SUNDAY will see Mournabbey aiming to take another step towards retaining their currentaccount.ie All-Ireland Senior Ladies Club football championship title.
They take on Leinster champions, Dunboyne from Meath, with a 1pm throw-in at Mourneabbey.
Whilst they will be hoping home advantage will turn this one in their favour they are well aware of the task that lies ahead, with many thinking that the title winners will come from this semi-final.
The home side already have three cups safely in the trophy cabinet for the season, the first being the Cork league title in the summer.
They followed that up by winning back their Cork championship crown and then just before Christmas added the Munster title, winning it for the sixth time in seven years. Like the All-Ireland title they were the defending champions as the Munster championship wasn’t played last year either.
Dunboyne have a team packed full of quality players, with Vikki Wall and Emma Duggan the two most will be familiar with.
Both were instrumental in Meath’s senior All-Ireland success last year. They were also key players in Meath’s win over Cork in the semi-final, before they went on to beat Dublin in the final.
That proved to be Cork manager, Ephie Fitzgerald’s last game in charge of the Rebels with Shane Ronayne taking the reigns for this season.
Shane is also the manager of Mourneabbey, and he has been key to leading them to six Cork titles, six Munster titles, and two All-Ireland senior crowns.
Shane will be well aware of the threat Wall and Duggan are to their chances and will have his homework done to try and stop them. But Dunboyne are far from a two-player team. Along with Wall and Duggan, they also had Alison O’Sullivan and Shelly Melia in the Meath panel last year. In 2020 Sarah Wall and Annie Moffat were involved in the inter-county setup so this is far from an easy tie for the home side.
But Shane is confident in his side’s ability and said they have prepared well and are looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead.
He can do so with a degree of confidence as any team that has players like Laura Fitzgerald, Ciara, and Doireann O’Sullivan, Eimear Meaney, Ellie Jack, Maire O’Callaghan and captain Brid O’Sullivan is one that can trouble anyone.
You can add in plenty more and key for them is the fact they have players on the bench that can come on and do as good a job.
Speaking ahead of the game Shane said it’s unusual still to be playing at this time of the year as it’s normally done and dusted by now.
“Yea normally the club championship is over by now so it was a bit unusual to be training over Christmas but in fairness, to the players, they are very good and very disciplined,” said Shane.
“We gave them a bit of time off after the Munster final to enjoy that win and their Christmas. But we’re back at it now for some time and we know the challenge we face on Sunday.
Meath football is on a crest of a wave at the moment and we know how good they are. We are at home and sometimes that can bring its own pressure.
“We have had semi-finals here before and even though we won in the end we didn’t perform and we can’t afford to do that on Sunday. They have the likes of Vikki Wall and Emma Duggan who ended the year on a high and they will be hoping to start the new year in the same way.”
A worry for Shane, like all managers, is the dreaded call to say a player has contracted Covid or is close contact and he said it is something they have had to be very conscious of.
“Right now you couldn’t pick a team for Sunday as you don’t know what can happen in the next few days.
“Before the new year we asked them to forget going for coffee or dinner etc with people and go to work or college and come training and go into our own bubble and in fairness to them, they have done that.
“It’s not an easy thing to have to ask but they have done it and it’s a testament to their character they have done so.
“As Eamonn Ryan said it’s making ‘winning choices’ and they have done that. But we have teachers and others like that they are in pressure situations at the moment and could pick it up very easily. But hopefully, they won’t and in fairness to the girls they are not doing anything they shouldn’t be doing.”
Shane also confirmed they have no injury worries at present in a tie that has the potential to be a cracker, with the home side slight favourites to advance to the final.