GAA Football

Louise Gunn: Make Moyne a double

 Donaghmoyne players  and supporters celebrate with the cup following the All Ireland Ladies Football Senior Club Championship Final 2016 match between Donaghmoyne and Foxrock Cabinteely at Parnell Park in Dublin. Picture by Sportsfile 
Louise Gunn

I feel like this is déjà vu all over again. I began my look back at the 2015 season with Donaghmoyne and I am doing so again in 2016.

If we applauded them for being crowned All-Ireland senior club champions for a fourth time 12 months ago, we were awestruck this time around as they became the first Ulster club to win back-to-back senior club titles and just the sixth club ever to do it.

Donaghmoyne were always a great team because they were able to achieve what the rest of us will only ever dream of. But they have gone even further and will surely go down as one of the best ever.

They have now not lost a championship game in two seasons and they claimed their fifth Dolores Tyrell Memorial Cup in seven appearances, doing so under the same man, Francie Coleman, who has been at the helm of the team for what feels like forever.

Captain Amanda Casey said it would take something special to be able to retain their title and they set out in 2016 to do that. It was the one thing that still eluded them. Before, when they won the All-Ireland title they struggled even to keep their hands on their provincial one. Their greatness would be defined by their ability to win two All-Ireland titles on the trot.

Ulster is always a tough competition and though their path to the final was without difficulty, St Macartan’s did not let them have it easy in the final, though Donaghmoyne found the extra gear to step it up when they needed to.

The All-Ireland series has thrown up the same four provincial winners for the second year in-a-row now and it was a repeat of last year’s final for Donaghmoyne when they faced Cork and Munster champions Mourneabbey in the last four.

If Donaghmoyne had had to go to Cork for this game instead of having home advantage, I may well not have been penning these words. In a game that went right down to the wire, with extra-time looming, Donaghmoyne, with the home support willing them on, got over the line with late points from Cathriona McConnell and Cora Courtney. That game was their final. In the final itself, they blitzed their opponents Foxrock-Cabinteely, who they beat in the semi-finals last year, in the first half building up a lead that was theirs to lose. And, while the Dublin and Leinster champions might have ‘won’ the second half, Donaghmoyne’s defence was key to keeping their sizeable lead intact to win 2-9 to 0-8.

The achievement of the Ulster squad is right up there with Donaghmoyne’s as they clinched their fifth successive Mick Talbot Cup back in May at the MMI Interprovincial Champoinships, a feat only Munster had accomplished in the mid-80s.

It was their seventh final appearance in-a-row and saw former Armagh manager James Daly join Paula Cunningham and Gregory McGonigle as the triumphant managers.

Donegal star Yvonne McMonagle was also named Player of the Tournament.

Can Ulster make history and win it a seventh in-a-row in 2017?

Donegal were crowned Division Two champions, beating Westmeath in the final to return to the top table for 2017 after a few years’ absence. There they will join Monaghan and Armagh.

The Tir Chonaill girls lost their Ulster senior title to Monaghan who, after an abject National League campaign, in which they won only one game, certainly made everyone else stand up and take notice.

Winning back the provincial title under Paula Cunningham – who only took over the job from Peter Clarke at the start of the year – that they had dominated for many years was a big achievement for a very changed Farney side.

They reached the All-Ireland semi-finals, losing out to Cork, a poor start costing them dearly. They were always playing catch-up, but having said that, had they another 10 minutes, it might have ended differently.

But more important was the positivity that has come out of the county as a result of their exploits and it will be interesting to see what they make of 2017.

It was a great year for Cavan, who reached the Ulster final and made it to the last eight of the 

All-Ireland series, bowing out in the quarter-finals to Cork, along with Donegal, who lost to Dublin; while Armagh, after a decent start to the year, had a poor championship campaign, losing to Monaghan in the provincial competition and Waterford in the preliminary round of the All-Ireland.

It may have been a new manager for Cork, with Ephie Fitzgerald taking over from Eamonn Ryan, but it was the same story as they won both the Division One title – their fourth on the trot and a 10th in 13 years – and an incredible sixth All-Ireland senior championship title on the bounce, bringing their Brendan Martin Cup tally to 11 in 12 years.

For the third year in-a-row, it was Dublin who were faced with final day agony with a 1-7 to 1-6 defeat, which saw former Monaghan manager and Derry native Gregory McGonigle bring an end to his reign as Dublin manager.

Ladies finals day in Croke Park at the end of September also saw heartache for Antrim, who lost the junior championship decider to Longford in what was to be their second national final loss in 2016 after defeat to Limerick in the Division Four final.

It was a funny game in Croke Park that produced the proverbial game of two halves. Antrim were brilliant in the first half and deservedly led but Longford came out a different team in the second half and blew the opposition away, the 4-10 to 1-12 scoreline perhaps harsh on the Saffrons, who had clinched the Ulster title earlier in the summer with victory over Derry.

Derry’s All-Ireland junior campaign saw them record a preliminary round victory over Carlow before defeat to Longford in the semis.

The All-Ireland intermediate championship was won by Kildare, who defeated Clare.

There had been high hopes for Tyrone, who had regraded from senior to intermediate level in 2016, but having won the Ulster title, defeating Fermanagh in the final, they lost out to Clare in the quarter-finals.

Fermanagh and Down’s All-Ireland series saw them bow out at the qualifier stage to Leitrim and Wicklow respectively.

In the league, Tyrone were relegated from Division One and Fermanagh were relegated from Division Three, which was won by Waterford with Meath dropping down from Division Two.

At underage level, Armagh were crowned Ulster Minor ‘A’ champions with Cavan the ‘B’ champions. At U14 level, Cavan won the ‘A’ championship, Tyrone the ‘B’ and Antrim the ‘C’; while Derry featured in an All-Ireland final, but the U16s lost the ‘C’ final to Longford.

In the U14 Feile competition, Cavan side Killygarry beat Kilcullen (Kildare) to win the Division Two title and RGU Downpatrick defeated Clare side Cooraclare to win the Division Three Cup. Glenravel were runners-up in the Division Four Cup final to Glencar-Manorhamilton (Leitrim) and fellow Antrim side Tir na nOg, Randalstown were runners-up to Clontarf in the Division Five Shield. And in the Division Six Shield final, Kingscourt (Cavan) beat Kerry side Castlegregory.

With no representation at a senior schools’ level it was left to St Ronan’s, Lurgan to carry the hopes of the province in the junior competition. But it was not to be as they lost the ‘A’ final to Scoil Criost Ri, Portlaoise.

The club scene wrapped up the action for the 2016 season with Armagh side Shane O’Neill’s clinching the Ulster Intermediate Championship title defeating Kinawley (Fermanagh) in the final, with Latton of Monaghan defeating Kingscourt (Cavan) to win the Ulster junior title.

Latton’s fairytale season came to an end against eventual winners St Maur’s of Dublin, but only after extra-time in a replay. 

Shane O’Neills made it to the final but lost out to Annaghdown, 1-13 to 3-5. And just last weekend, Bredagh won the Ulster Minor Club Championship title, defeating Moneyglass in the final.

Lastly, but certainly by no means least, two Ulster players received prestigious Allstar awards at the banquet in November. It was a third award for Monaghan duo Ciara McAnespie – who was named at corner-forward – and Grainne McNally at wing half-back, for their exploits in helping Monaghan win back the Ulster title after a two-year absence and run eventual champions Cork so close in the semi-finals.

It was an action-packed 2016 and the good news is, it starts all over again in a month or so.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football