Cashel Town Schoolgirls enjoyed a unique experience on Wednesday evening last, when they were visited by American Collegiate Women’s soccer team, the Charlotte 49er’s, from North Carolina.
The American team were on the final leg of their pre-season tour to Ireland and the UK, and stopped off in the town, to complete a warm up session before travelling to Dublin to take on the Irish women’s u21 team.
One of the main reasons that Cashel was added to the 49er’s itinerary was because their Head Coach John Cullen has extensive family connections in the town.
Although born in London, John’s father is Michael Cullen, who hails from the town and moved back home a number of years ago, living now in Abbeyside amongst his extended family and friends. Speaking to John at the session, he told our reporter that he was very proud to bring his squad to Cashel, and to introduce his football family to his real family.
Many of the extended Cullen family were aware of John’s exploits in the soccer world, but this gave him an opportunity to let them see the work he does, with an elite college team. He also commented on the welcome that he got from the local club, citing it as phenomenal and also fantastic to see so many young girls playing soccer to a very high standard.
The warmth and friendliness that they were received with was no real surprise to him, but was something that he was very proud to show to the American girls that travelled with him.
And while the main focus of the visit was to keep the 49er’s ticking over before their season starts, John and fellow Charlotte 49er's coach Kim Carelle, spent an hour giving a coaching session to members of the Cashel Town Schoolgirls club. Girls from six to 16 years of age participated and impressed the visiting coaches with both their enthusiasm and their ability.
Asked how they felt working again with younger players, both John and Kim said it was a pleasure, and that they are always happy to see players with a smile on their face, playing the game that both of them love. They also felt that with hard work and dedication, it might not be surprising to see a couple of the Cashel girls either playing with or against the 49er’s in college competition in years to come.
Later Wednesday evening after the football activities were finished, the American girls then sampled the other side of Irish hospitality, when John introduced them to an Irish party night in Foley's Bar. Mingling with the locals, the 49er’s team captain Rebecca Beatty said that she was blown away by the friendliness of the welcome that they have received and said that if this was what Ireland was like, she’d consider living here full time and not just on a flying visit. She jokingly referred to the cold however as one reason she might stick to the sunnier climes in Northern Carolina.
Rebecca also praised the local girls for being so attentive and warm with their guests, and said that it was wonderful to see the large numbers of girls playing soccer. She also enjoyed meeting her coaches extended family, and gaining lots of stories and memories to bring back home with her in the States. She cited the wonderful singing of Mickey Hickey to the delight of the travelling group, as something she’s not likely to forget when she gets back home.
Overall the visit was a huge hit with both locals and visitors, and went down as a highlight of the summer for both sets of girls. The North Carolina team will now return home to where they face Division One football in the NCAA College series, the highest level of women’s college soccer in the States, with the best wishes of all at Cashel Town Schoolgirls ringing in their ears.