Saturday 21 July 2018

A house divided as old pals O'Keeffe and McCarron cross swords

Ellen McCarron and Roisin O'Keeffe (right) with Angie McNally after helping DCU claim the O'Connor Cup – they will be on opposite sides tomorrow
Ellen McCarron and Roisin O'Keeffe (right) with Angie McNally after helping DCU claim the O'Connor Cup – they will be on opposite sides tomorrow

Good friends and housemates Roisin O'Keeffe and Ellen McCarron are looking to knock each other out of the TG4 All-Ireland ladies SFC this weekend.

The former DCU students won O'Connor Cups together in 2010 and 2011; both are teachers and they share a house in Monaghan town.

But that friendship will be left to one side for an hour when O'Keeffe's Cavan look to upset McCarron's Monaghan in tomorrow's qualifier at Kingspan Breffni Park (5.15).

There's plenty of crossover on both panels as Monaghan's McAnespie twins, Ciara and Aoife, and Cavan's Donna English are former DCU team-mates also.

And the manager and trainer of those third-level successes, Peter Clarke and Angie McNally, are now in charge of Monaghan.

There has been little chat between O'Keeffe and McCarron this week as the big day looms.

"I'm lucky that I have camps in Breffni Park," O'Keeffe smiles. "So I'm not down in Monaghan this week. We'll just ignore each other for the guts of two hours!

"Bragging rights are at stake and I taught two of the girls on the Monaghan panel, Muireann Atkinson and Niamh Callan.

"There's been good banter and a lot of the teachers in the school (Castleblaney) are from Monaghan as well. I won't be looking forward to going back there if we lose!"

McCarron adds: "We haven't really been talking about the game at all. She does her training, I do mine. If we were playing anyone else, we'd be chatting about who we'd be marking.

"We played Cavan last year. I never spoke to Roisin on the field and she's never stopped giving out to me since!

"We'll just focus on our own games for an hour. One of us will still be in the championship at full-time and one of us will be cheering the other on.

"We'll be back friends after the game, hopefully!"

O'Keeffe and McCarron went head to head last year in the Ulster championship, when Monaghan enjoyed a comfortable win.

But Cavan have made significant progress since then and O'Keeffe is confident that the gap has closed.

"Last year was our first year up senior (following All-Ireland intermediate success in 2013)," she explains.

"A few of the girls, for personal reasons, took the year out. A lot of our younger players were blooded in last year and a few games at senior level helped a lot.

"We were starting from a higher base this year."

Cavan served notice of their intentions with a 10-25 to 0-3 crushing of Down last time out.

Monaghan, meanwhile, are aiming to bounce back from their Ulster final defeat to Donegal.

The Farney girls are favoured to advance but McCarron is wary of the Cavan threat.

"They had a great League campaign," she notes.

"They're flying at underage too and have players filtering into the senior team.

"Our Ulster final was a complete flop. We ran into the headlights but we're not out of the competition."

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