Some of the Dalriada School volleyball player who have reached the All Ireland finals this week.Some of the Dalriada School volleyball player who have reached the All Ireland finals this week.
Some of the Dalriada School volleyball player who have reached the All Ireland finals this week.

Anticipation mounts as Dalriada vollleyball teams head to historic All-Ireland finals

In a season that has already exceeded expectations, Dalriada School’s Under 16 boys’ and girls’ volleyballteams are now on the cusp of glory as they prepare for their respective All Ireland finals.

The anticipation among players, coaches and parents is palpable, as both teams gear up for what promises to be a thrilling conclusion to their remarkable campaigns.

The boys’ team, under the seasoned guidance of coach, past student, and all Ireland Winner Rebecca Parkhill, have demonstrated a blend of defensive capability and strength in attack, navigating a challenging schedule with resilience and determination.

With a sound record of only one loss this season, they have won their domestic league for the first time since 2016, thanks to standout performances from Northern Ireland players Tom Stewart and James Green. The team is a combination of Year 11 and 12 students, which bodes well for the future.

On the other side, the girls’ team goes from strength to strength, coached by Dr Ian Walker who said: “I cannot believe the resilience of these girls. All of them are in Year 11 which effectively means they have a whole year to compete in this age category.”

Despite facing recent setbacks, including injuries to key players like senior middle blocker Brooke McCalmont, the team rallied, showing depth and versatility. Finishing the season with an impressive winning record, and despite their young age, the girls have defied expectations, with pivotal wins against top-ranked opponents from across NI. The leadership of Northern Ireland international, Hope Ballantyne, alongside the strategic hitting of her international counterpart Erin Hart, has been instrumental in their league success.

The boys are set to face off against one of the best boys’ teams in Ireland, St. Brigid’s, Galway. The team is known for its aggressive serves and solid defence. This is the first time the two schools have ever met in the final.

The girls face a formidable opponent in the Coláiste Muire, a team with a formidable front line and a reputation for powerful attacking play. The Dalriada girls have met the Co. Clare girls many times before in the final, with the County Antrim girls winning the past two occasions. The final is a repeat of last year when the Dalriada girls brought the title north of the border.

Both coaches share their pride in their teams’ achievements and their focus on the final challenge. “It’s about more than volleyball,” Dr Walker remarked. “It’s about teaching these young athletes about dedication, teamwork, and pushing beyond what they thought possible. Win or lose, our teams have already accomplished so much this season. They’ve inspired a thriving younger generation of players at the school as well as each other.”

The All-Ireland Finals are scheduled for Thursday, March 14, with both matches commencing at 11:30am at the South Lakes Leisure Centre, Craigavon. A minute’s silence will be held in memory of the late school principal Tom Skelton who always travelled to support the teams when they got to this final stage.