Mairead Stenson will join an esteemed list of Leitrim footballers to captain their county into a league final this weekend. On Saturday at 1.15pm, Mairead will lead her side out in this year’s Bord Gais Ladies National Football League Division 3 final against Westmeath in Parnell Park.
The 23 year-old, who has been part of the ladies panel since she was 16, has been an important fixture of Niall Kilcrann’s team since the opening game of this year’s league campaign against Down in February.
The Mohill club-woman is looking forward to the game and spoke to the Leitrim Observer about her pride in leading her county out in this weekend’s decider. “I found out last Tuesday that I was going to be the captain and it came as some surprise if I’m honest. It’s a massive honour for me and it’s a fantastic opportunity.”
Mairead lined out at corner back when Westmeath travelled to Ballinamore in March in an earlier round of the competition. She was one of the key performers on the day as she broke up several Westmeath attacks that came her way. The Eslin native’s positional awareness on the field, along with her distribution of the ball was close to flawless as she assisted in converting any Westmeath attacks into Leitrim counters.
“I performed well that day but it’s not an individual sport, it’s a team sport. Every girl in that panel gives everything and continues to do so throughout the full 60 minutes and we will do that again on Saturday. We have all done really well this year to get to this final and it’s no coincidence that we have a really hard working panel.”
Like any successful sporting team, it is the work that is done on the sideline that is as important as what is done on the pitch. Manager Niall Kilcrann has been as pivotal in Leitrim’s path to the final and Mairead has paid homage to the Kilglass Gaels man in the run up to the game. “Niall is so professional in the way applies himself to the job. He has everything set up for us when we come to training, everything is so structured. It’s in and out and there is absolutely no messing.”
On the game itself, Mairead feels her side hold no advantage over their rivals despite having beaten them already this year. “They lost two players through yellow cards in that game and they still got their goal to narrow the gap. We are the underdogs as they are current All-Ireland Champions and finished top of our league. Some of their players might also have experience playing in Parnell Park, whereas I don’t think any of us have.”
Despite this, Mairead says she and her team are still going into this game with full intentions of bringing the title back to County Leitrim. “This a massive opportunity for us and we know if we all work hard and work for each other, we will have no problems.”