LIKE EVERY sporting side in the country, Mourneabbey’s All-Ireland senior football winning side are waiting patiently to see what will become of the 2020 sporting season.
After retaining the Dolores Tyrrell Memorial Cup last November all concerned at the north Cork club were looking forward to defending their title yet again — with the goal of three titles in a row focusing the minds of some of the best footballers in the land.
At the heart of all that is good about Mourneabbey’s all-conquering stars is their manager, Mitchelstown native, Shane Ronayne.
The head tactician has guided the Avondhu side to success in both 2018 and ’19 after Mourneabbey came up just short in the 2014, 2015 and 2017 finals and was confident that his side were up for the fight to make it three-in-a-row — something not achieved since Ballymacarbry did it back in 1991.
“We hadn’t started our 2020 season really before the shutdown,” said Ronayne, who is also doubling up as the Tipperary senior football manager again this year.
“We had met up in the UCC gym at the Mardyke a couple of weeks ago and I got the sense there was a great interest there again from the players.
“Obviously, winning it last year was really special as was the way we won it.
“If we had won (the 2019 title) by four or five cruising down to the finish it would have been great but definitely not the same as winning it with that last second point — that certainly made it very, very special.
“The manner of the victory, just getting over the line certainly has steeled the girls again. They are all hungry for the three-in-a-row.
“Three-in-a-row is special in anything and that is certainly a motivating factor for the year ahead.”
Motivation is key to most successes in top-level sport and ladies club football is no exception.
Ronayne found his side struggled a little in 2019 to maintain the levels of drive they had the previous year and admits that was the biggest challenge in retaining their All-Ireland crown.
“The motivation mightn’t have been what it needed to be at times but I suppose that will-to-win this squad have shown over the years got them over the line in certain games where we knew we weren’t going great.
“The was a determination there at the start of the year to go back to back and not to be seen as one-hit wonders.
"I think the fact that we were on the road for so long (six years) covered over the fact that at times last year we probably weren’t where we should have been —and certainly I can now see that certain things weren’t perfect, With the calibre of players we had we were able to negate that.”
All plans for the immediate future have been thrown into doubt but the work off the field continues for all and Ronayne is confident that his charges are professional and dedicated to the challenges ahead.
“Look, we don’t know what is going to happen. We don’t know when or if there is going to be a season and if there is what kind of a head-in time we will get.
“In the men’s game, they are talking about perhaps a two-week lead-in once the lockdown is over and that could easily be the same for the ladies so everyone will need to be as prepared as they can be.
“The girls are logging all their work on the apps we have so we are able to keep an eye on what is going on with them in these strange times.”
When the football season does eventually restart the Mourneabbey manager is clear that any talk about diluting the physicality of the game coming from certain corners needs to be resisted as he feels the game and most of the players participating need the physical challenge maintained.
“I hear many views on this but I wouldn’t take away the physicality element of the game.
“There was a game we played last year had 60-something frees in it and we had the same referee later in the summer and it was a different story.
“I think they were told to clamp down on it in the league last year but certainly by the time the summer came around it was a different story and that made for a better game.
“Ninety-nine percent of the girls are well able for it. They enjoy that physical contact and you just don’t want to sanitise the game.
“The players want the game that way and the fans do too. We all thrive on that fighting for the ball element and that is the way it should stay — as long as it doesn’t go over the top of course.”
Ronayne has stood on the line directing operations for both men’s and women’s teams since 2015 and is ideally placed to identify the subtle differences between both at an elite level.
“Commitment is the main difference I would say. For the teams that I have been involved with the commitment levels shown by the ladies has been amazing.
“I find that the elite girls I have been involved with challenge you more (in a good way). Challenge you to make sure that training is good, your game plans are good.
“Sometimes boys can play a little more off the cuff. Both are different and both are really exciting.”
Obviously, it’s a big season ahead for Ronayne and Mourneabbey, however, for now, all will need to do their work in isolation — hardly the way the All-Ireland champions would have been expecting to set about their bid for three-in-a-row.