GAA Football

Loreto College, Cavan out to bag first leg of double prize

Louise Gunn

Lidl All-Ireland PPS Senior A Championship Final: Loreto College, Cavan v Loreto Clonmel (Tomorrow, Kinnegad, 2pm)

IT is the battle of Loreto as Cavan and Clonmel go head-to-head tomorrow for the right to be crowned All-Ireland schools' champions.

And should the Ulster champions clinch the Senior A title, playing in their first ever senior final, they would be one step closer to a remarkable championship double as the school's junior footballers are in the junior final, for the second year in a row.

That will be six days later when they face Kerry side, Intermediate School Killorglin in next Friday's All-Ireland Junior A decider.

There is huge excitement among staff and pupils as they get behind their ladies footballers, who are busy under the guidance of Conor Maguire and Aine Shannon putting the finishing touches to their preparations. And with a big overlap between the two panels, with 15 from the junior squad also on the senior squad, it certainly is a balancing act.

It's a fairly excitable place to be these last few weeks,” said Maguire.” Everyone is looking forward to the next week and it has been a great build-up with all the staff and students behind us.

“We train together as much as we can. The girls are playing with their clubs and county too so we have to be selective when training as they have a lot going on. The clubs and Cavan County Board are putting in some great work and the schools are able to reap those benefits. We have 14 clubs represented in the school's catchment and it's great to see.”

Loreto Cavan, led by joint captains Muireann Cusack and Niamh Keenaghan, have been impressive on their route to tomorrow's final and Maguire feels the competitiveness of the schools' provincial championship has played a big part.

Unbelievable potential in the group of students at both age groups and they are a match for anyone and they have proved that so far.

“Ulster can be a bit of a graveyard for over-confident teams and we have had some great games against the likes of Our Lady Castleblayney and St Ronan's Lurgan,” he said.

“The calibre of football in Ulster provides every school with a real battle and you can't look beyond your next game and that has been our approach all year. Any school can come out of Ulster as champions and you only have to look at the list of past winners and such that competitiveness in your provincial competition means that you have a real chance of success at All-Ireland level. Ulster games harden a team and that has stood to us.”

After coming through the group stages undefeated with victories over Mount Lourdes Enniskillen, Colaiste Oiriall Ard Fea and Loreto Omagh, they overcame St Ronan's Lurgan in the semi-final before defeating Our Lady's Castleblayney in the final back in January. That set up an All-Ireland semi-final with Presentation College Tuam, whom the junior team also defeated in their semi-final, and they came away with a hard fought 2-9 to 1-8 victory as they fought back from four points adrfit after just five minutes.

The team showed a lot of character from that early setback to take a single point half-time lead that they did not relinquish and a strong finish. The introduction of Aisling Walls shortly after the resumption paid dividends as she contributed three vital points when the game was still in the mix.

Now just Tipperary and Munster champions Loreto Clonmel, who were All-Ireland Senior B runners-up last year, stand in their way.

Maguire knows the challenge before them is not to be underestimated. St Ciaran's Ballygawley reached this same stage last year only to lose out to John the Baptist Community Schoool Limerick, who achieved a senior and junior All-Ireland double, and who incidentally, tomorrow's opposition knocked out of the Munster schools' final. Loreto Cavan will look to inspiration players like captains Cusack and Keenaghan, Lauren McVeety, Aine Reilly and Ally Cahill among other to rise to the challenge.

“We had heard a good bit about them and like on any opposition we have done our research. They will put a challenge to us that we haven't had before but that is nothing less than you expect. You don't get to a final without being a good team and beating good teams on the way. They beat last year's double All-Ireland winners in the Munster final – that's the calibre we are up against,” said Maguire.

He knows too that it all will come down to the day, but victory would be reward for the efforts, not just of the school, but club and county too, for these players.

“Sport is a funny thing; you don't often get the rewards for what you put into it but winning Ulster was a massive reward for the effort the girls have put in and to get to this stage too.

“To win would be just rewards for the work they have put it, not just in school but with their clubs and county.

“Whether or not it goes our way on the day, is another thing but if we give a good account of ourselves and come off the pitch knowing that we left everything on it, hopefully the result will be on our side, but we cannot ask the players for anything more than giving it their all.”

Lidl National Football League Division Four: Antrim v Derry

THERE is still one outstanding Division Four semi-final to be decided and that is whether it will be Antrim or Fermanagh who will play Wicklow next weekend.

That fixture was meant to have been finalised on Tuesday night depending on the outcome of the game between Antrim and Derry. However, it was postponed for a third time, leaving the Saffrons very frustrated.

The round five clash was originally meant to take place at the beginning of March but was postponed because of the weather. It was rescheduled for March 15 and the teams did take to the field but the referee failed to turn up and it was postponed again. It was reset for Tuesday past after agreement between the teams not to play last Sunday but the 7pm throw-in time was too early for Derry and pitch availability for a later start time meant the game was postponed once again.

The result of the game is vital for Antrim as a win will see them progress to the Division Four semi-finals, at Fermanagh's expense. Defeat will see the Erne County finish in fourth spot and take on league table toppers Wicklow in the semis.

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