Occasions don’t get much bigger than All-Ireland final day with your club in Croke Park. This Sunday pride of place goes to 4 clubs looking to make history and capture a first ever senior or intermediate All-Ireland title. In the Intermediate final at 1.30pm Eglish of Tyrone take on Myshall of Carlow while in the Senior final at 3.15pm Slaughtneil of Derry face Sarsfields of Galway.
Slaughtneil vs Sarsfields
It has been a well-documented remarkable 12 months for Slaughtneil GAA and camogie club winning an unbelievable treble of camogie, hurling and football titles in Derry and Ulster. The footballers and camogie players have manged to go one step further with inspiring wins in their All-Ireland semi-finals and now on Sunday the Derry girls will look to cap a rollercoaster campaign by claiming All-Ireland glory. Club championships are always one of the toughest competitions and the camogie has been no different this year. After winning their county championship Slaughtneil had to face current Ulster champions Loughiel of Antrim in the Ulster final.
This encounter ended all square and the Derry girls had to show tremendous spirit to eventually overcome Loughiel in the replay. The win set up a January meeting against Tipperary and Munster champions Burgess-Duharra in an All-Ireland semi-final. Despite being pitted by many people as underdogs in this clash the Ulster champions raced into an early lead that the never lost and ran out deserving 2 point winners after a closely fought and exciting game. Those in attendance were most impressed on that day by the fitness and strength of Slaughtneil and their excellent passing and teamwork that was very hard to defend against. They play the game in a tremendous spirit and with the whole community supporting the exploits of their male and female Gaelic teams they have been a rising tide since last summer that Sarsfields will find hard to stop.
Sarsfields however have been on quite a journey of their own – winning their first ever senior county championship at the end of last year before defeating a very fancied Thomastown in the All-Ireland semi-final. They have a very youthful side who have plenty of experience playing and winning underage titles down through the years in Galway. Managed by the former great Galway hurler Michael ‘Hopper’ McGrath they will have left no stone unturned in preparation for Sundays final. Michael’s own daughters will have a huge say in Sunday’s final with Niamh, Clodagh and Orlaith all use to big occasions in the maroon of Galway. Niamh is rated as one of the country’s top free takers and perhaps it will be her accuracy from dead balls that could make all the difference. Younger sister Siobhan who at only 16 years of age has already made big waves in Galway camogie will relish the open space of Croke Park and no doubt her side will look to get her on the end of as many attacks as possible.
While Slaughtneil had a great start to their semi-final win it was the opposite for Sarsfields who trailed Thomastown 5 points to 1 at the interval. Whatever was said at half time certainly worked as they were a new team for the second period. On Sunday though they know they won’t be able to afford a slow start and will look to settle into the game quickly. For Slaughtneil Shannon Graham has been influential for them all year. A real engine at midfield she has the ability to come forward and score at will. Therese Mellon has also been a great scoring threat this year and a handful for every opposition so far. They will definitely be pleased with their attacking unit going into this game with 7 different players getting on the scoreboard in their win over Burgess-Duharra.
They will also look back at the 3 goals that were conceded and will look to tighten up in defence and suppress the Sarsfields goal threat. Discipline will be vital for them on Sunday as they will be well aware of the free taking skills of Niamh McGrath. For Sarsfields Maria Cooney is another key figure along with the McGrath sisters and Laura Ward in defence. An exciting contest is in store and by Sunday evening we will have new Senior All-Ireland Club champions.