THE Sacred Heart juggernaut shows little sign of slowing down following the West Cork secondary school’s qualification for the Lidl All-Ireland PPS Senior C Championship Final.
Last week, Sacred Heart Secondary School, Clonakilty overcame Coláiste Iognaid from Galway to set up an All-Ireland senior final meeting with Our Lady's Bower SC, Athlone. That decider is to be played on April 1st.
To get there, the Clonakilty school was pushed to the absolute limit by Coláiste Iognaid before emerging 3-15 to 5-3 semi-final winners at the University of Limerick.
Full-forward and Cork City Women’s FC senior player Orlaith Deasy top-scored for the winners with 1-8. Aisling Moloney added 1-2 with Cork ladies football and camogie dual-star Millie Condon raising Sacred Heart’s other green flag. Siofra Patwell (0-3), Katie O’Driscoll and Roisin Ni Bhuachalla (0-1 each) completed the All-Ireland finalist’s total.
‘The girls have learned to play as a team over the last number of games,’ Sacred Heart joint-manager Brian Daly told The Southern Star.
‘They have also learned to adapt to the different tactics we use and when we move players to different positions around the pitch. ‘At times in the semi-final, we made some mistakes, but for the vast majority of the game the girls stuck to our game plan and got their reward. Another benefit of this win was how we used the water-breaks. They (water-breaks) are still a part of the LGFA and give you the chance to change something if it isn’t working.’ Sacred Heart got off to a positive start until a three-goal blast saw Coláiste Iognaid roar back into contention. Sacred Heart’s resilience was tested at that juncture, but as they have done in all their games to date, the West Cork school responded positively.
‘We always look for a good start and got three points on the board against Coláiste Iognaid,’ Daly explained.
‘We managed to open them up a couple of times but we were also thankful to our goalkeeper Katie Hearne who brought off a string of superb saves. Katie could do nothing about Coláiste Iognaid’s first goal and the second was a dubious penalty.
‘So, despite having dominated much of the first half, we found ourselves a point behind at the break.’ To their credit, Sacred Heart refused to panic. Utilising their previous Munster championship-winning experiences, the Clonakilty side tore into their opponents immediately after the restart.
‘Ciarán (Mulcahy, joint-manager) and I always break the game down into quarters for the girls,’ Sacred Heart’s Brian Daly noted. ‘Whether we are one point up or two points down, it is all about the next quarter. We made a few alterations at half-time and thankfully, they worked out for us.
‘Coláiste Iognaid had not lost a competitive PPS game in four years. They got to an All-Ireland junior final that wasn’t played over two years ago before Covid kicked in.’
Naturally, there will be huge excitement inside the Sacred Heart grounds leading up to an All-Ireland senior final appearance. Daly and Mulcahy will keep their players' feet firmly on the ground ahead of the team’s biggest test of the year.
‘The two weeks leading up to the All-Ireland final are going to be vital but we will not change the approach we have used all year,’ Daly concluded.
‘One of the biggest takeaways from the semi-final victory over Coláiste Iognaid was our fitness levels, something our opposition commented on. They stayed with us and outplayed us in the latter part of the first half. We kept going and finished stronger in the second half.
‘In the lead-up to the All-Ireland final, it is going to be the exact same approach for Sacred Heart. A training plan is already in place and the girls have their own individual training plans as well.
‘We will work on the basics in training, come up with a plan for Our Lady's Bower and just go from there.’
Sacred Heart SS, Clonakilty: Katie Hearne; Mary Murphy, Alannah O’Brien, Ruth Shanley; Millie Condon, Kate O’Donovan, Maeve Kingston; Katie O’Driscoll, Ciardha McCarthy; Aisling Moloney, Eimear O’Brien, Lydia Sutton (captain), Roisin Ní Bhuachalla, Orlaith Deasy, Siofra Patwell. Ciara Hourihane Ross, Aoife O’Flynn Meade, Ellen O’Riordan, Anna Meade, Ciara White, Niamh Kennedy, Rachel Deasy, Laura Daly, Maire Murphy, Ella Nyhan, Tara Fleming, Caoimhe McEvoy, Emer McCarthy.