WHEN Shane Ronayne took over as Mourneabbey senior ladies football manager the first thing he wrote on a chart was the word ‘potential’.
He knew that despite never having won a senior inter-county there was massive potential in the squad and both he and they have gone on to prove that over those years.
Six senior county titles in-a-row, followed by the same in Munster and last year they finally reached their ‘full’ potential as they won the All-Ireland club championship title.
It was a night to remember in Parnell Park when the final whistle went as players, family members and supporters showed just what it meant to all involved.
To finally win, having lost one semi-final and four finals was their dreams come true as footballers as they finally took the cup.
Now this year he has a new expression that he used – raw hunger. Shane knows they have had that over the last few years to ensure they won the title and it’s something he is well aware of that Kilkerrin/Clonberne will bring into Saturday’s final at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick.
“It’s fantastic to be back in the final, it’s a real cold night here in Mourneabbey (referring to the 2 degree temperature for the training session that just ended), but there is no other place we would rather be at this stage of the season. This is our fifth final and it’s fantastic for the girls and the club.
“Winning last year has given the girls a lot of confidence, especially when we are losing games. There is no panic there.
“There is a great attitude and spirit amongst the girls and to be fair that has always been there, but like a lot of great teams around the world they maybe didn’t show it at times.
“But as they have matured a team they have shown it more and more and in the semi-final against Kilkerrin/Clonberne they showed that. They were very disappointed with their first-half showing despite a good start. They met none of the targets we set as a group.
“But we regrouped at half-time and they met those targets in abundance in the second-half. It was the same in the Munster final, there was no panic when we fell behind and maybe in years gone by there were games we wouldn’t have won.
“But that bit of maturity is there now and going down the final stretch our accuracy from shooting has been superb, hitting eight out of our last nine shots in the Munster final and nine out of nine in the All-Ireland semi-final. That’s phenomenal accuracy when the pressure is on.
“I suppose winning last year has given them that confidence and reach their potential. The word potential was the first word put up on a board here six years ago and I still don’t think they have reached their full potential, they are getting close to it, but I think if they keep going the way they are going they can reach that potential they have within them.
“That’s the big thing they are getting what they need to get out of themselves in these games but we also know we can’t give Kilkerrin/Clonberne a lead going into the second-half like we have in other games.
“They certainly are going to be as fit as us and I think our fitness has shone through in the last few games to help get us through. They have worked very hard at that but I know Kilkerrin/Clonberne will be as fit and mobile as us so that’s something we have to guard against and stop giving teams leads.
“There will come a day we won’t be able to claw it back, but hopefully that won’t be in the final and we will be in a better position than we have been going into the last quarter in other games.”
Many would have fancied Foxrock from Dublin to have come through the Shane says that Kilkerrin/Clonberne were always his fancied side to reach the final.
“Foxrock struggled a bit in Dublin this year, they had a lot of injuries and missing players like Sinead Goldrick were a huge loss to them. She is probably the driving force in their team and I just felt going into the semi-final, especially without her that Kilkerrin/Clonberne were going to win it.
“With Nicola Ward back and their younger players now maturing they have come on a lot and I suppose Galway’s run to the All-Ireland final helped as well. They had six players involved with Galway between league and championship and that will give them great confidence.
“They will be disappointed with their performance in the final, but they will still will have gained from that run and Kilkerrin/Clonberne have great players all over the field.
“Lots of players have won All-Ireland medals with Galway at minor and other levels as well as colleges titles with the likes of UCD so they know how to win and how to get the job done and I just felt they were going to come through this year. They have learnt a lot from last year, after we beat them in the semi-final.”
He feels they absorbed a few lessons in recent weeks.
“Maybe we took our eye off the ball in that regard ahead of the Munster final then as we were concentrating on other areas we needed to improve as well. We targeted it again for the Donaghmoyne game we felt they didn’t have many point shooters and would be depending on goals to beat us.
“We will be concentrating on it again ahead of the final and will be aiming to try and stop their considerable goal threat. We have a great calibre of forward out there training and if our defenders can keep them out then it will go a long way towards stopping Kilkerrin/Clonberne.
“We are determined to stop goals and if they can beat us on points then fair play to them, but we are working hard in this area ahead of the final.”
We can expect a hard edge from the champions.
“We had a couple of tough games to win the Cork title, but there was a determination amongst the girls to make it six in-a-row and then we had two really tough ties in the Munster final and All-Ireland semi-final.
“The big thing for us was to beat Donaghmoyne, as we have never beaten them before and they always bullied us around the field and showed just how professional they are.”