Mourneabbey aiming for their third All-Ireland club title in a row

Shane Ronayne hopes to lead them to 17th ladies football championship title as their manager
Mourneabbey aiming for their third All-Ireland club title in a row

Maire O'Callaghan, pictured in action against West Cork, will be a key player for Mourneabbey today in the All-Ireland ladies club football final. Picture: Gavin Browne

TOMORROW sees Mourneabby ladies footballers bidding to make it three in a row as they take on Kilkerrin-Clonberne in the All-Ireland senior club final.

Throw-in is at 1pm at St Brendan’s Park, Birr, and what should follow is an entertaining and close-fought battle.

These sides will be very familiar with each other and the Cork outfit has enjoyed the upper hand in their recent meetings.

In 2018 they clashed at the semi-final stage, with Mourneabbey making the journey to Galway and came away victorious, before going on to win their first All-Ireland club title.

In 2019 they met in the final and again Mourneabbey were the winners, but it took a point from Laura Fitzgerald with 20 seconds to go to see them win.

Tomorrow is expected to be another close tie and Kilkerrin-Clonberne captain, Louise Ward, has made no secret of the fact they are hell-bent on avenging those losses, particularly the final loss.

Both sides are packed full of talented players and to name a few would be unfair to the others as there really are no weak links in both camps.

Mourneabbey are going for an astonishing 17th championship title in eight seasons (this is the 2021 season final) and the hunger and desire to add another is evident as you watch them play.

Once they get a foothold and take the lead they are relentless and thus far have proven very difficult to stop.

They cruised through the Munster championship and destroyed Dunboyne in the All-Ireland semi-final and in reality their last tough game was the Cork final against Éire Óg.

But they can only beat what’s in front of them and manager Shane Ronayne says they are fully focused on the task ahead.

“We are thrilled to be in the final and are looking forward to tomorrow,” said Shane, “we are playing at a very good level and in a lot of games this year we haven’t been tested and that’s no disrespect to other teams when I say that.

“I think Kilkerrin-Clonberne are the same, they got a bit of a test the last day but they had an easy run through Galway and Connacht putting up huge scores.”

Mourneabbey manager Shane Ronayne: We are fully focused on the task ahead.
Mourneabbey manager Shane Ronayne: We are fully focused on the task ahead.

Shane continued: “They did get a bit of test the last day and we have to be very guarded against that, but the standards within our own training sessions are very high and the drive to get a spot on the starting 15 is pushing that.

“We set those high standards but we are well aware there are always areas you can improve on. Our third quarter hasn’t been great in some games and we have been looking at that and against Dunboyne we improved there.

“We won comfortably but by Monday that was parked and we were looking at where we can improve and in fairness, the girls drive that. They put a lot of demands on what we are doing in training and maintaining high standards. They don’t accept second best and force us as a management to maintain those standards.

“Kilkerrin-Clonberne were very disappointed with the way they lost in 2019 and we know they are hell-bent on revenge but it’s an All-Ireland final and we have our own reason for trying to win. We want to win three in a row.

“We know they are gunning for us but there is no lack of desire in our dressing-room either,” concluded Shane.

One of the players he will be looking to is Maire O’Callaghan, who will line out at centre-back or midfield.

Like many in their side, she is a seasoned Cork player as well and all that experience will prove vital.

Looking back to the start of their journey she said: “I do remember very clearly when Shane first walked in and he wrote ‘untapped potential’ on the notice board, which is what we all felt at the time. I don’t think we had reached a Cork final at that stage.

“The county title was our first target and then we went on to win Munster and after that, we really were in bonus territory. I think once you win the county you can play with a bit more freedom as if you don’t win your season is over. We have all grown up together through this journey, some were in school or college when this started and sometimes it feels like it’s only been a year or two.

“There is a great mix in the squad and we know in training when we have to work hard but also have the bit of craic in between as well. There is no room for egos in the squad and they wouldn’t be long bringing you down with a joke or comment if you tried.”

Looking at their games to date and the final ahead Maire said that the county final was a massive test and they know today will be another. “They have strong players all over the pitch and have a good balance of experience and lively ones. It’s going to be a battle and one we are ready for.”

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