Clann Eireann turn their focus to national glory

Meabh McCambridge (right) is part of a very effective Clann Eireann forward line
Meabh McCambridge (right) is part of a very effective Clann Eireann forward line All-Ireland Club Ladies’ SFC semi-final

Clann Eireann (Armagh) v Ballymacarbry (Waterford)

(tomorrow, Clann Eireann, 1.30pm)

TWO weeks after appearing in their first-ever senior provincial final, and winning it, the reward for Clann Eireann could not have been better – home advantage against one of the most decorated clubs in Ireland. 

Waterford and Munster champions Ballymacarbry have a remarkable honours list that includes an incredible 42 consecutive county titles. To give that context, they are unbeaten in their own county since 1982.

They have also won 16 Munster titles, with number 15 last year bridging a 22-year gap from number14 and number 16 achieved courtesy of a 2-13 to 1-9 victory over Banner Ladies.

They also have 10 All-Ireland senior titles, albeit it has been 25 years since they last contested a final. That was also the last time they won the Dolores Tyrell Memorial Cup.  

They have a vast amount of experience in their ranks, although they may have to overcome the Armagh champions without star veteran Michelle Ryan, who picked up an injury in the county final warm-up and has not featured since.

However, they can turn to captain Aileen Wall, Kellyann Hogan, Karen McGrath and Brid McMaugh – who has scored 2-14 in three games, all from play, including seven points in the Munster final.

Goalkeeper Lauren Fitzpatrick, who plays her county football with Tipperary, pulled off three fine saves against the Banner in the provincial final, while full-forward Clare Walsh scored her side’s two goals in that game.  

Last year at this stage, Ballymacarbry bowed out to defending champions Kilkerrin-Clonberne, managing to score just two points. 

Having defended their Munster title, they have another chance to put things right, but it will not be easy up in the heart of Lurgan. 

Clann Eireann will be relishing everything about this game – the chance to play an All-Ireland semi-final at home, against a team like Ballymacarbry – and while they will have the utmost respect for them, they will not hold any fear of their opponents and will attempt to turn Clann Eireann Park into a fortress knowing that if Ballymacarbry are to go back home victorious they will have fought tooth and nail for it. 

As much as Clann Eireann manager Gregory McGonigle has plenty to consider with regards match-ups and curtailing any Ballymacarbry threats, so too does his opposite number. 

Clann Eireann went about their county title defence simply getting the job done.

As they moved through Ulster, reaching their first semi-final since 2017 and getting over that hurdle, they were hugely impressive, at home too, against last year’s Ulster finalists Moneyglass.

It took them a while to get going in the final against Bredagh but with a much improved second-half performance, they were deserving of their maiden title, becoming the first team from Armagh to win the top prize in Ulster club football. 

As much as Ballymacarbry have match-winners, so too do Clann Eireann.

In Niamh Murray they have an out-and-out score-getter, but each of the six starting forwards are capable of scores and indeed all six scored in the Ulster final.

Tiarna Grimes and Aoibhinn Henderson are a formidable midfield partnership, while their defence is a solid unit led by Clodagh McCambridge at full-back and Maebh Morarity in front of her.  

The stage is set for battle – there is a lot to deal with – nerves, the weather, the journey, the hopes and expectations of everyone. The question is, who can deal with it better?

Kilmacud Crokes and Kilkerrin-Clonberne meet in tomorrow’s other semi-final (Parnell Park, 2pm).