Loughgiel's Doran hoping confidence gained from long-awaited Ulster title win can stand them in good stead for shot at All-Ireland glory
“THE past seven years have felt a long time. You thought the wait was never going to end. The hurt that we felt every time Slaughtneil beat us and then the sheer joy of the final whistle in Newry a couple of weeks ago that ended all that frustration.”
Loughgiel defender Shauna Doran broke into the Loughgiel senior team while still U16 and quickly got used to getting through to the All-Ireland stage.
“At the start, if you won Antrim, you went straight through to the All-Ireland semi-final as Antrim was the only county graded senior in Ulster. It changed when Eoghan Rua from Coleraine won two (All-Ireland) Intermediates and then you had to play an Ulster final against whoever came out of Derry.
“It wasn't that we were winning Antrim each year. When I was coming through Rossa had just won an All-Ireland and they won a couple of Antrims after that too. They were our main rivals at the start.”
The PE teacher in Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Ballymoney recalls playing midfield one year against Oulart-the Ballagh in a semi-final.
“We lost by nine points and they went on and won the All-Ireland. The next year we played Killimore from Galway and lost again by four points, so we felt we were getting there. But then along came Slaughtneil.”
Loughgiel had beaten Slaughtneil in Owenbeg to get that chance to play Killimore in early 2016. The next time they would beat the Derry champions was in Páirc Esler a couple of weeks ago.
“When you are young you always think that you are going to be back the next year… then the year after. But when you go through six final defeats and get that bit older, you start to wonder if you will ever get your turn again.
“This year, we felt more confident than ever of beating them (Slaughtneil) more so than any other given year. I don't think many were expecting as much from us this year either, as we were missing a few key players due to pregnancy.
“But the girls who came in gave us such energy; they are young and ambitious. I think morale among us has been very good. Our mindset had changed and we had this real belief in ourselves this year. We were telling ourselves that enough is enough and it's our time to claim the Ulster title.”
But the defender also believes that overcoming Slaughtneil should help drive them to greater heights.
“If Slaughtneil had beaten us and were going into this game against Drum and Inch on Saturday, many people would have them as favourites to reach the final. So why shouldn't we approach the game with the same attitude?
“We brought a lot of intensity to the Ulster final and, if we do the same on Saturday, we can get a result.
“The Munster final was streamed and you can watch it and see that Drum and Inch have some very good players. But so do we.
“The win in Newry has ensured that our morale is high at training. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain and we are looking forward to the match on Saturday.”