By Trevor Howlett
Last weekend was the first time a sanctioned Gaelic football tournament has been held locally and the debut of the brand new Fort McMurray Shamrocks women’s team.
A few members of the Shamrocks team played for Calgary last season at the Alberta Cup. Despite it being their first time playing the sport, they instantly fell in love with Gaelic football and wanted to represent their own city. Although none of the members are Irish, the team put on a show for the hometown fans last weekend as they crushed the Edmonton Wolfe Tones, winning total scores of 8-2 and 27-0 despite never having played together before.
Shaunna Mellon, born and raised in Fort McMurray, was particularly noticeable on the pitch as she scored two points in the Shamrocks first game and four goals and two points in their second match.
Despite not having played the game growing up, the team has a strong soccer background and great conditioning which helps a lot in the traditional Irish sport.
“We play a little more soccer-style, more balls on the ground and we would kick pass more often than other teams,” said Mellon. “We also shoot more from the ground, as opposed to using your hands because it’s just natural.”
Mellon played two seasons for the Keyano Huskies soccer team a couple of years ago and also has played volleyball and basketball growing up. Skills from all of those sports are key in Gaelic football. While her heart will always favour soccer, she’s loving the fresh challenge presented by Gaelic football.
“Soccer is always my number one, but this was something new and exciting to try and challenge myself,” said Mellon.
“It’s definitely a challenge for me. It’s not natural to solo to yourself or bounce the ball. You always have to think. Soccer is more natural to me, but I like everything about it. It’s fun to play and fun to watch.”
After weeks of training and scrimmaging with the men’s Shamrocks team, being able to handedly beat an established team like Edmonton was a surreal experience. But it was also a proud moment for members from the men’s team, who helped coach their female counterparts and introduce them to the sport.
“I was so impressed with the ladies team. I think they’re the team of the day to be honest,” said Gary Dolan who co-founded the men’s team and helped coach the women’s Shamrocks.
“For the first time out they played unbelievable. Shaunna played well, but she had some great teammates with her too.”
The next challenge for the women’s shamrock team will be a tournament in Edmonton on June 23.
Hometown: Fort McMurray, Alta.
Team: Fort McMurray Shamrocks women’s Gaelic Football Team
Position: Full Forward
Weight: 125 lbs
Favourite athlete: Argentine soccer forward Lionel Messi. “He’s amazing. If you just watch clips of him, he can dribble through anyone.”
Career highlight: Winning the first two games of the Alberta Cup last weekend. “This was nice, my family was here and my friends. I think it was really good for Fort Mac to host the tournament just to show that option is out there. We have soccer teams and rugby teams, but this is something new.”
Career goals: Winning the Alberta Cup and then the Western Canadian Championship.
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