LADIES GAA | Senior Championship Preview: Stabannon still the team to beat
25th Louth Ladies Championship begins this Sunday
The 25th Louth Ladies GAA Championship gets underway on Sunday, August 6th with the first round of games in both the senior and intermediate grades.
Following the late withdrawal of St Patrick’s, there are now eight teams in the senior grade and nine in contention for the intermediate while just two teams, Clan na Gael and O’Raghallaigh’s, will compete for the junior title.
Halpenny Travel Senior Championship | Group One
Stabannon will be aiming for a seventh championship win and will start the campaign very much as the team to beat.
The mid-Louth side took the title for the first time in 2009 by beating Naomh Malachi in the final after a replay and they go into this year’s championship in fine fettle after recently winning the Division One League final by beating the Geraldines in convincing fashion.
Under the astute guidance of John Garvey, Chris Doyle and Gráinne Whelan, they seem to be hitting form at just the right time.
The team is backboned by experienced campaigners such as Aine McBride, Ann-Marie Lynch, Andrea Carney, and county star Michelle McArdle, with their main driving force of recent times, Grace Lynch, still very much to the fore.
They have also evolved and benefitted from the introduction of youthful talent with the four McNally sisters, Rachel, Ciara, Ruth and Laura, along with Kate Smith and the Keenan sisters, Laura and Claire, forcing their way onto the starting team.
It is difficult to see who has the guile or ability to beat them.
Ten-time winners Cooley Kickhams had a disappointing league campaign and, to the surprise of many, finished outside the top four.
However, they can never be discounted come championship time and, like the Blues, they will be focused on the round one clash with the winners almost sure to make the last four and the losers handed the unenviable tough task of beating Stabannon to keep their hopes alive.
The emphasis Cooley have placed on their juvenile teams over the past six to seven years has brought rewards and they will be hoping that their success at underage level in recent years can bear fruit at senior level.
In Louth minor star, Lauren Boyle, they possess a player of outstanding ability as well as other emerging stars of the future such as the Rice sisters, Eibhlin, Coirin and Niamh.
They also boast plenty of experience in the form of Siobhan McDonald and Patsi McGuinness who captained the Kickhams to a famous win in the 2015 final over red hot favourites Stabannon.
In doing so, Patsi followed in her mother Geraldine’s footsteps as she captained Cooley to victory over St Kevin’s in the 1995 final.
Roche Emmets/Na Piarsaigh
The combination outfit have found the going tough over the past few seasons and are heavily reliant on youth.
They finished bottom of Division One and are placed in the toughest group alongside three teams that have won the Senior Championship in recent years.
A hard working side with a very good team spirit, on their day the Roche/Na Piarsaigh outfit will cause problems for any opponent.
They have experienced players such as Niamh Callan, Tracey Rogers and Jenny McCourt and some excellent young stars in Ciara Quigley, Kate Burns and Sara McArdle.
A tough opening tie against holders Stabannon lies in wait and they may have to look at their round two and three fixtures as the place to salvage anything they can.
After a league campaign that Blues manager, Keith Lynch, used to blood a number of promising young players, the 2014 champions look capable of going far again this year.
The Blues have a full panel to choose from and will have the talented duo of Laura Collins and Lisa Kelly — who missed all of the league matches — back on board for the championship.
Their opening match sees them take on Cooley with the winners almost certainly booking a semi-final place.
They beat Stabannon in last season’s league final and with experienced players like Maura Sullivan, Orlaith Nugent, Hannah O’Neill, Cliona Smyth and Aine Thompson to call on, the Newfoundwell side may emerge as the biggest threat to the reigning champions’ hopes.
Halpenny Travel Senior Championship | Group Two
St Mochtas are a well established senior team who have been competing at this level for the past seven years.
Under the management team of Colin Hoey, Billy Lawlor and Paul Marron they had a relatively strong league campaign this year and were unfortunate not to make the semi-finals.
Last year they made the semi finals but were beaten by Stabannon, who went on to win the crown.
This year they are hoping to go one step further and take the title back to Louth Village and they certainly have lots of key players around the pitch who are capable of doing that.
There are three county players in the Mochtas rank this year: sisters, Aoife and Eimear Byrne, and Christine Carolan who will be hoping to inspire and drive forward the team.
Their first game is a local derby against St Brides this Sunday.
St Kevin’s could be this year’s surprise package in the Senior Championship having successfully gained promotion to Division One in June.
They have competed in the Senior Championship in recent years and are well prepared to match any club at this level.
They have five players with inter county experience, the Murray sisters, Eimear and Grainne, Aoife Gregory and Louth scoring duo, Susan Byrne and Paula Murray.
In the open competition of Group Two, they must be well in contention for a semi final spot and will will feel that a victory in their opening game against the Geraldines will set them well on their way.
Newly promoted to the Senior Championship, St Brides will add a new challenge this year.
While missing Aimee McNally from their ranks they have county players Ruth McNally and Kate Wynne to call on and also have young players coming through the ranks such as Bronagh and Emma McArdle, to name a few.
That blend of youth is complimented by the likes of of the experienced Phyllis Coyle, Aisling McEnteggart and Sarah Fagan.
Under the stewardship of Mickey Heaney, the Brides have pushed forward to consolidate their position in Division One, making the semi finals of the competition and will be quietly confident of making the knockout stages.
Since their promotion to the Senior Championship and Division One two years ago, the Geraldines have enjoyed relative success.
The Haggardstown side reached the championship final in 2016 and the league final in 2017 only to fall at the final hurdle to Stabannon on both occasions.
Long term injuries to county players, Andrea Lennon and Rebecca Carr, and influential forward Bonnie Fleming, coupled with summer absentees mean that the Gers will be hard pressed to repeat their feat of last year.
Manager Brian Cafferty is fortunate to have a large squad at his disposal and will rely on their strength in depth to carry them forward.
They have Louth players Alannah Finn and sisters Abbi and Ciara O’Connor to rely on and with Helen Ryan and Jade Reddy among a talented squad the Geraldines will at least be hoping to reach the knockout stages and give veteran Roisin Soraghan, a former winner with Cooley, a shot at another title.
Opening round fixtures | Sunday, August 6th — 11am
Senior Championship Round One
Cooley Kickhams v Newtown Blues
Na Piarsaigh/Roche Emmets v Stabannon
St Brides v St Mochtas
St Kevin’s v Geraldines
The 25th Louth Ladies GAA Championship gets underway on Sunday, August 6th with the first round of games in the…dundalksport.ie