Strong sides Clann Eireann and Errigal Ciaran face off for Ulster ladies' football honours
Ulster Minor Club Ladies Football Championship final: Clann Eireann (Armagh) v Errigal Ciaran (Tyrone) (Sunday, St Tiernach’s Park Clones, 1pm)
ERRIGAL Ciaran had the Tyrone minor championship title in the bag back in June.
They have had to wait five months before they embarked on the provincial trail but it has been well worth it as they now find themselves just 60 minutes away from Ulster glory.
Standing in their way are Armagh champions Clann Eireann, who, like Errigal Ciaran, are no strangers, to this competition.
They both come into tomorrow’s final, which was postponed from last Sunday due to the weather, having won their county championships for the last three years in a row, although Clann Eireann has tasted provincial success winning this Ulster title in 2015.
The games have come thick and fast for Claire Campbell, Tiffy Quinn and Darren McCann’s side since they began in the middle of last month and wins over O’Neill Shamrocks and Carryduff just last weekend have led them to here. It has been a long season but Campbell and the team would not have it any other way.
“It has been a long season as we won the county championship back in June but it’s always good when you are still playing football at this time of year,” said the former senior player, who has been coaching at underage level within the club for the past 13 years.
“Any time you make a final is a great honour but provincial finals are extra special as they don't come around too often. The girls haven't had too much time to dwell on it with the quick turnaround from the semi-final but there is a great buzz in the camp and everyone is excited.”
This is an Errigal Ciaran side that, despite still looking for their first Ulster minor title (although the competition is still in its infancy having only started back in 2011, you feel will not be easily beaten and in the form of Clann Eireann as opposition this should be a enthralling encounter.
Eight of the team were involved with the St Ciaran’s Ballygawley senior schools team who were defeated in the All-Ireland Senior A Schools final earlier this year while two players Maria Canavan and Meabh CCorrigan were recently named on the Ulster Schools All Star squad and are also part of the Tyrone senior ladies set-up. The minors train together with the seniors as one unit so the majority have played some senior club football over the past number of seasons.
That type of experience is huge and they will need all that if they are to overcome Clann Eireann and Campbell is quietly confident that Errigal Ciaran can create their own piece of history tomorrow.
“Without doubt the experience of playing on successful teams and playing in big games has stood to the girls and driven them on to achieve more,” explained Campbell.
“The girls have really relished the opportunity to challenge themselves playing at this level. We came through a competitive Tyrone Championship and they have really stepped up since then. The quartr- final win over O'Neill Shamrocks took us a while to settle to the task but we played the game on the front foot in an excellent attacking display.
“The semi-final against Carryduff was a mush tighter affair and after a dominant first half we were put to the pin of our collar in the second half. It was a great battle and the girls showed all their hard work and determination in a solid defensive display to get over the line. It’s great to see different players standing up at different stages and playing well together as a team.
“Clann Eireann are a great club who are never far away from challenging for provincial honours and no doubt they will be formidable opposition on Sunday.
“But our girls have also won three Tyrone championships in a row and we had added a few younger girls from the club’s U16 championship winning side which has given the team a real boost.
“Errigal Ciaran teams have a proud tradition in Ulster Club competitions and we are hopeful that the minor ladies can add to that and create their own piece of history on Sunday.”
Errigal Ciaran Path to the Final:
Tyrone Minor Final: Errigal Ciaran 1-9 Killeeshl 2-5
Ulster Minor Club quarter-final: O’Neill Shamrocks (Monaghan) 1-5 Errigal Ciaran 3-7
Ulster Minor Club semi-final: Errigal Ciaran 0-14 Carryduff (Down) 2-7
CLANN EIREANN joint manager Martina Hoye is hoping the occasion of an Ulster final and at a venue like Clones will not affect her players as they go in search of a second provincial minor title in three years.
The three in-a-row county champions face Errigal Ciaran in tomorrow’s decider, a week later than anticipated, in St Tiernach’s Park and after being lucky enough to have played all three of their provincial knockout games at their Lurgan home, they play their first ‘away’ game and it happens to be the most important one.
“We were very fortunate to get three games at home in the Ulster championship and this will prove to be a big test of our character playing in Clones with the journey and big stage,” says Hoye who manages the side with Denise Jordan.
But she believes that if they can control the occasion, they have what it takes to defeat Errigal Ciaran and follow up on their Ulster title win of 2015.
“The girls will leave everything out there on the pitch in Clones. They have worked hard over the last three or so months and I just hope they don’t let the occasion get to them and they get on with playing football and playing the way we know they can.”
Just like their opponents, the Armagh club has some fantastic young footballers including their captain Cait Towe and her midfield partner Megan McCann, who play for the club’s senior side along with Meabh McCambridge, Anna McCaughley and Abbie Fleville while there are also a number of county minor, under 16 and under 14 representatives.
Towe and McCambridge are part of the Ulster Schools All Stars squad as is Elisha Donnelly and Dearbhla Coleman and the quartet along with Errigal Ciaran’s Maria Canavan and Meabh Corrigan were together with the schools team earlier this week as they faced Down in a challenge game ahead of the inter-pro tournament in the new year.
However, it has been other players who have stepped up to the mark to help the Armagh champions reach this final hurdle and Jordan was keen to praise them.
They have had to play an extra game to get here having St Paul’s in a preliminary round fixture, which they came through with ease and similarly against St Patrick’s Donagh in the quarter-final. However, their semi-final though they won by 10 points against Cavan champions Lough Oughter was more difficult and it was encouraging to see leaders step up all over the pitch said Hoye.
“The girls have played well so far but in the semi-final in particular it was our fringe players who stood up and helped us get through it and it is great to see different players standing up and being counted.
“This is an Ulster final. If the girls play the way we know they can and play to their full potential it will take a lot to stop us. We know Errigal Ciaran have some very experienced players, but we have players too who have gained a lot of experience from playing with the senior team and schools and the county and to see the fringe players step up in the way that they have is very encouraging.”
Clann Eireann Path to the Final:
Armagh Minor Final: Clann Eireann 9-13 Clan na Gael 2-6
Ulster Minor Club preliminary round: Clann Eireann 3-15 St Paul’s (Antrim) 1-8
Ulster Minor Club quarter-final: Clann Eireann 13-18 St Patrick’s Donagh (Fermanagh) 0-2
Ulster Minor Club semi-final: Clann Eireann 4-10 Lough Oughter (Cavan) 2-6