Sunday 17 December 2017

Ellen McCarron: 'This time we are hungrier and more experienced'

McCarron feels McEnaney input can help Farney end final hurt, writes Cliona Foley

Ellen McCarron
Ellen McCarron
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

DESTINY has always dictated that Ellen McCarron (22) would play Gaelic football; it was simply written in her DNA.

Her dad Ray played for Monaghan and she remembers herself and her brother Jack toddling off to training with him as kids, the two of them kicking ball to each other at one end of the pitch in Scotstown while he trained down at the other end with all the big men.

But it isn't just their father's genes that sees both of them now wearing the Monaghan senior jersey.

Their mum is a sister of Hugo Clerkin, and current Farney Army midfielder Dick is their first cousin.

"Yeah, steeped in it, it's only football in our house, there's no other topic of conversation," she jokes.

There is just a year between herself and her kid brother. She's a centre-back and he's a forward but, having played in All-Ireland finals ahead of him, does she give him advice?

"Nah, we don't really give each other tips but he'd be the first to criticise me and I'd be the first to criticise him," she quips.

With such sporty genes it's no surprise either that she went down the PE and biology route and has just started her first job, teaching in the Marist, Dundalk.

At DCU, her PE classmates and housemates were two of the current superstars of the men's game: Donegal's Michael Murphy and Paul Flynn.

Now it's her turn to try to match their All-Ireland winning achievements and their turn to send the good luck texts her way as she steps into the Croker cauldron tomorrow, looking for the ladies senior title that has so narrowly eluded Monaghan recently.

McCarron was only 18 when she came off the bench in 2008 but she started in 2011 in a final in which Cork got a penalty and another gifted goal and just clung on to their title.

"We would all have been very young," she recalls, still wincing at the memories "of hearing the final hooter and us losing and crying and stuff. Just thinking back to that time, it's not where you want to be again."

LOSING

Given Monaghan's history of losing four finals (1998, 2002, 2008 and 2011), they risk being labelled the 'Mayo of the women's game' if they don't bridge the gap back to their last success.

McCarron was there, as a wide-eyed seven-year-old, when they won their only previous titles in 1996 and 1997 and feels they are a more rounded article this time.

"We're definitely hungrier, more experienced and more focused, especially after not even getting to the final last year," she says.

Two late additions to tomorrow's respective camps appear to have made a substantial difference mid-summer.

Juliet Murphy's decision to come out of retirement has been pivotal to Cork reaching their eighth final in nine years.

But Seamus McEnaney joining the Monaghan back-room team was an even more fascinating wild card. Manager Gregory McGonigle is Banty's nightclub manager. And the former county men's manager would have known the county women's scene well because his daughter Laura lines out at McCarron's right shoulder tomorrow.

"Banty has had a big impact," McCarron says. "Gregory had been talking about bringing him in for a while and he came in just before the Ulster final.

"He did very well with Monaghan and Meath (men) and it is great to bring that experience to our set-up."

But perhaps the biggest spur Monaghan got this year was losing the league semi-final to Mayo after an unbeaten run.

"We just didn't put in the performance on the day but that was probably the kick in the teeth we needed," McCarron reckons. "We knew we had a lot of work to do but thankfully it's been going well since.

"In the All-Ireland semi-final, against a Galway side who had beaten Mayo in the Connacht final, we didn't play well in the first half but we upped our performance then and it was good sign – that we could dig deep when we needed to."

Cork v Monaghan ,

Live, TG4, tomorrow, 4.0

Irish Independent

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