After having tremendous success in recent years at junior level, it was decided that Castlebar Rounders Club would enter the All-Ireland Minor Championship. The panel although quite young brought with them a wealth of experience with them, with each player taking the National Junior titles between 3 and 6 times.
In the preliminary rounds Castlebar met the women from Ulster with teams being represented from Cavan and Derry. The Mayo Ladies took no prisoners taking the victory over both teams 15-5 and 21-4 respectively. With Castlebar dominating their round the seat was secured at semi-final level. It was here they met Dublin’s Limekiln.
Past animosity between these two teams always guarantees a good game. Four years ago the exact same panel from the two sides of the country met. Limekiln was triumphant on that occasion but have been unsuccessful in every meeting since then. Castlebar were hopeful that once again Limekiln would not be glorious. Although Limekiln won the toss they didn’t succeed in getting any runner to 1st base. Castlebar’s turn to bat brought the fearless Michelle Newcombe to bat. Michelle a renowned batter in her own right, made contact and sent the ball flying between 1st and 2nd unreachable to any outfielder. This batting resulted in a home run and edged Castlebar into the lead.
The mighty wrath of Olivia Tolster bowling proved too much the Dubs. Those who hit, hit foul and for those who didn’t hit the play were captured by Michelle Hopkins to make the out with Ciara Groonell on first or Tressan Maughan on third. Limekiln’s fielding was equally as good.
The feisty Emma Flannelly stunned their bowler with her low and hard hitting, and Michelle Newcombe zoned in on their weak spot with a great hit outfield right bringing two home. Limekiln began showing their cracks letting Orla Conlon in to score. Castlebar now had a comprehensive lead. The lethal combination of Olivia Tolster bowling and Michelle "Hoppy" Hopkins back-catching finished off the Dubliners thus promising Castlebar a place in the final.
The U18 final was against the reigning All-Ireland Minor champions Bagenalstown, from Carlow. As predicted this was never going to be a high scoring match due to the regular high standard of fielding from both teams. The game started off in a very tense atmosphere. Castlebar won the toss and chose to field first. Brilliant throwing to Ciara Groonell on first base from back catcher Michelle Hopkins led to the first out in this match. However, strategic hitting from Bagenalstown resulted in them scoring a run. Cpt Orla Conlon led her troops by example and caught what can only be described as a ‘Garyowen’ strike on second base. This seemed to rally the troops and Olivia Tolster went on to catch the third out. It was now Castlebar’s turn to bat, know that scores was vital, Kathryn ‘Sully’ Sullivan stepped up to the mark. A strategic hit down third base line resulted in her securing first base. Olivia Tolster and Orla Conlon followed this up with great hitting resulting in everyone getting to their required bases with ease.
Bases loaded the pressure was on Claire ‘The Flyer’ Ryder to hit. The Flyer delivered an excellent hit out the field resulting with Bagenalstown outfielder Katie Simmons turning on her heels and running after the ball, this resulted in two scores being scored. This was the end of the scoring in this inning as Bagenalstown caught two out and another on second base. The score after the first inning 2-1 in favour of Castlebar. The second inning was fast and effective hitting with explosive yet controlled sprinting by both teams. The fielding was superb and the passing of the ball was perfection in itself, with target players Michelle Newcombe, Liane Smyth, Sarah O’Neill being left with no fear of a throw being misdirected.
Castlebar were unlucky not to score in this inning but from a neutral view they looked to be in a more commanding position. The third inning was the turning point in the game. Bagenalstown got all their runners on the base, unquestionably their best batter Marian McTigue stood up to the plate, she hit a rocket of a hit down third base line which could have resulted in a home-run hit however the talented Tressan Maughan stood her ground and caught the ball with awesome ease. Olivia Tolster frustrated the next two batters with smart and effective bowling resulting in both batters hitting the ball foul. Castlebar never looked back from this inning; excellent batting by Ciara Groonell, Katie Tynan, Michelle Hopkins and Orla Conlon resulted in Castlebar increasing their lead to 6-1. This excellent batting coupled with excellent catching and throwing by Michelle Hopkins and Ciara Groonell resulted in a Castlebar win of 6-2.
Castlebar Rounders Club would like to thank Patsy Noone for the use of Davitt College pitch, everyone who contributed to our flag day and as always a huge thanks for the continued support and advice of Tom Cusack, John Golden and Pauline Rodgers.
U18 team – Olivia Tolster, Michelle Hopkins, Ciara Groonell, Orla Conlon, Tressan Maughan, Katie Tynan, Kathryn Sullivan, Claire Ryder, Michelle Newcombe, Liane Smyth, Sarah O’Neill, Emer Dolan, Juliet Connaughton, Emma Flannelly, Rebecca Conlon, Majella Haverty and Fionnuala Quinn.
Managers - Brianne Moran, Eleanor O’Boyle, Grainne Cashin, Kathryn O’Boyle and Helen Lydon.
U18 Photo – Back row L-R –Katie Tynan, Emma Flannelly, Ciara Groonell, Sarah O’Neill, Olivia Tolster, Emer Dolan, Rebecca Conlon and Juliet Connaughton
Front row L-R – Liane Smyth, Michelle Newcombe, Tressan Maughan, Orla Conlon (Cpt), Kathryn Sullivan, Claire Ryder, Michelle Hopkins. Missing from photo – Fionnuala Quinn and Majella Haverty