This weekend we have our top clubs in the country battling it out for All Ireland Glory. Jackie Cahill previews the big games ahead.
Saturday, December 3rd
LGFA Junior All Ireland Club Final
St. Maurs (Dublin) v Kinsale (Cork)
Netwatch Cullen Park, Carlow
1:00pm (S. Mulvihill)
APPEARING in their first All-Ireland finals, Dublin outfit St Maurs and Cork representatives Kinsale kick-start what promises to be an exciting weekend of action across three grades.
After a pulsating draw with Latton at the semi-final stage, St Maurs edged past their Monaghan opponents after extra-time in an entertaining replay, and away from home for good measure.
That victory should fuel St Maurs with the belief that they can finish the job by claiming All-Ireland glory but Kinsale have real scoring power in the form of All-Star forward Orla Finn and All-Ireland minor winner Sadhbh O’Leary.
In their semi-final victory against Mayo’s Kilmoremoy, Finn helped herself to a personal haul of 1-9, including four points from frees, as O’Leary chipped in with 1-2.
Jenny Murphy at centre forward scored a goal in that game and has been showing some really consistent form in Kinsale’s march to the final, while Rebecca Murphy’s two points off the bench also proved that the Cork girls have strength in depth to call upon.
Defensively, it was an impressive effort too from Kinsale and St Maurs will have to work hard to break through a rearguard anchored by Emma O’Brien at full-back and Caoimhe O’Callaghan at centre back.
Aoife Keating and Loraine Copithorne have forged an impressive midfield partnership and that has provided the platform for a plentiful supply of ball to a potentially lethal forward division.
But St Maurs have undoubted class in their own ranks, with Niamh Carthy and Olivia Leonard combining for 0-13 as St Maurs edged past Latton at the second attempt.
Carthy was a member of the Dublin minor panel earlier in the year, while Sinead Moran played in the All-Ireland final loss to Cork.
Leonard is well-known on the national stage, and was a member of the Dublin senior panel defeated by Cork last September at Croke Park.
Naomi Clare has worn the Dublin jersey at U16 and minor levels and Eadaoin McGuinness has also worn the Sky Blue county shirt. Plenty of class in both sides, then, and a close encounter is anticipated.
Sunday December 4
LGFA Intermediate All Ireland Club Final
Shane O’Neill’s (Armagh) v Annaghdown (Galway)
Parnell Park, Dublin
1:00pm (S. McNulty)
SUNDAY’S intermediate decider also pits two first-time finalists against each other, as Shane O’Neills from Armagh go head-to-head with Galway’s Annaghdown at Parnell Park in Dublin.
Shane O’Neills are renowned goal-scorers and this could prove crucial as a club that was only formed in 2007 aim to crown a remarkable rise by claiming national glory.
In their Ulster final, Armagh senior star Aimee Mackin and Aoibheann Jones both scored hat-tricks against Fermanagh outfit Kinawley and Mackin was at her devastating best in the All-Ireland semi-final victory over London’s Parnell’s.
Shane O’Neills scored 3-7 and remarkably, Mackin delivered all but one point of that tally.
She is the player that Annaghdown will have to stop but in their semi-final against Abbeyside, the Galway and Connacht champions showed that they can defend, limiting the Waterford team to just six points.
Shane O’Neills have plenty of county class in their ranks, from goalkeeper Katie Daly (daughter of former Armagh manager James) through to a lethal inside line with Mackin at its spearhead.
Louise Kenny will captain the team from centre back while Shauna Grey and Blaithin Mackin have been excellent at midfield.
Grey was player of the match in the Ulster final and midfield sidekick Blaithin is sister of star turn Aimee.
Opponents Annaghdown are led by captain Niamh Duggan, an All-Ireland senior medallist with Galway in 2004 who’s been rolling back the years at club level.
Duggan was 19 when she claimed national glory with the county at Croke Park and now she’s hoping to emulate that success with Annaghdown.
