Tuesday 16 January 2018

English and McKiernan prove a winning combination for Cavan

Cavan footballers and partners Gearoid McKiernan and Donna English at the WGPA’s recent announcement that they have joined forces with Pat The Baker as part of a five-year deal. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cavan footballers and partners Gearoid McKiernan and Donna English at the WGPA’s recent announcement that they have joined forces with Pat The Baker as part of a five-year deal. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

Given the demands of inter-county training these days you need a understanding partner, but that's not a problem for two of Cavan's best footballers.

Midfielder Donna English is a real flyer blessed with close skills and killer dummies, and her long-time boyfriend Gearoid McKiernan is a towering 6'4" centre-forward on the Cavan men's team, who scored 1-4 against Offaly last time out.

And he says English not only trains as hard as him but sometimes even harder.

"There's no difference between our commitment and training, they're the exact same," he says. "In fact some weeks Donna would be actually training more than me, that's the way the women's game has gone now."

They're going out seven years but only moved in together recently and English jokes: "I'd have done it years ago if I'd known how much easier it is in terms of our lifestyle.

"Before, between training and matches, we might have had just three hours on a Sunday evening to meet up and go for dinner. We often can't get to each others' matches because we're playing or training ourselves.

"But football is our social life really and we don't mind," she says. "We both understand the commitment needed. A lot of his best friends are fellas he's playing football with and it's the very same for me and the girls I play with. We have a great support network."

She's a PE and biology teacher in Cootehill and he is a lab technician for Quinns in Ballyconnell so they both live within a half-hour's drive of their work.

Sticking to the obsessively healthy lifestyle of modern players is also made easier by sharing inter-county status but are there ever days when they get sick of football?

"There's times, especially after defeats, that it's best not to talk about it," McKiernan says. "On the nights we're not training or playing you do want to get away from football completely so we'll go to the cinema or something."

Cavan's defeat of Donegal last summer to reach their first Ulster senior final in recent memory was seen as a big breakthrough for their women's team, who have been knocking on the door for some time.

In 2011 they lost the replayed All-Ireland intermediate final to Westmeath - English's sinbinning proved a pivotal moment - and suffered defeat by the same opponents in a replay when they lost this year's Division 2 NFL final.

Since then, like their men, they've been knocked out of Ulster by Monaghan so are also pinning their hopes on the Qualifiers

McKiernan sees other similarities between their respective teams.

"The women have good days and bad days. When they're good they're very good but they're are probably a bit inconsistent, like ourselves," he admits.

This week's All-Ireland Qualifier draw has now pitted her side against Laois while McKiernan's next step is today's Round 2 Qualifier against Tipperary in Kingspan Breffni.

"They were All-Ireland semi-finalists last year and played really well in the first half against Cork," he notes. "Like us, Tipp had success at U-21 level but they've already done more than us at senior level so this is going to be a tough one."

Irish Independent

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