Cunningham Hopes to Lead Ulster to 3-in-a-Row

2013 MMI Group Ladies Football Interprovincial Tournament - Cup Final


PAULA Cunningham’s Ulster will attempt to capture a third successive MMI interprovincial ladies football championship crown in Kinnegad on Saturday.

But Cunningham, the former Meath and Fermanagh manager, has confirmed that a number of leading stars are unavailable for the trip to Westmeath.

Monaghan’s Sharon Courtney is ruled out with a hamstring injury and Donegal forward Geraldine McLaughlin will not feature either after undergoing knee surgery.

Armagh’s Fionnuala McKenna is another notable absentee due to exam commitments but Cunningham has still managed to assemble a powerful-looking squad.

Last year’s beaten TG4 All-Ireland senior finalists Monaghan provide 13 players, with Armagh, Tyrone, Down, Cavan and Donegal also represented.

Cunningham said: “It’s a great honour for me personally to take the job.

“We’ve put a great squad together and we’ve had a couple of sessions.

“We’re hoping to go there and do our best for the province and our counties.

“Three in a row would be fantastic but we’re down a few, unfortunately.

“However, we have 30 girls proud to put on the black and amber jersey and I have full faith in them.”

And Cunningham insisted that the prospect of winning an interprovincial medal still means a huge amount to the players representing all four provinces.

She added: “I remember years ago when managers of county teams didn’t want girls going to the interpros.

“They were being pulled out left, right and centre but now it really is the best players at one venue on one day.

“I’d urge neutrals to come and watch and whether you’ve never been at a ladies match or you go to one every weekend, it’s going to be a fantastic day of football.

“The only thing that we have no control over is the weather and a few good hours would be electric.”

Gerry Carmody and Francie Keane are heading up the management team for last year’s beaten finalists Connacht.

And Carmody revealed: “We were a bit naive last year and we’ll be looking to rotate a bit more.

“We had a couple of girls that needed a break and we’ll be bringing them in and out.”

Connacht haven’t won an interprovincial crown since 2000 and Carmody admitted: “It would be lovely. Last year, we felt we had it.

“In the last five minutes, we were there or thereabouts but it went from us.

“That’s when I thought that the legs weren’t there with the key girls like Annette Clarke.

“Fiona McHale was also getting tired after the amount of running she had done.”

Carmody is keen to heed those lessons and while Claire Egan and Sarah Roe are unavailable, Connacht will have Mayo pair Caoilfhion Connolly and Aileen Gilroy available.

Munster, champions in 2011, have Kerry manager William O’Sullivan at the helm and he has included ten Kingdom stars and eleven of Cork’s League and All-Ireland holders in his squad.

O’Sullivan said: “It’s something the girls would like to have after their careers finish up.

“You might have provincial titles, Leagues and All-Irelands but if you don’t have an interprovincial medal, it’s something notable missing from the cabinet.

“It’s my first year in charge so I can’t comment on the last couple of seasons but I think Connacht will be pretty strong.

“You’re looking at Galway and Mayo providing the bulk of their squad and you have Aine Tighe from Leitrim.

“As a manager, it’s fairly recative on the day rather than proactive.

“We’ll see how it pans out.”

Leinster are chasing a first title since 2006 and manager Dominic Leech (Wicklow) believes that the province’s first game of the day against Ulster will tell a lot.

He said: “We play Ulster in the first match and that’s the big game. You have to win your first match.

“The girls love playing in this competition.

“The only thing that gets to me is that you can’t organise a system. It’s difficult to say that we’ll play with a sweeper, for example, because you’re drawing players from different counties and different styles.

“I know that Ulster are missing some from last year but they’re still drawing primarily from Monaghan and there is a consistency there.

“But we have nine Dublin players and they have their own system.

“It’s also a fairly significant thing that we don’t get a big refusal rate.

“I’d normally send out text messages to players and we are missing one player through injury and another because of exam commitments.”

If Ulster do manage to win three-in-a-row, they will become the first province to achieve that feat since Munster won five successive titles from 1984-88.




Saturday, May 24th


MMI Group Interprovincial Football Championship (Kinnegad)


Round 1

Leinster v Ulster, 11am.

Connacht v Munster, 11am.


Round 2

Connacht v Leinster, 12:30pm

Munster v Ulster, 12:30pm


Round 3

Leinster v Munster, 2:00pm

Connacht v Ulster, 2:00pm


Shield Final: 3:45pm

Cup Final: 4:00pm

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