Thursday 19 October 2017

Mum's the word for Scanlon ambitions

Jackie Cahill

MARY SCANLON doesn't talk too much about her achievements. She's far too modest for that.

However, her proud daughter Lorraine is well aware of the fact that Mary won five All-Ireland medals as a member of the all-conquering Kerry ladies senior football team of the 1980s.

Tomorrow, Lorraine will look to follow in her mother's footsteps. It's TG4 All-Ireland final day and Kerry are back here for the first time since 1993. It's been too long.

They had two cracks at the semi-final in 2010 and last year, before hitting upon the right combination last month. Now, it's the irresistible object against the immovable force. Kerry have never lost an All-Ireland senior final, ditto Cork.

And while Kerry's men may claim the 'greatest team of all time' tag, in the ladies game -- having collected nine successive titles from 1982-1990 -- Cork have created their own piece of history in this regard.

In a far more competitive era, the Rebelettes are chasing a seventh Brendan Martin Cup success in eight seasons tomorrow.

Lorraine Scanlon is an admirer of Cork, but she reckons it's about time that Kerry recaptured some previous glories.

"They're a brilliant team," she concedes. "Look at their record -- how many All-Irelands have they won?

"They are brilliant, to put those performances together. They obviously have a great system, too, at club level and have been the queenpins for the last few years. But that has to change some time -- and why can't it be in the final?"

Fighting talk from Scanlon, a second-year PE student at University of Limerick. A graduate of St Joseph's, Abbeyfeale, the 19-year-old is enjoying her fourth season as a senior footballer with Kerry. This year, she has found a level of consistency that has helped to propel Kerry to Croke Park.

belief

She was Player of the Match in the All-Ireland quarter-final victory over Dublin, a game that fuelled the Kingdom with the belief that they could go all the way.

Scanlon is nominally a midfielder, but it won't come as a surprise to see her play some of the game at full-forward tomorrow.

"I love midfield," she says. "I'd feel more natural there but I don't mind full-forward either."

A background in basketball is another obvious advantage. A former Ireland underage international, Scanlon believes that the two codes compliment each other well.

"I'll start the basketball again with the college afterwards," she says. "It will be basketball for the winter. I remember, as an U-15, going over to a tournament in Bulgaria.

"We played eight matches over there in the European Championships.

"That was brilliant, absolutely unbelievable to see the level of basketball in Europe.

"At underage, I've won a few county leagues and that. And the two do go well together, with ball-handling skills and catching.

"I would prefer the football, but I love basketball as well. If I had to pick, I would pick the football."

A general love of sport was instilled in Lorraine, an only child, by her mother and father Padraig.

"Dad would have coached me all the way up," Lorraine explains. "He taught me everything. In such a sporting house, there was no choice but to play sport.

"Mam played senior for Kerry back in the '80s.

"She has five All-Irelands, but she wouldn't talk about it much. But I would have been aware of what she did.

"People would say it to me and, now and again, she would talk about the matches.

"They're very supportive, my parents. My dad played a bit with the club at home and he's always been very interested."

A native of Knocknagoshel, Lorraine plays for the Castleisland Desmonds club. After tomorrow, a county final beckons, but the immediate focus is on Croke Park and Kerry's first appearance in an All-Ireland final in 19 years.

A 1-13 to 1-7 victory over Galway in the last-four stage ensured that Kerry smashed their semi-final hoodoo. Free-scoring forwards Louise Ni Mhuircheartaigh and Sarah Houlihan scored 0-10 between them, but Scanlon was excellent too, contributing 1-1.

"That was a big step," Scanlon reflects.

"Now, we just want to take it all the way. Nobody remembers who lost in the final.

"When you're there, you have to grab the chance with both hands, go and give it everything. I can't wait for it and I'd see it as a great opportunity."

Cork have had the indian sign over Kerry in recent championship clashes, including this year's Munster final, but Scanlon insists that tomorrow represents a clean slate.

"This is the big one -- this is the only one that matters," she says.

"What happened last year in the championship doesn't matter. It's a completely different game and in a final, anything can happen. We're focusing on that.

"A good start is vital. In the Munster final, we got an awful start. We only woke up at half-time. That's when we started playing but that game showed us that we're just as good as them."

It's that level of belief that could see Kerry spring what would still be viewed as a major surprise.

Irish Independent

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