Aoife Ní Chaiside profiles some of Slaughtneil's toughest individual opponents
Today Aoife Ní Chaiside who was Ulster club Player of the Year this season and All-Ireland winning captain in Slaughtneil’s breakthrough season of 2016-17, outlines some of the individual players that posed difficulties for them at All-Ireland level over the past few seasons as the Derry club reached four national finals and collected three successive titles.
The Emmet’s played four different club in their semi-finals over the four years, but ended up facing Sarsfield’s from Galway in three finals, including the last one at the start of March.
In a period where team play and strategy is often cited as the key to success, Aoife believes individual players can still influence match-winning plays in the big games.
“There has been a lot of chat about how teams set up against us – or how we have set up our team for games. Dominic McKinley however always points out that at the end of the day it comes down to whoever gets that sliotar .
“Teams are always trying to improve and change, trying to get the best from their own players and target areas they believe they can get the better of other teams.
“I believe that this is a healthy sign of any sport, keeping players, managers and supporters guessing what might happen in a game and then working out what exactly is happening in front of them on the pitch.
“We have faced some great teams over the past four years and here are some of #TheToughest players I believe we have played against.”
2017 All-Ireland semi-final v Burgess-Duharra, Tipperary
Jenny Grace at No 11
Jenny caused us bother in two ways. Firstly she was very accurate with her free taking and secondly she was so strong in possession and ran through our defence a few times.
Being in a central position she was fed a lot of sliotars and, working very well with her two wing half forwards, she created plenty of scoring opportunities. She scored 1-5 on the day.
Eimear McDonnell at No 15
Eimear was the only other scorer against us, a team’s nightmare, so nippy at corner forward.
Her reactions were very quick and she was clinical in front of the goal, scoring 2-2. Although we had been leading the whole match, there was always a threat once either Jenny or Eimear got their hands on the sliotar
Caoimhe Maher at centre-half back
Caoimhe was constantly playing good balls into her forward line, spreading the ball when needed or hitting a direct ball to the players feet when they were out in front.
She was key to setting up their attacks while trying to stop our attacks, putting in blocks and hooks.
2018 All-Ireland semi-final v Thomastown, Kilkenny
Anna Farrell at midfield
The word WORK-RATE comes to mind when I think of Anna’s performance against us. There was a very strong breeze the day of this match and although we played with the breeze during the first half and were ahead at half time, Anna worked her socks off defending and trying to carry the ball into their forward line.
She continued with that work into the second half when they had the breeze, her running and tackling increased, feeding balls in to her sister Shelly and Niamh Donnelly at corner forward.
The match ended a draw and extra-time was played and I think our fitness carried us over the line in the end. But Anna stood out for Thomastown that day.
2019 All-Ireland semi-final v Adrahan, Galway
Siobhán Gardiner at full-back
Another game with a very strong breeze playing a role in the type of game that transpired. It was low scoring with lots of rucks and tackles, physically draining.
Siobhán played a vital role for Adrahan keeping the ship steady from full back, keeping her defenders right, making some great tackles and keeping us from getting in on goals.
2020 All-Ireland semi-final v Scariff-Ogonnelloe, Galway
Aisling Corbett in goals
Very strong puc-outs even against the breeze in the first half. Aisling, with a very strong strike, scored a long-range free in the first half.
Every puc-out was landing on top of our half back line, putting us defenders under increased pressure to keep them from gaining possession.
Susan Vaughan at No 5
She played more of a sweeper role against the breeze, broke down many of our attacks between our half forward and full forward line.
She also occasionally made an attacking run past the midfield point to make the overlap putting even more pressure on our defence.
A rugby-sevens player, her strength did not go unnoticed.
Jennifer Daly at No 12
One of four sisters on the team. Young and very enthusiastic, caused us trouble with her fast running down the side-line and she linked play very well for scoring opportunities.
Marian Rodgers at full-forward
A very experienced forward, every time her team-mates played a ball into her, we were holding our breath.
We knew there was a goal threat with her if she turned us, and she did get one at the end of the second half closing the gap significantly.
2019 All-Ireland Final v St Martin’s, Wexford
Mags D’Arcy in goals
Having such a presence on the field both in stature and vocally would intimidate any forward line.
Her accuracy to pick out a pass meant they kept possession much more than what we wanted.
Although we got a good start against her with a high long ball in, touched by the full forward into the top corner, her confidence didn’t drop, and she produced a very good performance.
Linda Bolger at No 11
Small but mighty, Linda scored two points against us and also won a penalty for St Martin’s in the second half.
She caused us a lot of trouble when in rucks and we ended up giving away too many frees against her.
2017, 2018, 2020 All-Ireland finals v Sarsfields, Galway
Although she wasn’t playing in this year’s final due to injury, she was a leader within Sarsfield’s backline in previous years, causing problems for our forwards as they fought hard to win possession.
Her intensity in tackles and ability to pick the right pass to clear the ball from defence meant that again and again we had to try to find a way through her or keep the ball away from her!
Had played against us as a forward previously but in Croke Park this year, she played more of a sweeper role and was a big influence on Sarsfield’s game.
She started off attacks, cleared balls with her great striking and she was also good under a high ball, reading the game very well to stop our flow of attacks on many occasions.
She ended up Player of the Match.
Orlaith was able to take her own score, was an attacking threat, able to take players on, breaking the tackle, drawing players in to create the overlap and she knew when to give the pass at the right time - everything you could want in a centre half-forward.
Give her an inch of space and she’ll do damage, as I have learnt.
Another forward who has an eye for the goal; give her half a chance and she’ll make a beeline for goal. Constantly moving around the full forward line, she is a player you can’t take your eyes off for a second, also able to play further out and cause damage by creating team play and she is accurate on the frees.
A forward who could cause serious damage, gaining experience from playing inter-county also. She could visualise the play and be in the right places at the right time, great skill along with all of this. A tough opponent to mark.