Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first ever All-Ireland ladies football final at Croke Park last Sunday were members of the Offaly ladies team who lined out against Tipperary in 1974. Back row, l-r: Phyllis Hackett; Ann Molloy; Catherine Hanlon; Mary Lowry; Mary Nevin; Mary Boland. Front row, l-r: Lucy Bryant; Catherine Conroy; Fidelma Geraghty; Kathleen Buckley; Tona McDonald; Mary Todd; and Agnes Gorman, who captained the 1974 team.

Offaly’s ladies football trail blazers honoured in Croke Park

The Offaly ladies footballers who took part in the first-ever All-Ireland ladies football final in 1974 were described as “trailblazers” for their sport by the President-elect of the Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA), Trina Murray, at a special commemoration ceremony in Croke Park on Sunday afternoon last.

The event was held to mark the huge contribution that the Offaly ladies made to the development of ladies football in Ireland, with Trina Murray outlining the remarkable achievement of that first team in winning nine Leinster titles in a row from 1974 to 1982 and also winning two All-Irelands, in 1979 and 1981. She said it was “an honour” to have the members of the Offaly team in Croke Park.

The sole survivor of the management team of the 1974 Offaly ladies football team, Brendan Martin, was in attendance at last Sunday's commemorative event, where he was thanked for his gesture of donating the inaugural Brendan Martin Cup, which has been presented to the winners of the All-Ireland ladies senior final ever since 1974.

The contribution of the other members of the Offaly ladies management team, all of whom are now deceased, Mick Talbot (Kilcormac-Killoughey); Joe Feery (Ballycommon) and Br. Sylvester (Clara) were also noted at the event.

Each member of the Offaly ladies football panel from 1974 was introduced by name to cheering spectators on the Croke Park pitch last Sunday during the half-time interval of this year's Leinster final between Dublin and Meath. And it was a deeply emotional gesture for the trailblazing team.

During a special meal in Croke Park, each member of the Offaly team was presented with a commemorative medal marking their participation in the first-ever All-Ireland ladies final by the LFGA President-elect. Ms Murray said these players had “paved the way” for the development of ladies football which is now of the fastest growing sports in the world.

It was also noted that Offaly was the only county in Ireland to achieve the distinction of having three senior teams in All-Ireland finals in the same year. The year was 1981, with the men's senior hurlers and footballers and the senior ladies all lining out in finals!

The former Offaly players expressed their thanks to the Leinster Council for honouring their achievement in playing in the first-ever All-Ireland ladies final 50 years ago, and acknowledged TG4 for their continued sponsorship of the ladies game which has contributed enormously to raising the standard of ladies football and bringing it to a wider audience.