Long journey for Sarsfields, Slaughtneil, Athenry and Johnstownbridge comes to an end this weekend
It’s been a long old journey for Sarsfields, Slaughtneil, Athenry and Johnstownbridge, but this weekend the cups will be handed out.
Sarsfieldsand Slaughtneil will again lock horns in the senior decider, while the Intermediate title is up for grabs between Athenry and Johnstownbridge. Two Galway tribes, one Derry, and one Kildare.
These finals were due to be played two weeks ago but were postponed due to the Beast From The East. For Slaughtneil and Johnstownbridge, it’s about stopping those Galway sides from the west.
Interesting, Slaughtneil and Sarsfield had both never been in a senior final before last year, and now they’re in it once again. The Oak Leaf County side won a ding-dong battle by 1-10 to 0-11, highlighting how finely poised this game could be.
Into the mix, Sars are hoping to give Galway a first Bill Carroll Cup since 2011, and avoid what would be a fifth consecutive final defeat for the county’s representatives.
Captain Orlaith McGrath has spoken about the difference in attitude and concentration this year, now that they don’t have the dizziness of a first county title or the novelty of Croke Park distracting from their job on the field.
Manager Michael “Hopper” McGrath, a legend for the Galway hurling side in the 1980s and ‘90s, has led his side through a number of tight clashes, a sign of an added maturity this term.
Neither Mullagh nor Burgess-Duharra breached their goal, and though they are branding themselves as underdogs, they’ll know how close they got in 2017.
The question for Slaughtneil is whether they have the same desire as when they were chasing that maiden crown, but the signs are good. They needed extra time before getting the better of Kilkenny side Thomastown by 0-14 to 0-11 at Inniskeen Grattans, so doing it the hard way won’t frighten the Derry brigade.
They’ve added to their team from one year ago too, by bringing in a star of Offaly camogie. Tina Hannon transferred from Naomh Bríd, a combination of Ballyskenach and Coolderry, and has immediately won herself county and provincial honours. She scored 0-10 in the Ulster final win against Loughgiel.
Denise McGuigan, Siobhán McKaigue, Aoife Ní Chaiside and Dervlagh McGuigan and Shannon Graham could all be crucial on the day.
Perhaps the Galway side might atone for last year, and end seasons of heartache for the Tribal County.
There's an interesting battle in the intermediate final too. When we talk about a side bouncing back, perhaps that suggests a fallen team restoring themselves to their former place in the pecking order.
Athenry didn’t simply settle at that after relegation from the intermediate level in Galway in 2016. They absorbed the shock but came back up to win a county title.
That might have been enough for plenty of teams but not for Athenry, who followed up their glorious win over Mountbellew/Moylough by downing Lismore of Waterford by 0-8 to 0-2 in the AIB All-Ireland semi-final.
They’ve been here before though, making finals in 2007 and 2009, only to lose out to Tipperary side Cashel. Long before that, the Tribal County side had their biggest glory, winning the All-Ireland title of 1978 when beating Portglenone from Antrim.
But this is the first time that the side will have walked out behind the parade at Croke Park, as the decider was only moved to GAA HQ in 2011.
They’ve been out training in all weather, including the snow that hit their parish a couple of weeks ago. They will lean on the experienced trio of Therese Maher, Jessica Gill and Rebecca Glynn, while Niamh Hannon and Noreen Coen provide further threats.
Johnstownbridge are standing in their way, and they are looking to create some history. The Kildare side are hoping to complete an AIB All-Ireland three-in-a-row in their first season at the Intermediate level, having collected the junior title in each of the past two campaigns.
This season, they beat Myshall — who had been in the final last year — and Eglish of Tyrone while manager Declan Flanagan has a full deck to choose from this weekend.
His daughter Clodagh is one of the leaders, while Róisín O’Connell and Siobhán Hurley will be hoping to get on the end of their attacking moves.
A tough one to call.
All-Ireland Senior Camogie Club Championship final - WATCH LIVE
Sarsfieldsv Slaughtneil, Croke Park,3.30pm
All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Club Championship final
Athenry v Johnstownbridge,Croke Park,1.30pm