Saturday 17 March 2018

English desperate to atone for Cavan's 'haunting' final loss

Ladies football Cliona Foley

CAVAN's men hinted at a revival by reaching the All-Ireland quarter-finals this year, and the Breffni women have also been blazing a trail.

Led by pony-tailed goal machines Grainne Smith and Bronagh Sheridan, they have raised 10 green flags in their last three games to return to Sunday's TG4 All-Ireland intermediate final.

Cavan are still hurting from losing a final two years ago, according to captain Donna English (24).

"We should have beaten Westmeath the first day and we lost the replay by a single point. You never get over that, it haunts you," English admitted.

"But it's a huge motivational factor too. Every girl on the team has been playing a minimum of six or seven years, some even longer – you don't want to give up what you've worked so hard for without winning something."

Smith has returned particularly sharp after taking a year out and Sheridan has excelled despite travelling over and back from London, where she is a physics teacher.

"She's at home at the moment but, apart from the summer holidays, Bronagh has been flying over and back for training this year and that's a massive commitment," said English.

The midfielder is also a teacher herself (PE and biology) in Virginia, where she is coaching the next generation of Cavan footballers.

She feels that the underage work that the county has done is really bearing fruit in both the women's and men's game.

"Women's football is massive in Cavan. Our U-14s are making Ulster finals in the A grade, our minors lost this year's Ulster final and the U-16s got into the All-Ireland semi-finals, so there's massive strides being made," she said. "The county board has had a strategic plan for the last few years and they're also getting in great managers like Fergal Brady with the U-16s."

That's why it was a surprise to see them losing the Ulster semi-final to Down, though they got revenge by smacking four goals past them in the All-Ireland semi-final.

"We haven't had the perfect year but that's been the making of us," she said. "It was great that it happened then because it gave us time to look at the areas we needed to improve on."

Cavan are hot favourites but they are wary of a Tipperary team who caused shocks by scoring 1-2 in the final minute to beat Ulster champions Fermanagh and pipping a fancied Longford side by a point.

"They are a team that just never gives up to the final whistle, and that's what we're expecting," English added.

Irish Independent

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