Huge performance needed if St Macartans are to cause an upset in All-Ireland ladies football semi-final
All-Ireland Club Ladies' SFC semi-final: St Macartans (Tyrone) v Carnacon (Mayo) (Sunday, Fr Hackett Park Augher, 2pm)
IT took a quarter of a century to land the prestigious provincial prize in ladies club football and the recently crowned Ulster senior champions are enjoying their newly acquired title but St Macartans have turned their full attention to tomorrow’s All-Ireland semi-final against the mighty Carnacon.
The Cora Staunton-inspired Mayo and Connacht champions are in town after edging a thrilling provincial final replay against Galway side Kilkerrin-Clonberne 4-10 to 2-13 on the same day that St Macartans created their own piece of history with an equally thrilling 3-4 to 1-8 victory over the defending Ulster and All-Ireland champions Donaghmoyne to land their first ever provincial title.
They rightly celebrated their achievement, made all the more special as the club celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2017, not to mention the way in which they managed to finally overcome the queen-pins of Ulster after almost a decade of trying. Ryan McMenamin’s side had an 11 point half-time lead and were very much full value for that after playing the champions off the field in the opening 30 minutes but they were made to earn the right to be crowned champions and despite only scoring one point in the second half, at the very start of the half, they were able to hold out, an answered 1-7 from Donaghmoyne in the end not enough.
Most of the attention both inside and outside the wire, will be on Staunton, who scored 1-6 in the replay and 4-13 out of 5-17 in the drawn game, but as St Macartans captain Joline Donnelly says, there are plenty of other Carnacon players they need to think about as well if they are to overcome the experienced outfit. St Macartans are under no illusion of the task before them, but just like Ulster finals, as All-Ireland finals do not come about too often, they want to make the most of the opportunity before them.
The big question is who will pick up Staunton and player of the match in the Ulster final, full-back Shannon McQuaid, is certainly one of the best possibilities.
“Marking Cora is a big task in itself she's a fantastic player but they aren't just a one player team,” said Donnelly. “They have nine or 10 county players with a lot of experience the likes of Fiona McHale, Martha Carter the McGings to name a few. We will have to be at our best all over the pitch.”
Donnelly knows that they need to be on top of their game for the whole 60 minutes and converting more scoring chances has been something they have been working on since the final. They too pose their own threats to Carnacon, who although season-hardened at this stage, still face the unknown in the form of St Macartans and they know that for them to have reached this stage, they have had to defeat the champions, and so will not be taking their opposition lightly.
“We played very well in the first half [against Donaghmoyne] but again we missed goal chances and only managed to score four points in the game,” said Donnelly. “We will need to convert more chances on Sunday if we are to have any chance of winning. We had two players sin binned in the second half which meant we had to work harder and go more defensive. We were able to hold on but we will have to put in a great performance in both halves if we are to go on and win on Sunday.
“It was a great achievement to finally win our first Ulster title but this is our first time in the All-Ireland campaign an opportunity like this may never come around again; so we will all want to play our best to grasp the opportunity.”
Despite having home advantage, Carnacon’s experience of playing in this competition, having won the Dolores
Tyrrell Cup five times, most recently in 2013, weighs heavily in their favour and it will take a bigger performance still if St Macartans are to cause a huge upset.
“We have a great belief in ourselves and in our management; we wouldn't be in an All-Ireland semi-final if we didn’t. We believe we are here on merit but we are under no illusion about the standard of the Carnacon team.”
The first finalist will be known later today when semi-finalists from the last three years - Cork’s Mourneabbey and Dublin’s Foxrock-Cabinteely meet in Bray Emmets (3pm).
All-Ireland Club Ladies' IFC semi-final: Latton (Monaghan) v Dunboyne (Meath) (Sunday, Latton, 1pm)
TWELVE months ago, Latton agonisingly lost an All-Ireland junior club semi-final replay. They were one step away from an All-Ireland final but it was not to be. A year on, and the Monaghan and Ulster champions find themselves in a similar position once again, driven by the heartache of last year.
This time they face Meath and Leinster champions Dunboyne, who like Latton, have been on the fast-track to success. In 2015, they won the All-Ireland Junior Club title and now two years later, they find themselves edging closer to the All-Ireland Intermediate Club title and in reaching this stage, they defeated St Maur's, the team who Latton lost out to in that replay a year ago.
Latton supporters will be hoping it will be third time lucky for the ladies team having previously lost two All-Ireland semi-finals at home.
