‘The ultimate goal was to peak for this weekend in December’

Emma Duffy chats to Mourneabbey manager Shane Ronayne ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland senior club final

2017 has been a year to remember for Shane Ronayne.

In September, he guided Tipperary to All-Ireland intermediate glory in Croke Park, ending the Premier’s long wait for championship success.

Lifting the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup capped a remarkable year in which his side went unbeaten.

But for Ronayne, he was far from finished. There was another job to be done.

This is his fourth year at the helm in Mourneabbey, and they find themselves back where they want to be.

But still 60 minutes away from reaching the Holy Grail and finally lifting that All-Ireland senior crown.

After consecutive final losses in 2014 and 2015 and a semi-final exit last year, there’s a sense that it’s now or never.

Shane Ronayne celebrates TG4 All-Ireland intermediate success for Tipperary.

He begins: “I asked them that the first meeting of the year. ‘What are we back for, lads?’

“‘We’re back for the All-Ireland,’ was the answer I got. That might sound absolutely crazy and big-headed but it wasn’t.

“No disrespect to anything else, a county and a Munster wasn’t going to be enough for us. We wanted to win the All-Ireland.

“We mightn’t do it. If we don’t do it, so be it but that was the goal at the start of the year, to get to the All-Ireland final.

“We took each game as it came, we didn’t look ahead of ourselves but the ultimate goal was to peak for this weekend in December. Look, we’re there, hopefully we can get it done.”

Rewind back to the very start of the year though, even to before that first meeting.

The disappointment of how last year ended, edged out by eventual champions Donaghmoyne, was something else. So close but yet so far again.

A lot of teams would throw in the towel at that stage. But not Mourneabbey. There’s something special about the Clyda side.

“There was a lot of soul searching done whether we’d go back,” Ronayne continues.

”Some of the players weren’t sure whether they’d retire and I wasn’t sure myself if I’d stay on.

“We said we’d give it one more crack.

“We worked on the mental side of things about getting over the line and not playing with fear and things like that and this year, we’ve gone out and played to win.

“I think in previous years we were afraid of losing and that’s the biggest thing we’ve tried to get out of the team this year; to play to win, and not to worry too much about the opposition.”

He adds: They’re a great bunch, I enjoy working with them. I have so much time for them.

“Whatever happens Sunday they’re going to be the same players going down the road to Cork again that night. I think that’s the most important thing for them to remember.

“They don’t owe anybody anything, they don’t have to prove anything to anybody. They know they’re good enough to get there, it’s just about getting over the line.”

Their opposition in the decider five-time champions Carnacon pose a hefty challenge.

With a host of talent and big names like Cora Staunton, Martha Carter and Fiona McHale to name just three, Ronayne is well aware of the mammoth task ahead.

He insists that Mourneabbey will be concentrating on themselves and that they won’t deviate too far from the norm in Parnell Park.

“It’s going to be nip and tuck,” he continues. “There isn’t a whole pile between the two teams.

“If both teams play up to standard, it’ll be a right cracker I’d say. It’ll definitely be something to enjoy for the neutrals.

“I don’t know if it’ll be enjoyable for the people involved but if everything goes right it’s going to be a real tight battle. There’ll be nothing between the two teams.

“Loads of inter-county stars between the two teams and that’s what you want in the premier club final of the year. It’s going to be a huge game.”

There’ll be no shortage of travelling support from Leeside to the capital this weekend, but there’ll be one notable absentee in black and amber.

Carnacon captain Cora Staunton poses a big threat to Mourneabbey’s hopes of All-Ireland glory.

Mourneabbey native Ted Linehan tragically drowned earlier this month, and he would have been a huge supporter of the club since its inception.

“There is that little bit that there’s someone looking down on us,” Ronayne concludes. “There is that little bit of motivation.

“Ted would have been there, it’d be great if we could have that Sunday evening. It would be really special for the community of Mourneabbey.

“They really are a great community, they get together and mind each other and look after each other on sad occasions.

“Sunday is going to be a big happy occasion, we hope and if it’s not and it doesn’t work out, I know that the community of Mourneabbey will be fully behind the team on Sunday night and they’ll be welcomed home like they’re heroes anyway.

“But hopefully we’ll be coming home with the cup.”