Friday 24 November 2017

Breffnis ready to prove a point and shake off Ulster blues

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

8 August 2015; Sinead Greene, Cavan, in action against Eileen McElroy, Monaghan. TG4 Ladies Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Qualifier, Round 2, Cavan v Monaghan. Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
8 August 2015; Sinead Greene, Cavan, in action against Eileen McElroy, Monaghan. TG4 Ladies Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Qualifier, Round 2, Cavan v Monaghan. Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

CAVAN’S ladies feel they really have a point to prove against Laois tomorrow (Saturday) and who could blame them.

Their defeat of reigning champion Donegal in the Ulster semi-finals was one of the biggest shocks of the summer. Yet, ever since, the constant inference has been that their opponents, this year’s Lidl Division 2 champions, were severely understrength, having lost some players to America. Cavan are understandably miffed that they didn’t really get full credit for the victory and it reaching what was the county’s first Ulster senior final in 39 years.

“To be honest that alone is nearly driving us on this weekend,” captain Sinead Greene said candidly. “All I keep hearing is that ‘Donegal were missing this one and that one and the other one.’

“But we know ourselves they were probably only without three of their starters, they still had most of their first team and were very strong. They came back with the same team and beat Galway last weekend!” she pointed out.

“Galway are an outstanding side so that shows just how good Donegal are and what a massive achievement it was for us.

“It is bugging us a little bit because it kind of takes away from our achievement,” she admitted.

Cavan have even more regrets about their subsequent Ulster final loss to Monaghan. The gap was only three points but “as a team we were extremely disappointed with our performance,” she revealed. “I never have any problem losing if you’re just not good enough but I know myself that I didn’t perform to my best, and the rest of the team felt the same.

“I don’t know if the occasion got to us. There was a big crowd and lots of Cavan supporters there because it was a curtain-raiser for the men’s replay with Tyrone in Clones. It was our first senior final in a very long time, people were saying that all week and maybe the occasion got to us a little bit.”

That Ulster final, incidentally, pitted her against a very good friend. Greene and Monaghan captain Laura McEnaney shared student digs together in DCU where the Templeport star studied PE and science and she has just got a teaching job in Monaghan (Ballybay) for the coming year. But Cavan are still just one game away from a senior All-Ireland quarter-final, which reflects the massive progress they have had made in the past six years.

It has included two All-Ireland intermediate final appearances as well this year’s Ulster senior final. Half of their team still come from the one that beat Tipperary to win the 2013 All-Ireland intermediate title, but Greene says their current progress is also down to the amount of good youth talent they’re developing.

“We’ve had a lot of underage success in Ulster. The girls won minor A last year and minor B this year and our U14 team actually beat Cork in the All-Ireland final last summer which was huge. When I was underage it was a bit haphazard, there was no structure but now there’s serious effort and structures at underage,” she noted.

“My little sister went into the U14s this year and there was something like 140 girls for the first trial! That would never have happened in my time. There’s lots of talent coming through, we just have to be patient and wait for some of that to emerge but it has already started”

“There’s girls on the panel this year who were only minors last year and they’re fantastic. What’s good about them is that they’re used to winning, they’ve won titles. It’s nothing new to them and they can teach the rest of us a thing or two about confidence!” Greene is a big fan of the format of the ladies’ championship now, where there is a back-door that yields more games for teams.

“It’s a good structure now. In the men’s you could train for six months and be out in June but now is the time of year you want to be playing football, in the better weather. Mind you we weren’t saying that at training on Wednesday night,” she laughed. “We got hit by one of those massive showers and were soaked.” Now the Breffnis face Laois, whom they’ve already met once this year.

“We played them in the third or fourth league game, down in Laois,” Greene recalled.

“It was a titanic battle and could have gone either way. We only won by two or three points in the end so we’re expecting the very same. It’ll be very tight again. The winner gets a quarter-final against Cork which would be fantastic for us,” she added. “Cork and Dublin are the kind of teams you really want to be playing if you’re going to keep making progress.”

The Ladies Football Championship Final will take centre stage September 25th. Be there to show your #SeriousSupport.


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