Jane Adams: 20, 30, 50 years' time, Slaughtneil camogie will be remembered as one of the greatest club teams
AIB All-Ireland Senior Club final: Croke Park 3pm Sunday March 1: Slaughtneil (Derry) v Sarsfield’s (Galway)
IT TOOK O’Donovan Rossa Belfast the guts of a decade to build to a position from which they could win the 2008 All-Ireland club title and become the first team from Ulster to hold the Bill and Agnes Carroll Cup.
This week the star of that Rossa team Jane Adams reflected on that achievement and tried to put a context on Slaughtneil’s attempt on Sunday to equal the record of four national titles in a row.
“No one from Ulster had ever gone into an All-Ireland championship really believing that it was theirs to lose. Rossa had that barrier to break down when we were coming through,'' she said.
“We had two brilliant managers during that time. Jim (Nelson) brought us so far. He changed our training, he changed our mindset. He brought us to a stage that we knew we were good enough to win the title.”
In 2006 Rossa came within two points of stopping a third successive title for St Lachtain’s from Kilkenny: “The next year we felt that we could take the next step, but we were badly beaten in the semi-final by Cashel who went on to easily win the final. That was a huge set-back for us mentally.
“Jim then stepped down and we couldn’t get a manager for a good while. Then Micky (McCullagh) came in and he refreshed us, did things differently and it was just the lift we needed.”
Rossa went on to win the 2008 All-Ireland title with a 2-15 to 1-12 win over another Tipperary side Drum and Inch and Adams scored 2-9.
“Because we couldn’t find a manager, we didn’t start training until later. Micky worked us really hard that summer. As a result I think that we were that bit fresher and that helped,'' said Adams.
“Micky did things differently, the intensity was incredible. But Jim built us to the point where an All-Ireland was attainable. It took the both of them for us to break the glass ceiling.”
It might have taken another nine years before the Bill and Agnes Carroll Cup returned to Ulster – but Jane Adams remembers seeing that Slaughtneil had the mindset to achieve it.
“We hadn’t been beaten in Ulster for five or six years at any level,'' she stated.
“Then in 2009 Slaughtneil beat us in an Ulster league game and I could see as they left the field that day that they were thinking to themselves: 'We have beaten the All-Ireland champions here today, anything is now possible'.
“In fairness, I saw it in how other teams played against us – I saw it in Loughgiel, in Eoghan Rua from Coleraine.
“They felt that they could beat us and then when they did that, they felt that they could win the All-Ireland.”
Rossa beat Slaughtneil in the 2012 Ulster final, the first time the Emmett’s had come out of Derry. Eoghan Rua then won a couple of Derry and Ulster titles and Loughgiel took one before the emergence of the current “super-team”.
“They are exactly that – a super team. I could never have contemplated that any team from Ulster, really ANY team from ANY province could become so dominant,” asserts Adams who now runs three branches of the Manny’s Fish and Chip Shop and only recently picked up the provincial title of 'Best Sit In Fish and Chip Shop'.
“I think that the Slaughtneil club has really got everything right – on and off the pitch.
“They have really good astute managers in Damian McEldowney, Woody (Dominic McKinley) and Mickey Glover,'' she added.
“You don’t win one All-Ireland without having the right management in place. And they are going for four in a row on Sunday.
“They have really great individual players and a brilliant team set up. The likes of Louise Dougan, Shannon Graham and Tina Bradley could walk into any team in Ireland and you would start building a game plan around them.
“But this Slaughtneil set up has built up a winning mentality. They are incredibly hard to beat.
“Players can leave and there are players to step in. I don’t buy into this idea that they revolve around two or three players. Tina is not the only scorer they have. Others get vital scores and that is sometimes overlooked.
“I have watched a youngster like Céat McEldowney coming into the team. She never seems to be under pressure, she makes the right decisions, plays the right pass.
“They also have leadership almost in every line. They share the captaincy. They share responsibility. They are much more than just 15 players going out on to the pitch.”
Jane Adams played several years with Shannon Graham in Antrim teams and the Rossa star is full of admiration for the dynamic midfielder.
“Maybe when she came into the Antrim team at the start, she looked to me for leadership. But from the start I thought that she led by her actions.'' she said.
“ She encouraged others around her, she was a leader and she really has come into her own since she transferred to Slaughtneil.
“Shannon is a lovely person, a really dedicated player and I am delighted that she is getting the recognition she deserves.”
A dozen years on from Rossa breaking the mould, their star forward is hoping that Slaughtneil can equal the great Buffers’ Alley team of the early ‘80s by taking a fourth successive crown: “When I was playing that was unimaginable. Going into the final on Sunday, Slaughtneil are the favourites. I hope they do it. I love to see them play. Everything about them is so controlled.
“I know one thing, whatever the result on Sunday, they will be talked about in 20, 30, 50 years’ time as one of the greatest club teams ever.
“I have to say I am one of their fans.”