Expat women on top of the GAA world

Australasia's Irish-born women emerged triumphant in both the ladies football and camogie contests at the recent GAA World Games.

Former Kerry All-Star Caroline Kelly, who captained the women’s football team, and camogie leader Sam McKillen of Antrim got to lift the tophies in Croke Park after their teams steamed through their tournaments proving too good for all their competitors.

Caroline Kelly, who plays with Brisbane Souths, told The Irish Echo: "It was really special. It's only starting to sink in now because the week was so quick that it was only afterwards we realised, 'that was a really special occasion and really special week to be part of'.

“Ourselves and Parnells had a really really tough battle in the final and we were so lucky just to come out on the right side of it in the end."

Kelly’s team clinched victory in the most dramatic fashion.

Australasia’s Irish-born women’s captain Caroline Kelly lifts the trophy after her team won the GAA World Games title at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Australasia’s Irish-born women’s captain Caroline Kelly lifts the trophy after her team won the GAA World Games title at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Having trailed for the entire match to Parnell's of London, Kelly stormed through to pass to Tricia Melanaphy for the final score which clinched victory: 2-7 to 1-9.

"I didn't quite realise how little time was left. I knew time was ticking and we had to attack but I don't think I realised that was going to be the last kick of the game, that was our last chance.

"It was pure joy (at the final whistle),” Kelly said.

“Those games are always the better ones to win, those dramatic matches where you just scrape it at the end, just the feeling after it is like nothing else.

"When I left and went to Australia, I thought the big games were behind me. I certainly never thought I would be in Croke Park again never mind climbing the steps of the Hogan Stand.

"What I found lovely about the whole competition was all our families were there to see us. When we're used to playing in Australia, we don't always have that and I think most of the players, after we celebrated with each other, we all went to our families and just to have them share in our joy was really special."

The camogie final was special for the McKillen family. Thirty years on from when Paul McKillen played in an All-Ireland hurling final for Antrim, he watched his daughter Sam become a champion in Croke Park.

Sam McKillen lifts the trophy after leading the Australasian Irish-born women to victory at the GAA’s World Games competition at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Sam McKillen lifts the trophy after leading the Australasian Irish-born women to victory at the GAA’s World Games competition at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Sam, of Cormac McAnallens club in Sydney, told The Irish Echo: "Of course he was proud. He's still proud, he's going round the town telling everyone, 'this girls's a world champion'.

"It was nice bringing back that memory and him seeing me win, he's ecstatic. He can't stop talking about it. The biggest thing about it all for me was I played in Croke Park, we won and I had my family there watching me. What else would you want?

"It was great to bring the cup back to Sydney. I don't think I'll ever get to climb the steps of Croke Park again but it was class. Going to Croke Park, playing in front of your family and friends, playing with those girls especially, the talent is unreal. The girls I'm playing with out there are outstanding players. The feeling is unexplainable."

McKillen and her team steamed through the competition winning many of their matches by big scores, beating Middle East by 1-10 to 1-4 in the final.

"Middle East were a great team,” McKillen said.

“The score didn't tell the full story of that game, they put it up to us. I was still fighting for every last ball like it meant everything. Even if we were ahead by a couple of points, it felt like we were behind. We did win it comfortably but credit to them as well."

Australasia also took the best and fairest in two codes, Karen Jones took the Irish-born camogie honour while Lauren Saunders was honoured in ‘native-born’ women’s football.

Australasia were also runners-up in three more codes.

The ‘native-born’ women lost out 0-6 to 1-7 to New York's Liberty Ladies. The Irish-born footballers went down 1-9 to 3-9 to Middle East. The Irish-born hurlers also lost to Middle East by 3-7 to 2-15. The ‘native-born’ footballers were eliminated at the quarter-final stage by New York Freedom.