As an experienced member of the Scariff-Ogonnelloe team, Mairead Scanlan knows how difficult it is to win silverware, writes Ivan Smyth.
Having been a key member of the side that lifted the McMahon Cup for the first time in 2019, Scanlan admits this Championship campaign has been filled with difficult hurdles to overcome.
However, Scariff-Ogonnelloe have managed to navigate all obstacles thus far with the joint captain keen to recapture the clubs’ second senior provincial crown.
“It has been an unbelievable run. We have gone the hard way. The five team group made it difficult and we were joined by Kilmaley and Newmarket. We manage to top the group and still had to play Inagh-Kilnamona. Usually, we are second and they win their group but it was different this year. We had two tough games in the county final.”
“Those games really stood to us. We are battle hardened and have won all our Championship games bar the drawn final. We have been tested every way and in every game we’ve faced a different challenge. We have found a way every time but we know that we need to produce a big performance against Drom & Inch.”
This campaign will draw similarities to 2019 when the East Clare side won the county title before progressing to a Munster final against this Saturday’s opponents Drom & Inch.
Scariff-Ogonnelloe squeezed out a two point win as they became the first Clare team in 30 years and only second ever from the county to soar to provincial senior silverware.
The Castletroy-based accountant wants her side to build on that success and establish themselves as a side consistently winning silverware.
“That was an amazing year. It was fairytale stuff. It didn’t come out of nowhere. We had lost in ’17 and ’18 to Inagh (Kilnamona) so we were knocking on the door. We had a lot of county players that year. Jim (Minogue) and his management team had real belief in us. We drove on after the first county final and we feel we are at the top table now.”
After needing to overcome the reigning champions Inagh-Kilnamona in the county semi final before battling through the two game series against Truagh-Clonlara, nobody could argue that Scariff-Ogonnelloe did not deserve to lift the McMahon Cup. In their provincial semi final they squeezed through against Inniscarra after conceding the opening four points of the game with Alva Rodgers’ goal separating the sides.
Add in trying to train over the festive period and the 2019 Munster champions have certainly worked hard to reach this point. Scanlan believes this hectic period has benefitted the side and kept them sharp heading in to this Saturday’s showdown.
“It has been hectic but it has benefitted us. We had the county finals on the 14th and 27th of November. We were straight out after Christmas again.
“The late ending to the Championship benefitted our Munster campaign. We have continued to build momentum so all those games have really stood to us going in to the Munster final.”
David Sullivan’s side have relied on different players stepping up in key moments. Abby Walsh earned her side a replay in the county final while Lorraine Grady’s goal and Scariff-Ogonnelloe’s rock solid defence helped them earn a 1-12 to 0-8 win in the replay.
“Against Inniscarra, Aisling Corbett fired over five frees with Alva Rogers’ goal proving to be the match winning score.
“We have a really balanced team. There is great unity in the group and everyone is putting in a real effort. We have a pretty good spread of scores. At this time of year sometimes games can turn in to free taking competitions and Aisling Corbett has been nailing them.”
“You need different players standing up and so far we’ve had that and it’s why we are at this stage now.”
Drom & Inch claimed the 2020 Munster title last November when overcoming Inagh-Kilnamona by a single point. Meanwhile they qualified for this provincial final when accounting for Newcastle West a fortnight ago.
The Tipperary side look set to be without the services of centre back and inter county defender Mairead Eviston who had knee surgery just before Christmas. Christina Brennan who didn’t feature in the 2020 Munster campaign due to injury did start at full back in that provincial semi final.
The Drom & Inch team is backboned by captain Aoife McGrath and Niamh Treacy in the half backline while in attack they will look to cousins Eimear McGrath and Miriam Campion to break down the Scariff-Ogonnelloe defence.
Scanlan believes her side will face a similar challenge to 2019 when facing this physical Drom & Inch side.
“There will be nothing in it. They have nearly the same team as they did in 2019. They will play with a similar style so they will be very physical. They have a really strong half back line so we need to counteract that and disrupt them.”
“We need to keep doing what we have been so far. We have to win the rucks and dirty ball to give us a platform.
“The pitch was tight in Inniscarra so we should be able to be a bit more open the next day. It will be a very tight game but hopefully we can grind it out.”