Dates with destiny to be played out at Croke Park over next two weeks
Anticipation has reached fever pitch as Croke Park prepares to host next Sunday’s GAA Football All-Ireland minor and senior football championship finals.
By Jackie Cahill
First up, it’s holders Kerry against Galway in the minor final before champions Dublin and challengers Mayo battle it out for the coveted Sam Maguire Cup.
Croke Park will hum with anticipation, the roars of supporters will fill the air and the hallowed turf will feel the pounding feet of the game’s top players. That’s to come next weekend but a week later, that same, familiar roar will rise as the TG4 All-Ireland junior, intermediate and senior ladies football championships reach boiling point.
The glory of an All-Ireland medal is what these footballers have been striving for all year – and now their chance has arrived. These heroic Ladies footballers deserve the same serious support that the men will receive, the same nail-biting anticipation, the same rip-roaring cheers, the same stirring chants.
And while, in the past, they might not have always received the same serious support they so richly deserve, this year has been different. Through LIDL’s sponsorship of Ladies Gaelic Football this year, the ladies have had the chance to be known, and seriously supported.
Here’s all that you need to know ahead of a mouth-watering triple-header at Croke Park on September 25:
Sunday, September 25 – Croke Park
TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Junior Football Championship Final
Antrim v Longford – 11.45am
TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Junior Intermediate Championship Final
Clare v Kildare – 1.45pm
TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Senior Football Championship Final
Cork v Dublin – 4pm
Antrim v Longford
Antrim and Longford have already met three times this year – Longford leading by 2-1 on the head-to-head. Longford won the regulation Lidl National League Division 4 fixture but Antrim turned the tables at the semi-final stage.
Come championship time, it was Longford’s turn to prevail when they had just two points to spare at St Paul’s in Belfast in a preliminary round championship encounter played last month. In their last two championship outings, Antrim have racked up an incredible tally of 14-34, with Lancashire and London both put to the sword in convincing fashion.
Mairead Cooper and Claire Timoney have been in excellent scoring form and have big-game experience to call upon. Back in 2009, Timoney scored 1-5 and Cooper 2-1 when Antrim defeated Limerick to win the TG4 All-Ireland junior crown.
Three years later, Antrim beat Louth to win lift the West County Hotel Cup again and the forthcoming clash with Longford is their third final in eight seasons. For Longford, it’s also a third junior final appearance but their first since way back in 1997.
In 1996, the Midlanders lost to Clare in the final but a year later, the team captained by Dara Gill, now McGann, made amends. Longford’s outstanding forward in their semi-final victory over Derry was Emer Meaney but Laura Burke and Aisling Greene are also attackers of high quality.
Clare v Kildare
These two counties can boast relatively recent senior experience as they prepare for the TG4 All-Ireland ladies intermediate football final. Clare were intermediate finalists in 2008 and 2009, losing to Tipperary before defeating Fermanagh a year later.
Kildare were runners-up last year against Waterford and will carry huge motivation as they aim to avoid a second successive final defeat. Clare have four 2009 survivors in their ranks – Louise Henchy, Niamh Keane, Emma O’Driscoll and Sarah Bohannon – as they target a return to the senior grade.
Their star player this year, however, is forward Niamh O’Dea, who was player-of-the-match in the Munster final loss against Tipperary before earning the same individual accolade when the counties met again at the All-Ireland semi-final stage.
Kildare, taken to extra-time by Sligo in a classic at Kingspan Breffni Park, have plenty of classy attackers themselves, and five of their six forwards made scoring contributions against the Yeats County. Emer Fogarty will be pushing hard for a starting slot as she scored four points after coming on as sub against Sligo, before notching 1-6 in St Laurence’s recent county final victory over Confey.
The Lilywhites must improve considerably from the Lidl Division 2 meeting between the counties, however, as Clare ran out 2-15 to 1-6 winners in Corofin.
Cork v Dublin
A clash to savour as Cork and Dublin go head-to-head for Brendan Martin Cup glory again. For a third successive year, the big-city rivals will battle it out for the biggest prize in Ladies Gaelic Football. Incredibly, Cork are going for an 11th senior crown in just 12 seasons and they’ve beaten Dublin in the last two finals.
Two years ago, the Rebelettes came from ten points down to stun Dublin before winning last year’s low-scoring final by two points. Eamonn Ryan was manager for those ten previous All-Ireland senior wins but the transition to Ephie Fitzgerald’s stewardship has been pretty seamless thus far.
Fitzgerald masterminded Lidl National League Division 1 glory and they’re just 60 minutes away from another All-Ireland title. Cork have lost some big players in recent years, including the likes of Valerie Mulcahy, Juliet Murphy and Elaine Harte, but they’re still backboned by some massively experienced players.
Dual stars Briege Corkery, Rena Buckley and Hannah Looney will be anxious to atone for defeat in the All-Ireland senior camogie final and Orla Finn has been a revelation in attack this year. Dublin have plenty of top stars themselves and the return of Sinead Aherne following a year out has boosted their chances considerably in 2016.
Manager Gregory McGonigle has suffered final heartbreak against Cork on four occasions – with Monaghan in 2011 and 2013, and in charge of Dublin for the last two years.
But he has a nice blend of youth and experience at his disposal and the more established stars such as Sinead Goldrick, Sinead Finnegan, Noelle Healy, Aherne and Lyndsey Davey won’t want to suffer that sinking feeling against Cork again.
Tickets are available by visiting tickets.ie
Prices: Adults €25, Students and OAPs €10, U14s €5
Group tickets available by contacting the Ladies Gaelic Football Association – 01-8363156 or email: [email protected]
Rates: Groups of U16s with a minimum of 10 children and one adult - €5 each
Family tickets – 2 adults and 2 children - €60
Tickets also available through usual GAA outlets.
Show your #SeriousSupport at the TG4 Ladies All-Ireland Football Championship Final on September 25th in Croke Park.
The Ladies Football Championship Final will take centre stage September 25th. Be there to show your #SeriousSupport.