SATURDAY will be another big day around West Offaly as the Naomh Ciaran Senior Ladies football team take on their biggest challenge to date when they take on St Paul’s of Antrim in the All Ireland club Intermediate final.
It has been a massive journey for the Naomh Ciaran group. From starting back in February, they retained their County championship before getting the job done in Leinster last month.
Their toughest test came in the All Ireland semi final when they needed extra time to get over Inch Rovers of Cork but all in all, they are in a good place both mentally and physically ahead of the big game that takes place in Breffni Park in Cavan on Saturday at 2.30pm.
Both intermediate finalists, are gracing this stage for the first time, and it’s also the very first time that clubs from each county have reached this stage of the competition.
Naomh Ciarán will hope to keep the cup in Leinster for the third year in a row, following wins for Clontarf (Dublin) in 2018, and Dunboyne (Meath) a year previously.
The last team from Ulster to lift the All-Ireland Junior crown was Lisnaskea from Fermanagh back in 2011, and a win for St Paul’s would bridge an eight-year gap for the province.
In their respective semi-finals, Naomh Ciarán produced a stunning display to oust former All-Ireland Senior champions Inch Rovers after extra-time, while St Paul’s edged out St Nathy’s by just a single point.
Naomh Ciaran have been the standard bearers in Offaly over the last few years and have dominated the Offaly championship.
They have stars all over the pitch. Emer Nally and Eimear Flynn will back bone the defence while Amy Gavin-Mangan was one of Offaly’s best performers this year in a disappointing year on the county front.
Kate Kenny and Ellee McEvoy have the capability of tormenting any defence and it will be this pair that hold the key to Naomh Ciaran getting up a head of steam on the scoreboard.
They also have a strong bench with dual star Roisin Egan making a massive impact recently when she has been sprung.
Both Roisin Egan and Kate Kenny are fresh from claiming a Leinster club Camogie with St Rynagh’s last weekend as they look to keep their unbelievable year going.
Naomh Ciaran have players from Ferbane, Shannonbridge, Doon, Ballycumber and Erin Rovers while coach Colin Kenny explains that they whole of west Offaly and indeed the Naomh Ciaran committee have rowed in behind them
“It’s massive. Especially this year with the year we’ve had with stuff going wrong and us having to repeat things.
“It could have got messy but it’s just a sign of a good club when the committee back it. We back it. And we’re all on the one page.”
Finals in general can take on life of their own but these Naomh Ciaran players have plenty of experience playing in finals.
Sure enough, an All Ireland final is an extra step but it is one they looked to well equipped for.
Extremely well coached, the players themselves have already shown this year that they mean business.
With the forward power they possess and that winning mentality that the whole of west Offaly seem to possess this year, Naomh Ciaran can get the job done.
Verdict: Naomh Ciaran