Commencing the series with Gaelic Football, a team that has experienced a fantastic season, including a journey to Glasgow for the British Gaelic Football Championships. Keep reading to find out more.
Having emerged victorious in the BUCS Midlands & South East league, Nottingham Trent’s exceptional performance earned them a spot in a challenging group, pitting them against renowned British GAA powerhouses such as Liverpool Hope, University of Edinburgh, Herriot Watt, and Queen Margaret’s University. Stepping into uncharted territory, the team faced an uphill battle with a depleted squad due to various circumstances. Their first match, scheduled for a 10:15 kick-off against Herriot Watt, demanded an exceptional display from the team. With remarkable finesse, Eugene Appiah and Shay Rafter secured magnificent scores, establishing a substantial advantage. Meanwhile, defenders like Isaac Mckirgan, Joe Sewell, and Luke Horgan, among others, stood their ground, diligently preserving the lead. As the final whistle sounded, Nottingham Trent celebrated their first ever Championship game. The final score stood at NTU 0-8 0-2 Herriot Watt.
The victory provided an enormous boost to the boys’ confidence, propelling them swiftly into their next encounter against the University of Edinburgh. It was a team that had convincingly defeated them at the same stage last year. However, the NTU boys wasted no time and secured a pair of early goals courtesy of Sean McManamon and James Lawlor. Adding to the tally, Isaac Mckirgan struck a thunderous shot off the crossbar, while Eugene Appiah contributed to the onslaught, firmly establishing the game’s outcome. It is crucial to acknowledge the relentless work-rate and unyielding defense of Trent’s players, including Eoin Kellet, Braydon O Donnell, Ben Lawson, and Harry Price. Despite Edinburgh managing to snatch a late consolation goal, it was too little, too late. Final Score: NTU 2-5 1-0 University of Edinburgh.
The lads were 2/2 and absolutely buzzing but they knew their next contest would be the measuring stick for things ahead, Liverpool Hope. Liverpool Hope boast numerous All Britain titles and an entire squad consisting of Irish Imports and several inter county players. However, a bystander would’ve thought it was the other way round based on NTU’s performance. An incredible long-range score from Eugene Appiah and a composed score from Ethan Brewer set the tone, once more tireless and committed play from names like Joe Sewell & Paddy Brady nullified Liverpool Hope. Their GK Ryan Jenkinson was superb pulling off multiple crucial saves. As Liverpool Hope struggled to maintain discipline, seasoned players such as captain James Hanly and Isaac Mckirgan took charge, leading the team both metaphorically and literally. With Trent ahead and Hope chasing the game, the team picked Hope off on the counter-attack via well worked scores from Shay Rafter.
At the sound of the final whistle, the boys had achieved the unimaginable – a remarkable upset. The final score stood at NTU 0-5 0-1 Liverpool Hope.
In their last group game against Queen Margaret’s University, based in Edinburgh, the boys had already secured a spot in the semi-finals. This match, however, was crucial for securing a top-place finish. Understandably, energy levels were diminishing, with it proving challenging to replicate another outstanding performance so shortly after a major victory. The game unfolded as a back-and-forth battle, with Eugene and Shay Rafter once again delivering crucial scores in the first half to keep the team afloat. As the halftime whistle blew, the boys found themselves trailing by a single point. Head Coach Eoghan swiftly made tactical adjustments, stabilizing the team’s performance in the second half, displaying much more composure.
The second half was a relentless display of pace, highlighted by James Hanly’s exceptional passes and commanding midfield presence throughout the day, accompanied by Isaac Mckirgan’s contributions. Shay capitalized on their efforts, punishing Queen Margaret’s University. With less than a minute remaining, a Shay free kick pushed Trent ahead, sealing the victory.
The final score stood at NTU 0-6 0-5 QMU.
A tremendous sense of relief washed over the Trent boys, as they finally had a well-deserved rest period. With word breaking of a semi-final clash with Uni of Liverpool the boys picked some very tired bodies up for the last game of the day. The team had a tall order ahead of them, they faced an experienced opponent, boasting a squad of over 30 talented Irish players.
Right from the throw-in, James Hanly soared high, winning the ball and swiftly passing it back to Luke Horgan. Horgan unleashed an impressive 50-meter pass towards Shay Rafter, who skilfully controlled the ball, evaded his marker, and confidently slotted it past the Liverpool goalkeeper. The jaws of the Liverpool players dropped, realizing they were up against a formidable opponent. Paddy Brady and Eugene showed their prowess by cleaning up loose balls in the midfield and supplying the forward line consisting of Ethan Brewer, Shay Rafter, and Sean McManamon, who reaped havoc on the opposition.
To everyone’s astonishment, further scores from Ethan and Shay put the boys in a commanding 1-4 to 0-3 lead at halftime.
The team were just 15 minutes away from securing a historic and unprecedented spot in the All Britain Finals. However, the University of Liverpool elevated their game in the second half, capitalizing on their depth, experience, and tactical awareness. Liverpool gradually closed the gap, despite a remarkable score from Skipper James Hanly, who managed to find the net from an acute and improbable angle. Contentious decisions seemed to go against Trent, allowing Liverpool to take the lead, which they held onto until the final whistle. The boys had given their all and then some, falling agonizingly short. Nevertheless, they had made themselves and their university proud, standing as a testament to the growing presence of GAA in and around the university and the surrounding areas.
The final score stood at NTU 1-5 0-10 University of Liverpool.
Moving forward to the 2024 season, NTU GAA signs off with determination and optimism.