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St Paul’s set for their date with destiny

The St Paul’s team ahead of their 1-7 to 1-6 semi-final win against St Nathy’s The St Paul’s team ahead of their 1-7 to 1-6 semi-final win against St Nathy’s
By David Mohan

LGFA All-Ireland Club Intermediate final
St Paul’s v Naomh Ciarán (Kingspan Breffni Park, Saturday, 2.30pm)

ALL roads will lead to Breffni Park in Cavan on Sunday as St Paul’s ladies get set to face Offaly’s Naomh Ciarán in the All-Ireland Club Intermediate Football final.

The West Belfast girls have been the undisputed kingpins of Antrim ladies football for a long time having won 10 league titles in-a-row and eight counties titles in as many year, but now they are aiming to complete their goal of national domination having annexed the provincial title.

There will undoubtedly be a few nerves alongside excitement this week as the Shaw’s Road girls get set for their date with destiny and that mindset extends beyond the players according to manager Brian Coyle.

“It’s a nerve-wracking feeling,” he admitted.

“You don’t sleep much this week. Your minds just tuned-in and the moment you lie down everything starts to go through your head so there are more sleepless nights ahead.”

This week is mainly about managing the players so they can deliver their best at the weekend.
All of the hard work is done and the tools sharpened ahead of Saturday’s showdown that will be broadcast live on the LGFA Facebook page, with any niggling injuries or illnesses taken care of.

“It’s a wind-down this week,” Coyle reports.

“We finished all our hard stuff yesterday (Sunday) so we’ll just do a bit of shooting practice this week.

“There are a couple who have tonsillitis and a couple of others who have exams this week too, so we are dealing with what we have now. Our injuries have been monitored as there are a couple of the girls carrying knocks and we just have to keep an eye on that.”

While they will be without Saoirse Tennyson who is a long-term injury, they have been boosted with the news that Stacey McCann will make the long journey home from a holiday in Australia to line-out.

The Tyrone native only made the trip Down Under last week, but quickly arranged a flight back so she can take her place in the team and that underlines the spirit and desire of his entire team says the St Paul’s boss.

“The commitment of that girl to come back in unbelievable,” he agreed.

“She paid all that money herself because unfortunately, we aren’t a rich club but we have been looking to see if we can get some sponsorship money to help her out as best we can.

“When she booked it we said to her about being out of pocket and if she was sure because what shape would she be in flying back from Australia with jetlag.

“How many times do you get to an All-Ireland Club final? That’s the stuff that has been driving her on.”

McCann was one of many who led the charge in the semi-final against St Nathy’s when it appeared the Sligo team was about to break for home when opening up a four-point gap early in the second period.

However, St Paul’s refused to his the panic button with Kirsty and Caitlin McGuinness kicking some vital scores, while Lara Dahunsi was incredible around the middle.

They will be hoping for an improved display from that one-point victory when perhaps nerves left them a little off-colour, but when push came to shove, they found a way.

“That team doesn’t know when they’re beaten,” insists Coyle.

“They have the resilience and backbone to keep going when the chips are down. We just seem to get stronger when the chips are down, so we’re all very proud of them.”

Naomh Ciarán also had to show resilience in their semi-final as they required extra-time to get the better of Cork’s Inch Rovers.

The Faithful girls put on a masterclass in the additional period to run out 3-15 to 1-11 winners with dual star Kate Kenny leading the way with 1-10 to her name.

Kaitlyn Rigney and Aoibhe Kelly also found the net so there is plenty of quality in their attack and while Coyle admits he hasn’t seen much of the opposition, the fact they are in an All-_Ireland final tells him all he needs to know as to the quality his charges will face in their bid to land an All-Ireland title.

“I don’t know a lot about them other than they have three players on the county team,” he confirmed.

“One (Kenny) seems to do the majority of their scoring, another (Amy Gavin-Mangan) plays midfield and is very strong in the middle of the park, while the other (Emer Mangan) is in the defence.

“Any team that gets to an All-Ireland final know they are coming up against the best as you are down to the last two of all those teams that entered.

“I believe in our team and I believe that if they beat us, they are a very good team because I know my one is very strong.”

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