BY JACKIE CAHILL
BACK in 2003, Cork’s Naomh Abán were crowned All-Ireland Ladies Intermediate club football champions.
After a tough encounter against London opponents Parnells in Portarlington, the silverware went to Naomh Abán, with Lisa McSweeney, Anita Thompson and Ailbhe Lynch scoring the goals in a 3-6 to 1-7 win.
Siobhan Ní Bhuachalla was captain of Naomh Abán on that occasion and now, 19 years on, could Una Twohig follow in her footsteps and accept national silverware on behalf of the club? They take on Salthill-Knocknacarra, who will fly the flag for Galway and Connacht, this Sunday in the Currentaccount.ie All-Ireland Ladies Junior Club Football Championship Final (1pm, Kilmallock GAA, Limerick – Live on LGFA InPlayer)
This will be a first All-Ireland Ladies Football Final appearance for Salthill-Knocknacarra. Caltra Cuans (2010) are the only previous club from Galway to win this competition but Salthill-Knocknacarra will make the trip to Kilmallock with confidence.
In contrast, Cork clubs can boast a very impressive recent record in the All-Ireland Junior Club Championship.
Donoughmore (2019), Glanmire (2018) and Aghada (2018) are all recent champions, while Kinsale (2016) and Bantry Blues (2015) were finalists.
For five successive seasons, then, Cork supplied All-Ireland Junior club finalists ‘pre Covid’ – and Naomh Abán will represent the Rebel County on Sunday.
In a low-scoring and tight Munster Final, Naomh Abán did enough against Limerick opponents Oola to secure the silverware.
Defensively strong, Naomh Abán mined seven points at the other end of the pitch to land a two-point victory.
That win put Naomh Abán on a collision course with Monaghan’s Castleblayney Faughs in the All-Ireland semi-final – and it was a hurdle that Naomh Abán jumped.
Again, enough points on the board proved sufficient, as Naomh Abán claimed a 0-12 to 0-7 win, with Alannah Hoare and Grace Murphy contributing half of that tally between them.
Monaghan’s Jodie McQuillan, a really dangerous attacker, scored three pointed frees but Naomh Abán, crucially, managed to nullify her overall influence.
On the other side of the draw, Kate Thompson stepped up to the mark with a winning late score as Salthill-Knocknacarra edged past O’Dwyers from Dublin on home soil at The Prairie.
In their Connacht Final victory over Drumcliffe Rosses point, Lauren O’Donnell and Laura Kelly combined for 1-12 and they were to the fore again this time.
In a 1-7 to 1-6 win over O’Dwyers, O’Donnell (1-1) and Kelly (0-3) landed 1-4 of the winning total.
These are two players that Naomh Abán will need to keep a close eye on but a number of Salthill-Knocknacarra chances went begging against O’Dwyers, admittedly in difficult conditions, and this is an area they’ll be hoping to address.
Fans of both Naomh Abán and Salthill-Knockncarra will travel in their droves– and hoping to put on a show befitting the occasion.
Both teams are unchanged for this one.
Naomh Abán (v Salthill-Knocknacarra): L Hughes; U Twohig (capt.), M Dineen, A Creedon; E Kelly, R Corkery, M.E. Kelliher; A McDonagh, G Lucey; A Hoare, E Murphy, C Phelan; A Maher, L McDonagh, G Murphy.
Salthill-Knocknacarra (v Naomh Abán): L Carroll; O de Bairead, A Mullen, S Donnellan; E Madden, S Divilly, R Reddington; Z Rather, A Finnerty (capt.); L Kelly, L O’Donnell, K Thompson; D O’Connell, A Manley, A Nash.