COLÁISTE Muire joint manager Barry Donnellan believes his side are ideally placed for a crack at All-Ireland glory this Friday in their rescheduled decider.
The Ennis school came through the ultimate test of character in their All Ireland semi-final victory against Mountrath CS, Laois and have had to wait a week following the Storm Eunice-imposed postponement.
In a game which was the definition of a war of attrition, Coláiste Muire overcame the elements to secure a hard fought 0-4 to 0-2 win.
Donnellan believes the traits on show that day; character, heart, determination, to name a few will stand his side in good stead when they come up against a formidable Wicklow outfit in Coláiste Bhríde.
“The conditions on the day were horrible. We knew it was going to be a battle. Our work rate and determination got us the result.
“Until you are in that situation, you don’t know how they will respond. Mountrath were a very physical side but we dug in and showed our character.
“We have 36 players all fighting for each other. They work so hard for each other. I’m so proud of where we are now and hopefully we can show what we can do in the final.”
With schools finals coming thick and fast, it is easy to forget the disruptions that students have faced on the sporting fields due to the pandemic.
The O’Callaghan Mills clubman insists that although some students have missed out on representing their school and possibly claiming silverware, the 15 players who are fortunate enough to tog out this weekend will appreciate this memorable run to an All Ireland decider.
“Last year we had nothing. The year before was halted. I was with the junior team then and we got to Munster before everything shut down. Some players missed out which is unfortunate. The thing about Friday is this will be the final opportunity for some players to represent the school so what a way to go out.”
“We’ve seen with Covid how important sport is and that it’s an outlet. Young people have been affected by the pandemic. You see everyone in the classroom with masks and it’s nice to have something outside that they can do.”
The return of post primary schools competition now means players can compete alongside members of other clubs, which can only improve their own standards.
“Whether it’s football, soccer, camogie, it’s great for the girls to be out there. You have clubs coming together. We are lucky with the girls we have that some are already playing senior with their club. They are coming to us at a very good standard already so we are reaping what they sow.”
The South Wicklow school beat Mountrath CS in the Leinster Championship by eight points with Coláiste Muire overcoming the same opposition by two in the All Ireland semi final.
However, there are two important points to note. Firstly, the conditions in Clarecastle last Saturday week meant a war of attrition was always on the cards.
More importantly All Ireland finals are not won on paper but instead come down to quality on the day and nerve management.
Coláiste Bhríde will provide a stiff test as their location in South Wicklow means they are able to call upon players from within the county and a healthy contingent from Wexford clubs Kilrush and Craanford.
Laci Jane Shannon and Róisín Byrne providing plenty of energy in midfield for Coláiste Bhríde while Karen Tomkins anchors the team from centre back.
Their star player is Wexford minor Sarah Doyle, who plundered 4-6 in their All Ireland semi final win over Mount Sackville.
“She (Doyle) is a strong player and well able to take her own score. We will be on the back foot at times but even the last day we handled it well.
“We have Tierna Hegarty and Hannah Doyle marshalling the defence. Our backs have been outstanding all year so if we can do what we set out to then hopefully we can make them pay.”
“They did beat Mountrath in the Leinster final. Myself and Aidan (McGuane, joint manager) took a look at them then. They move the ball quickly and handpass it through the lines. They are a strong outfit. With schools camogie anything can happen so we are just focusing on ourselves.”
The business and accounting teacher admits this is uncharted territory for his side. However, Donnellan believes his side can enter this content in confident fashion having battled hard and won in a multitude of ways to reach this point.
“This is unknown territory for a lot of our players. This chance might not come around again. We have loads of confidence in the girls because of how hard they have worked to get here. We have leaders there who give good encouragement to the younger girls.
“We try to go through scenarios. You could be guessing all week what they will try to do but we will try use what we have and let the ball do the work.
“They have fantastic ability so if they believe in themselves on the day then we should be there or thereabouts. Hopefully the girls get encouragement and a healthy crowd travel down from Clare because these girls have put the work in.”
The game takes place in Stradbally at 5pm this Friday