Tuesday 21 May 2019

Hanley 'Expecting' Tipp to keep big ball success rolling for premier county

26 April 2016; Edel Hanley, Tipperary, at the Lidl Ladies Football National League Division 3 & 4 Media Day. Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE
26 April 2016; Edel Hanley, Tipperary, at the Lidl Ladies Football National League Division 3 & 4 Media Day. Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE

Cliona Foley

It's been a brilliant football summer for Tipperary whose ladies are hoping to keep their big ball success going in this weekend’s TG4 All-Ireland IFC semi-final.

Just Clare stands between them and a place in their second intermediate final in four years and corner-forward captain Edel Hanley will be doing everything she can to help – but from the sideline. Yet the reason for her mid-season switch to a non-playing captain’s role is a particularly happy one.

“I’m 19 weeks pregnant,” the Aherlow star confirms. “Obviously it’s fantastic but bad timing from a football point of view. I played against Limerick in the championship and then found out just before the Munster final.

“But I feel and hope I can still make an important contribution by being involved,” she adds. “I still do everything I used to do, apart from playing. I do as much training as I can and I talk before the games.”

Hanley’s off-pitch leadership will be vital in Saturday’s fascinating re-match of this year’s Munster intermediate final which Tipp won by two points. Her job indicates that she is a natural leader; a Garda detective who was based in Portlaoise for a decade. Three years ago she successfully applied to join the staff of the Garda College in Templemore, where her teaching colleagues include hurling stars like Ken Hogan, Eddie Brennan and James Woodlock.

Hanley covers areas like legal studies and self-defence  - including baton training - and describes it as “my dream job.” Another dream would be for Tipperary to win this’s year’s All-Ireland intermediate title, especially after narrowly losing the 2013 final to Cavan. That was followed by two years of  some turbulence when manager John Leahy felt some players were surplus to requirements and others just stayed away.

Former Dublin senior manager Gerry McGill took over last winter, key players like vice-captain Samantha Lambert, Jennifer Grant and Mairead Morrissey returned and they’re now firmly back on track. Hanley is also back after two years away, explaining: “I got married in 2014 so was taking a bit of time out until I got the call from Gerry last November.”

They’ve already reached this year’s Lidl Division Three final, an epic two-game tussle with Waterford with a particularly dramatic finish thanks to Maria Delahunty’s boot.

“To lose by the last kick of the ball the second day, that was a killer,” Hanley observes. “But we had a championship game against Limerick six days later and, in a way, that was a good thing. That re-focussed our minds and we got over the league final loss a lot quicker.

“Waterford are an exceptional team, they went on to beat Armagh at senior this summer so that was a measure for us.

“That league final, both days, could have gone either way and it proved to us that we are able to compete at that level.”

Tipp, remarkably, lost two players to cruciate injuries in the first game, both gone within 19 seconds of throw-in! Niamh Lonergan did her ACL in the warm-up and Claire Carroll did hers in the first minute of the match.

“It was desperately unlucky, they were two key players whose presence we really miss,” Hanley said. But she accepts that Tipp, with a recent history of Minor and Junior B All-Ireland success, had enough depth to compensate and in Aisling Moloney, who’s just done her Leaving Cert, they have one of the most thrilling youngsters in the game. Hanley, in her 19th season in the Tipp jersey, marvels at the skills of some of her younger teammates.

“Myself and Mairead (Morrissey) both started back in 1997 and I’ve seen so many changes.

“The standard is unrecognisable now compared to then, as is the way players are treated. I remember paying two pounds each for the bus to league games, and you bought your own gear back then.

“Now players are definitely treated a lot better, but they have to be because the standard of football and the level of commitment is huge now.”

Nine of this Tipp team, including Hanley, won an intermediate All-Ireland title in 2008, so to add a second would be a huge boost to herself in Tipp’s fantastic football summer. Her brother Mark was on the the county men’s team who reached the All-Ireland senior semi-finals. Now it’s the ladies’ turn to try to go one better.

“It’s a re-match of the Munster final and I certainly feel Clare will relish another opportunity to take us on again,” Hanley says. “It’s a huge weekend for Tipp with the hurling too but we’ve had a few great months with football in Tipp this summer too. The footballers have inspired the county so much. Hopefully ourselves and the hurlers can take on that mantle this weekend.”

Show your #SeriousSupport at the TG4 Ladies All-Ireland Football Championship Final on September 25th in Croke Park.

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