Glencar/Manorhamilton won their first Leitrim LGFA Senior title last year - now they want to add a Connacht title to their honours when they face Geevagh next Saturday Picture: Willie Donnellan
To say that the footballers of Glencar/Manorhamilton are looking forward to next Saturday’s oft delayed 2020 Connacht Ladies Intermediate Club Final is an understatement, particularly if you listen to manager Padhraic Corrigan!
Saturday’s meeting in Markievicz Park (12 noon throw-in) with Sligo champions Geevagh was supposed to take place last October but with Lockdowns and bans on games, Glencar/Manorhamilton finally get their chance at provincial glory after eight months of waiting!
“There have been so many false starts as to when it was going to happen,” Padhraic told the Observer ahead of the final, “Each time there was a wee bit of easing of the lockdown, all of Manorhamilton was asking if the game was going ahead. We’re really looking forward to it, can’t wait - it cannot come quick enough.
“We were looking forward to last October and we were on a roll. Now there is a lot more uncertainty, there are a few players doing the Leaving Cert and Leah Fox got a bad bang with the county team. But if I know Leah, she is one of the toughest on the team and if she can do it, she will be there but it was a nasty bang.
“The Leaving Cert is a bit of an issue for us with a few players, we’re hoping that when the exams go on a bit, they might make themselves available but we’re not missing anyone.”
There was another important reason for the final to go ahead since St Clare’s CS missed out on an All-Ireland Senior Final last year due to Covid: “In fairness to Connacht Council and Ita Flatley, it was important that it did finish. Some of the girls involved with St Clare’s have missed out on final. It would have been very unfortunate for a lot of them to miss out on another one of them.”
The excitement in the team is mirrored in the community with 100 Glencar Manor fans allowed to attend the game: “I wouldn’t have liked the job of trying to keep them out of Markievicz,” joked Padhraic, “They are loyal fans, they are planning their route in and they’ve been with this team from the very start, from the heartbreaks against St Joseph’s two finals in a row.”
Despite the delays and Lockdown fatigue, Padhraic reports that his big problem ahead of next Saturday’s clash is actually cutting his panel down to 40 players! “If there is one thing I would complain about is that we had to cut our panel to 30 - we have 40 girls training and that is not fair. The girls who won’t make the final 30 have made as much, probably more, effort to try and get on the panel and they all deserve it, from 1 to 40.
“Back in January, February we started doing body conditioning on Zoom and that kind of kept us going. We had 25, 26 of the girls on it which is huge, then it just progressed with people putting up their numbers in the WhatsApp group. It was tough at times because you didn’t think there was going to be an end to it but then all of a sudden, it is on us. I don’t think fitness will be a problem for us, we’re very fit, our girls are moving well so roll on Saturday.”
Geevagh are an established team littered with current and former Sligo stars and Padhraic is not underestimating them: “What I did find out about them in their Sligo campaign is that they are never defeated, they always keep coming - they were seven points down in the final at one stage, came back to draw it and won it in the replay. They just never gave up.
“We know there is a huge task ahead of us, this Geevagh team is very strong up the middle, they have huge experience there with Bernice Byrne, Stephanie Reilly, Sarah Reynolds, Elaine O’Reilly the freetaker, Sinead McTiernan so very strong line up the middle.
“But we always say we will focus more on what we have, how do we get our girls moving and how do we get our finishers on the ball and that is what we’re trying to do in training all the time.”
Unusually for a club manager, Padhraic was delighted to see the Glencar/Manor contingent out playing with Leitrim: “We knew the county team would be training away and we made the commitment to them that when they’d come back, we’d be ready.”
Naturally, any talk of Manor Ladies usually mentions their county stars but Padhraic believes it is his “unknown” stars who might make the difference; “County players are usually marked, tagged by opposition who know who they are but you find that someone from outside the pack comes out and wins games.”
Of course that leads to talk of Irish soccer international Muireann Devaney but Padhraic points out that his Glencar/Manor squad is full of players who star at the highest levels in other sports: “Muireann is super and she is super committed, how she does it, I don’t know. Now that she has gone to another level with Athlone Town, she is getting in Players of the Week two weeks in a row, this kind of stuff, she is a super talent.
“Ailbhe Clancy is coming back from injury, she has worked hard to get back, Hannah Johnston is playing at a high level in rugby and we have Dearbhla Rooney in boxing but they always come back, they juggle it around.
“I don’t know if you would get that from the mens - this group of girls is just so committed, they get on with each other - the oldest gets on with the youngest, no cliques. It is a great set-up, it is great to be part of. When I came in here first, we probably focussed on our elite players too much but last year, we focussed more on getting the whole team moving.”
But the big message Padhraic is getting across to his team is that they belong in Connacht Finals and to take their chance now: “I was telling them that it should never be seen as a bonus for a Leitrim team to be here, it is a bonus the game is going ahead but never a bonus that we’re contesting finals because if you go in with that mindset, you’re never going to win it.
“We want this to become the norm, that Manorhamilton Ladies are in finals and they’re winning finals but it starts next Saturday. You don’t know what is coming around the corner and I’d be afraid when Covid eventually does go, there is a group of girls have to go to America for the Summer, there is three years of holidays to be taken, there are festival, Bundoran Sea Sessions and all those, they all have to be enjoyed!”
You sense that Padhraic’s confidence and belief in this team must be infectious but the Glencar/Manor ladies manager just wants them to perform: “We understand how tough it is going to be but what we do not want is a hard luck story, a referee’s decision or something like that. If they beat us, beat us because they were better than us. Hopefully we will not be found wanting.
“I have huge confidence in the girls, absolutely huge confidence in them. I am not going to say we’re the greatest team or whatever but I’d say what I said when we were going for the Leitrim title, I always felt that if we won one, we could go on and win lots more, the first one was a huge hurdle.
“It is the same here, we have a very young team - there is only Cammie, Melissa and Amanda that you could call experienced. Even Muireann, she has been playing Senior football for three or four years and she is only 17, Leah the same. Confident if we can perform on the day, I’d back Manorhamilton girls 100 times out of 100, they have that focus.”
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