Rachel King at full-forward is a lethal operator who we highlighted before the Abbeyside game and true to form, she pounced for the crucial goal that helped to see off the Waterford ladies.
Goalkeeper Mary Kate Killilea began that sweeping move with a kick-out to Chloe Crowe and the ball passed through the hands of Duggan and another dangerous forward, Gráinne Barrett, before King applied the finishing touch.
More of the same would do very nicely for Annaghdown but Shane O’Neills will work hard to ensure that the same space is not afforded to the Galway girls.
In last year’s intermediate final, 14-year-old Sarah Dillon from Westmeath side Milltown grabbed the headlines with a brilliant goal against Cahir – but which player will we be talking about after the 2016 final?
LGFA Senior All Ireland Club Final
Donaghmoyne (Monaghan) v Foxrock Cabinteely (Dublin)
Parnell Park, Dublin
2:45pm (G. Carmody)
FOUR-time winners and holders against first-time finalists. That’s what lies in store on Sunday when Monaghan’s Donaghmoyne face off against Dublin side Foxrock-Cabinteely in the All-Ireland senior club final at Parnell Park.
Donaghmoyne, who will be contesting their seventh final, will aim to do what they’ve never done before – successfully defend their title.
Winners in 2015, 2012, 2009 and 2006, Donaghmoyne have also finished as beaten finalists in 2005 and 2013.
Before beating Mourneabbey in last year’s final, Donaghmoyne saw off Foxrock-Cabinteely at the semi-final stage.
And they’ll hope for a role reversal this time after beating Mourneabbey at the semi-final stage, with Foxrock-Cabinteely now providing the final opposition.
Donaghmoyne won by four points when the 2016 finalists met at the penultimate stage last year but Foxrock-Cabinteely will feel confident of closing that gap with extra experience under their belts.
But Donaghmoyne have been there, done that, and their ‘drive for five’ is very much alive.
They have also managed to keep the core of the 2015 All-Ireland winning team, as 12 players who started at Parnell Park 12 months ago lined out against Mourneabbey in the semi-final.
Goalkeeper Linda Martin was player of the match in last year’s final and Monaghan star Sharon Courtney has enjoyed another brilliant season in defence.
At midfield, Sharon’s sister and fellow county player Cora stars alongside club captain Amanda Casey, a former long-serving Monaghan player who’s lined out for her club for almost 20 years, and she’s still only 32.
Up front, another ex-Monaghan player, Catriona McConnell, is a bona-fide match-winner while defender Hazel Kingham has the potential to hurt Foxrock-Cabinteely with driving runs from deep.
Kingham scored two sensational late points in the final victory over Mourneabbey last year and inflicted more damage on the same opposition with a semi-final goal.
In 2005, Foxrock amalgamated with Cabinteely to become Foxrock-Cabinteely, and within two years, they were All-Ireland junior champions.
Now, they’re just 60 minutes away from the biggest club prize in ladies football – and in their maiden senior final.
If anybody doubted Foxrock-Cabinteely’s credentials, they would have been transformed into believers when watching them put five-time All-Ireland senior winners Carnacon to the sword in a remarkable semi-final.
Having been reduced to 14 players, Foxrock-Cabinteely showed incredible resolve to score two goals in as many minutes and turn the game on its head.
Amy Ring and Amy Connolly, who can both can call upon recent experience at the top level with Dublin, combined for the first of those goals, Ring the scorer, before Ring turned provider for Louth’s Anne-Marie Murphy.
Leading the Foxrock-Cabinteely charge from the half-back line once again will be Dublin duo Sinead Goldrick, recently crowned an All-Star, and Niamh Collins.
Westmeath’s Fiona Claffey is another player Donaghmoyne will need to keep a close eye on while Laois native Laura Nerney also found the net against Carnacon.
Foxrock-Cabinteely may call upon players from different counties but it’s very much a united effort when they hit the field of play. And they’ll need to be very much on their game to stop Donaghmoyne claiming back-to-back crowns.