading the team again this season.
The hurlers’ drive for five was put to a halt in the semi-final on Sunday against perennial rivals and eventual winners Canterbury.
Having put the Cantabs to the sword on their way to the Wellington Sevens title earlier in the season, the lads were optimistic about retaining their national crown.
The round robin on Saturday was a testing one though, which saw a loss against a quick and youthful Auckland 1 team, a narrow loss against Canterbury, and a good victory against Auckland 2. However, the growing injury list wasn’t boding well for finals Sunday.
It was another pairing against Canterbury in the semis, and some confidence was definitely taken from the previous day’s tussle. Eoin ‘Brick’ Norton, Peter Hayes and Stephen ‘Scooby’ Coleman fought hard at the back while John ‘Bobs’ Daly, Aidan Browne and loanee Matt from Hamilton in the forwards kept our scoreline ticking over.
However, after half-time Canterbury soon gained the ascendancy. With a recent injection of youth to the team, and several experienced heads – including our winning captain in 2021, Darragh Corboy – the south islanders up the ante and raised several green flags to run out winners.
Well done to all players who have put down another great season, including a Wellington Sevens victory. And player-coaches Peter Hayes and Keith Cleere undoubtedly deserve a bualadh bos for their management of the team this season.