An interview with Sligo manager Kathleen kane

An Interview with Sligo’s Kathleen Kane
By Liam î Maoldhomhnaigh of the Sligo Weekender



a parachute and jump.

Sligo’s Ladies Footballers are taking another leap of faith when
bracing themselves for their second successive TG4 All-Ireland
Junior Championship final, but at least last year’s experience,
albeit a losing one, provides a parachute of sorts.

Ulster champions Armagh, themselves facing their first All-Ireland
Junior Championship final, stand between Sligo and the coveted
West County Cup. But Sligo manager Kathleen Kane, in her second
year at the helm, believes that her squad has improved immeasurably
since 2004, when the campaign ended on such a miserable note in
Croke Park.

players who endured that bleak loss to Kildare have grown
up considerably according to Kane. 

“I’d say that the players are 30-40 per cent stronger, both
physically and mentally, than last year. The players have
had two years of fitness training [Ballymote’s Ashley Henry
is the squad’s trainer] and I think they have a certain maturity
about them now. We were immature last year.”

“Their [the players’] feet are on the ground about the whole
All-Ireland thing and they know what has to be done,” said
the manager, herself a renowned forward during a productive
inter-county career. The knowledge of what to expect in terms
of the occasion itself could prove invaluable, as Kane admitted
that tasting the Croke Park aura for the first time in 2004
proved overpowering.

Cathaoirleach makes presentation to team manager Kathleen

“Looking back I would say that we were overawed. We were so excited
to have got there [Croke Park] and everything was so new. I was
a nervous wreck myself,” Kane revealed. “With over 20,000 fans
there I found that shouting instructions to the players was almost
impossible,” the manager recalled, “so we have a system of hand
signals this time round.”

The route to next weekend’s final has been almost as smooth as
last year’s obstacle-free run to the decider. The Connacht title
was retained with relative ease just like in 2004 but Sligo were
examined fully by Tipperary and Wexford, their opponents in the
All-Ireland quarter-final and semi-final respectively.

Contrast the latter two tests with last year’s horribly one-sided
All-Ireland semi-final when Sligo put 7-7 past Cork. Furthermore,
Sligo’s attacking options have expanded. Last year it was more
or less Stephanie O’Reilly and Louise Brett who carried the team’s
offensive verve, a factor fully exploited by Kildare who blunted
these exceptional forwards in the final.

But Noelle Gormley and Therese Marren, each of whom played against
Kildare (Marren as a second-half substitute), have now joined
O’Reilly and Brett as the team’s leading scorers.

This has been a breakthrough season for Gormley, with the St Nathy’s
teenager topping Sligo’s scoring charts. She has scored 8-17 (41
points) in seven games. O’Reilly hasn’t matched last year’s scoring
exploits she had plundered 7-19 before the Croke Park showdown
but a significant reason for that has been the switch to a defensive
role, that of centre-back.

Sligo will be familiar with Armagh’s power, having lost to the
Ulster champions in a Ladies National Football League Division
Two semi-final last April. Armagh, who fell to Kildare in last
year’s All-Ireland Junior Championship semi-final, secured the
Ulster crown with a 12-points win over Fermanagh, whom they later
defeated in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Among their most impressive players are centre-back Bronagh O’Donnell,
the team captain, midfielders Alma O’Donnell (Bronagh’s twin sister)
and Caroline O’Hanlon plus Sharon Duncan, the team’s No. 11. Full-forward
Aileen Matthews, the scorer of 1-6 in the All-Ireland semi-final
destruction of Fermanagh, is another to watch out for. “Armagh
are a formidable side and very strong in the centre,” said Kane
of Sunday’s opponents.

For a game of this magnitude, Kane’s plans have been hampered
by the loss of team captain Caroline Currid, who sustained a knee
injury in the first-half of the Connacht final.

Currid’s absence has been covered somewhat by the introduction
of Cammie Kennedy into the defence, although Kane would rather
have the St Mary’s player available.

“Caroline [Currid] is a leader and she is missed. However, there
is great depth in the panel Ð maybe 22 or 23 players are in contention
for the starting 15 Ð and Cammie [Kennedy] has come into the team.
Louise Harte, the vice-captain, takes over Caroline’s duties on
the field but the two of them [Currid and Harte] talk to the players
before matches and at half-time.”

The aforementioned Stephanie O’Reilly is likely to start at centre-back,
with her former Coola Post Primary School team-mate, Bernice Byrne,
partnering Sinead McTiernan at midfield. Angela Doohan, one of
the team’s most experienced players along with Michelle McGowan,
also of St Nathy’s, will probably begin the game at centre-forward.
O’Reilly could revert to attack as the game progresses.

Top scorer Noelle Gormley is expected to be fit to start, although
she missed two recent games for St Nathy’s because of a knee complaint.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Katrina Connolly, full-back Grainne O’Gara
and wing-forward Etna Flanagan, at 29 the team’s oldest player,
also have vital roles to play.

“Losing isn’t an option this time,” remarked Kane. “Last year
the players were geared up for reaching the final this time we
have to go one step further.” “It is said that a team has to suffer
a major defeat to know how to win, I hope that is the case. We
need to win this final for Ladies Football in Sligo to advance
competing isn’t just good enough.” “A good start is very important
against Armagh. We have firepower in attack, provided the players
work hard. If we play to our potential we have a good chance of

“For me, personally, my year will be a huge disappointment if
we lose,” she added.

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