"There is a feeling among the team and management that we have some unfinished business to tend to at this stage of the competition from the heartbreak of last year," said Latton captain Ailbhe Quinn.
"We've worked hard all year to get this far we don't want the journey to end on Sunday. At this stage in the competition you're meeting the best teams and you can't expect anything less than a battle.
"No doubt Dunboyne are a strong team and they have overcome some quality teams like St. Maurs to make it to this point but we've got this far by focusing on ourselves and we're improving with each match that we play so we have to go out with that mindset on Sunday and hopefully that will get us over the line."
Latton had a busy provincial championship, playing three weekends in a row to capture their first ever Ulster Intermediate Club title and then a quick turnaround to face All-British champions Liverpool John Mitchells in the All-Ireland quarter-final just six days later and needed a late injury time Joanne Culleton goal to seal a 3-17 to 1-10 win. The two week break between that match and this one has been welcomed and has given Gerry Monahan and his management team the chance to allow their players to recover from a tough month and to prepare for the biggest game in the club’s history. They will, however, still be without Jane Duffy who picked up an injury in the Ulster final.
"It's been great for the minds and the bodies to get a weekend break after playing tough championship games four weekends in a row.
"it's great for the club and the parish, everyone's getting behind us, the support has just been phenomenal. I don't think the Ulster title win will have a chance to sink in until the season is over, we're fully focused on the task at hand on Sunday and hopefully we'll still be playing football in December."
The other semi-final will also take place at 1pmtomorow featuring Cork side Kinsale and Galway's Moycullen in Kinsale.
All-Ireland Club Ladies' JFC semi-final: Corduff (Monaghan) v Cuala (Dublin) (Sunday, Gaelic Park Corduff, 1pm)
THERE is a quiet air of expectancy around the community Corduff as their ladies team prepare to take on Dublin giants Cuala tomorrow afternoon for a place in the All-Ireland Junior Club Championship final.
The Ulster champions were in a similar position eight years ago, when in 2009, they were in the last four of the same competition but faced a long trek to Cork just six days after coming through an All-Ireland quarter-final in London.
And while 11 of the players from then are still here today, including captain Laura McEnaney, it's different this time around. This Corduff team, who had not won a championship match in Monaghan since their 2009 provincial junior title, until this year, have shown immense character and resolve to get here, having had to come through two periods of extra-time against different opposition in the provincial championship, as well as a trip to London to take on the All-Britain champions, Kerry Kingdom Gaels, to set up tomorrow's battle against the Leinster champions, with the advantage of being able to play out their biggest game on their home patch.
And in doing so, the whole community has got behind the players and management with every lamppost emblazoned with a poster of one of the players and good luck bunting strung anywhere that will hold it up.
“I think it is going to make a massive difference being at home for this semi-final," said McEnaney. "Eight years ago we had to go to London and there was a whole big excitement about that. We really enjoyed London [this time] but we parked the bus in London and when we got home, it was about the next game. We have had two weeks to recover and prepare for our next match and I think that is going to really stand to us, having that two weeks' preparation compared to 2009 when we only had six days."
Their opposition, in simply being from Dublin, will be no easy pushover and McEnaney and her team-mates are only too aware of the calibre of players that will descend on Corduff tomorrow.
"They are a Dublin team, they are very, very strong. They have one county senior player [Martha Byrne], four county minors and four county under 16s so we are going to be up against it. But, it is going to take a good team to beat us. We have worked so hard, we have come through an awful lot of battles over the past couple of weeks - we have gone to extra-time, we have come back from 11 points down, so we are going to give it everything here on Sunday and it is going to take a good team to beat us too."
And she is not wrong in her words. They have demonstrated so far that good teams have tried and were unable to beat them. In their provincial quarter-final against Clonoe, they battled back from 11 points down to force extra-time and then go on and win. In their final, they saw a five point lead slip only for Cornafean to force extra-time, then when their backs were to the wall and they were staring at defeat, they managed to turn that into a win, teenager Elena McEnaney with a cracking equalising goal and then a point along with one from sensational free-taker, Eva Woods, ensuring victory.
"It's all about believe when it comes to big days like that and you really need to believe in yourself and believe in the team and believe you can get over the line.
"The whole community have got behind us throughout the year, even going over to London - we had so many supporters who came with us and really got behind us over the last couple of months. There is a good game in store here, there is some very good players on both teams, so I can only imagine it's going to be very exciting and very tight on the day.”
The second junior semi-final between Galway and Connacht champions Tuam/Cortoon and Cork and Munster winners Ath Fhada (Tuam Stadium, 1pm).