UAE

Abu Dhabi na Fianna ladies' remarkable record of success

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Celebration time: Abu Dhabi na Fianna.

With only three defeats in 103 games over a four-year period, the ladies from the capital recently completed a Treble after beating Dubai Celts in the championship final – adding to their league and Asian Games triumphs earlier this year.

Another remarkable season for Abu Dhabi ended with another impressive haul of trophies; captain Sinead Walker is convinced that it is the club’s strong sense of camaraderie that is behind the success.

“We’re a tight knit group. When we all started playing for the club it felt like a home away from home,” Walker said.

“It makes life a lot easier to live in Abu Dhabi and helps you to get through the working week.”

Competition for places is fierce with 120 girls training three nights a week at Zayed Sports City fighting out for spots on the 11 ladies teams.

“We’re really lucky with the B and C team being so competitive,” coach James Ryan said.

“There is a massive fight for places and a lot of the girls would be disappointed if they were left off the team. They’d come back and train harder to ensure they make it the next time.”

It’s a star-studded side, featuring a host of former inter-county players including Niamh Lohan (Galway), Niamh Carroll (Wicklow), Amy McAleer (Roscommon) and Walker (Westmeath).

Loretta Maher of Duagh – sister of All-Ireland winner and 2015 All Star Anthony – has even played for Ireland in basketball.

The highlight of the ladies’ season was unquestionably clinching the Asian Games title in Shanghai in October, overcoming teams from the likes of India, South Korea, China and Thailand to cement their status as the best team on the continent.

A month after Abu Dhabi’s crowning moment came a crucial crossroads in their season as they suffered defeat to Dubai Celts in the Bahrain finals. It was a loss that spurred the girls on to bounce back to winning ways.

“They were champing at the bit and dying to get back at it again,” Ryan added. “They weren’t happy with losing because they are so used to winning. They just wanted to get some payback for the loss.”

Skipper Walker believes defeat in Bahrain allowed the team to re-group and what followed were two enthralling performances against the Celts in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in which they prevailed by the thinnest of margins.

“When you are winning for so long, something has to give. You can’t keep going and going,” said Walker. “It’s definitely the best thing that’s happened to us when we lost in Bahrain.

“We refocused and came back stronger. That’s why it’s so special to win the league and championship.”

Ladies football in the region continues to thrive with more than 500 girls participating in the latest competition two weeks ago.

Abu Dhabi – along with Dubai Celts – continue to dominate ladies football and judging by their colossal pool of talent will be difficult to stop going forward.

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