Shane O'Neill's in quest for icing on cake
All-Ireland Club Ladies’ Intermediate Football Championship final: Shane O’Neill’s (Armagh) v Annaghdown (Galway) (tomorrow, Parnell Park, 1pm)
WHATEVER the result in tomorrow afternoon’s All-Ireland Intermediate Club Ladies’ Football Championship Final, Shane O’Neill’s will never forget what 2016 has delivered.
The Armagh and Ulster champions and are on the cusp of All-Ireland glory just nine short years after their formation, something that many clubs never get the chance to experience.
This is a team that epitomises the saying of ‘you get out of it what you put in’ and their ‘neversay-die’ attitude has played a big part in helping them to reach the heights of today.
An Armagh junior county title in 2013 was followed up by the provincial crown, only to lose out in the All-Ireland quarterfinals to Edinburgh side Dunedin Connollys.
That caused a lot of hurt and pain among a very young group of players, but they have channelled that to help them develop into the team they are today.
Three years can make a lot of difference and they plied their trade in the intermediate section for a couple of seasons, clinching that title this year and entering provincial territory. The Ulster intermediate club competition is not an easy one, but the Camlough side prevailed and were the last team standing, defeating Kinawley in a highscoring final.
Onwards they stepped into the All-Ireland series. And not for the first time this season they have had to show their resolve and dig deep against Parnells in the semi-final.
They hung on in the end to win by three points to book their place in this weekend’s final, but they almost let slip a nine-point lead in the second half and, no doubt, that tough test will stand to them.
“Throughout the championship the girls have showed a nevergive-up attitude, which really stands to us in the last 10 minutes of any game,” said captain Louise Kenny.
“Parnells were a very strong physical team who really put it up to us. It took a whole team effort to come out on top but everyone worked well to help us get over that hurdle.
“Having such a physical match behind us will certainly help us in the final against Annaghdown. Everyone will dig deep on Sunday to ensure we can come out on top.”
Nerves are a natural part of any game and it is hard to keep the butterflies from fluttering especially ahead of an All-Ireland final and Kenny hopes the nerves will not upstage them, especially when the belief is there among the team that they can win.
“The girls will certainly have nerves, however, it is important that they go out and enjoy the experience no matter what the outcome is,” she added.
“It is about the girls’ belief that they have the ability to beat any team as long as we all work together and give it 100 per cent. Having had such a big game in the semi hopefully that will stand by us.”
Their opposition, Galway and Connacht champions Annaghdown, find themselves in uncharted territory.
Their ambition for the year was to win their county championship after back-to-back final defeats in the previous two years.
Each game since has been taken one at a time and suddenly they find themselves at the final step.
They are led by former Galway inter-county star Niamh Duggan, an All-Ireland senior medal winner with the Tribeswomen in 200 – along with team-mate Fiona Wynne – and the attacking midfielder was instrumental in her club’s semi-final win over Waterford side Abbeyside.
Shane O’Neill’s have been concentrating on themselves because they realistically know anyone who makes a final will be a hard team to beat.
“The whole community have got behind the girls throughout the campaign,” said Kenny.
“They have become our 16th man. To win, for a lot of the girls it would be unbelievable, for such a young team to have so much experience is outstanding. Bringing an All-Ireland title to Camlough would be amazing.”
Shane O’Neills: K Daly; K Murray, E Kenny, C McMenamin; H McMenamin, L Kenny (capt), C Sloan; S Grey, B Mackin; A McCoy, M Feehan, J Watters; A Jones, A Mackin, C Garvey
Annaghdown: MK Killilea; J Burke, B Quinn, F Wynne; Chelsie Crowe, Chloe Crowe, T Keane; E Coyle, N Burke; N Duggan (capt), G Barrett, A Scully; N Comer, R King, E Keane