St Flannan’s College go in search of the Munster B title this Saturday afternoon when they face St Mary’s of Nenagh in Clarecastle with a 12.30pm start.
The Ennis side were 2-11 to 0-11 winners over Clonakilty in their last four tie and are now just one step away from claiming provincial silverware.
Manager Ann-Marie McGann admits it is a target that was in their sights from the outset of the campaign.
“We have been looking forward to this moment. We had a good group of girls in fifth and sixth year, so to be in the Munster final now is brilliant. It’s always a big moment for the school to reach a provincial decider. St Flannan’s won Munster titles in the past and got to All-Ireland finals too and there’s always been that tradition there. We have had some great players come through the school but it’s the type of thing that comes in cycles. We have a strong squad together now at the moment and hopefully we can make the most of that,” she said.
“It’s a real bonus that girls are seeing St Flannan’s as their first option to come to and play sports, along with reaching their academic goals. There’s a good mix of clubs feeding into the school at the moment, with the likes of Inagh-Kilnamona, Clarecastle-Ballyea and Éire Óg, who are all going through good spells.
“There’s a wide spectrum in terms of the ages too, with players from sixth year right down to first year and that’s a positive for them. It means that they are involved in the sporting scene in the school and the younger players have role models to look up to.”
It’s a busy time for St Flannan’s at the moment, with the Corn Uí Mhuirí quarter-final on the horizon next week, along with Saturday’s final. Ann-Marie says the whole school is rowing in on the effort.
“It’s not just camogie that the support is coming for, the girls were also involved in a football final earlier in 2018 and it’s brilliant that they’re getting to play a wide range of sports and the school are really backing them,” she said.
St Mary’s of Nenagh provide the opposition on Saturday, with the Tipperary outfit having overcome Hospital of Limerick in their last-four tie. Ann-Marie is looking forward to settling old scores.
“There’s a little bit of history between the schools. We came up against them a few years ago and there was a bit of a dispute about the score.
“Unfortunately, we lost by two points that day but not many of the current crop would know much about that. We owe them maybe for that but it will be a great contest on the day. They have some Tipperary minors on their panel and it will make for a cracking match,” said Ann-Marie.
Meanwhile when St Flannan’s take to the field on Saturday for the Munster Colleges B Camogie final, their captain will be putting all thoughts of studying and CAO forms to the back of her mind.
Éire Óg clubwoman Elizabeth Russell will lead the Ennis side against St Mary’s of Nenagh, as they bid to capture silverware for the school.
Elizabeth says having such a prolonged run in the competition has proven a welcome distraction from the stress of studying for her Leaving Cert exams and she feels having sport as an outlet is of great benefit.
“I think it’s so important to play sports this year. There are a lot of girls in Leaving Cert and fifth year who are on the camogie panel and were on the ladies’ football earlier in the season. My teachers might disagree but I think it’s so important to get out and clear your head. It’s only two hours a week and we aren’t going to be doing much study for those two hours straight after school anyway. It’s important to get out and have a bit of fresh air and get a bit of exercise. If you don’t, you’re just going to be stuck inside all day, which is tough. It’s nice to have that time to yourself where you don’t have to be stuck in a book,” she said.
It will be a special day for the Russell household, as Elizabeth will be joined by her three sisters. She says while they have the typical sisterly relationship outside of camogie, they will be all banding together in the pursuit of glory this weekend.
“It’s a great honour to be representing this group of girls. We have been playing together for a long time now but we really seem to have gelled this year more than any other. I was saying to my sisters that while half the team actually is my family, the whole squad just feels like one big family. There are so many girls that I would consider my best friends.
“There are lots of clubs feeding into St Flannan’s and you wouldn’t get the chance to play with them otherwise. Having my sisters involved is brilliant too. We are all really good at supporting each other on the field when we are not killing each other at home,” she laughed.
Having the game at a Clare venue is something Elizabeth is hopeful can make a difference for St Flannan’s.
“It would be great to get a good support down there, to be the 16th man on the day. We have such a big school that even if a fraction of them came, it would make a huge difference. Not having to face into a long bus journey is a big bonus too, so it would be great if we can take advantage of that,” she noted.
Elizabeth is quick to praise the impact her teachers have had on her in both an academic and sporting context during her time in St Flannan’s.
She continued, “We get to see a different side of them while they are training you and you would nearly consider them friends at this stage. They’ve had us for so many years that they are probably sick of looking at us at this stage, but you become very close to them. They’re always there to support and encourage us and give up so much time to arrange training for us”.
So what does the future hold for Elizabeth after the Leaving Cert this summer?
“I am a bit all over the place at the moment as to what I want to but I will sort that out soon. Sport is something I would love to continue, no matter where I end up because it just opens up so many opportunities. You get to play with girls from all over the country and make even more friends, so that’s definitely something I want to keep up,” she concluded.
The game gets underway on Saturday in Clarecastle GAA Grounds with a 12.30pm start.