What a great feeling it is going to be for our players when the LGFA club season finally gets underway this evening (Friday).
We can stop talking about “how” to get football back on in the right way and hopefully start talking about action, excitement and great scores. Hopefully the infection rate will stay low and we can look to enjoy football most nights until the club season ends in 11 weeks and our county teams begin the quest for national honours.
And now the biggest question is; who is going to adapt and react the best? Who is going to seize the opportunity?
This is the longest break we’ve ever had from football and probably the longest the players will experience in their careers. There are plenty of unknowns but it will be about the players characters as much as their ability as they get back to the business of trying to win games and they haven’t had much of a “pre season” and this is something they are not used to.
But they will surely be raring to go as club football is getting priority and also that they will be playing on good pitches in good weather. Adding to the feel-good factor is clubs will have full panel’s available at training with no county get-together permitted until Sept. 14. It will also be an opportunity for county managers to select players on current form as the summer conditions see the more fast, skilful, elite player at their best.
With Divisions 1, 2 & 3 getting underway this weekend its time to take a close look at those teams taking part
Despite losing last year’s senior championship final to Geraldines, the Peninsula club finished the season on a high by beating the Haggardstown outfit in the Division One final.
Paul Hanlon, who guided Kickhams to a sensational championship triumph in 2018, is again in charge, with Alan Page returning to the backroom team alongside Donal and Anne McDonnell.
While Lauren Boyle and Niamh Rice are county players of the highest calibre, Cooley possess many other quality players, like Lisa McCarragher, Katelyn Quinn, Laura and Aoife Traynor, Claire Donnelly, Laura Grills and goal-poacher Eibhlin Rice.
The Hoops failed to reach the heights of their intermediate double win of 2018 last year, but they will be hopeful of getting this season off to a winning start at the weekend.
Their chances will be greatley enhanced if talented forward Rachel Kinch is available on a regular basis. Among the best forwards in Louth, the attacker missed a number of games last year due to work commitments, and her absence was keenly felt.
St. Nicholas clubman Brian Lynch, in his second year as manager, won’t have the injured Céire Nolan available or the departed Pamela Campbell and will likely introduce some of the young players such as Ava Briscoe, Lyn Victory and Ciara Smith while being able to call on the experience of Róisín Kavanagh, Catherine McGlew, Jenny Mulrey and Hazel Haughney
Chris Doyle has taken the reins of the Louth Villagers, whose interest in Division One glory ended at the semi-final hurdle last season. It followed a surprise championship exit to Roche Emmets at the last eight stage, so Mochta’s may feel they have something to prove in the year ahead. The Byrne sisters, Aoife and Eimear, are a fearsome duo, while Dearbhla O’Connor is a calming influence in the full-back line. Lauren Kieran and Emma Quinn are strong scorers. A title challenge can’t be ruled out.
Back in the top division after a fantastic year in which they took the Div 2 league and Intermediate Championship. The addition of Kate Flood to the squad following her stint in Australia is huge and her presence alongsiide fellow county player Aine Breen can see Pat’s compete. Aisling O’Doherty and Grace Treanor have inter-county experience, while Kate Cumiskey and Anna Whyte are players to watch.
Stabanon have lost a number of their big names for a variety of reasons over the last few years and may not have ex-Louth stars Andrea Carney or Kim Lynch available this year. Jenny McGuinness, Bronagh McGrane, Danielle Sharkey provide the experience along with the four McNally sisters who are at the core of the team.
New manager Paul Kellegher will be hoping for a better season than last, which didn’t really take off for the Drogheda side. They lost a number of key players to injury at crucial parts of the season and never really got any momentum behind them.
Although yet to win this competition, with the experienced Laura Collins, Cliona Smith, Hannah O’Neill and exciting youngsters like Kaylin Nugent and Aisling Foley to call upon, they have the potential to spring a few surprises.
St. Bride’s, who will be hoping to improve on last season, have Fra Fagan back at the helm and he’ll be seeking to help their successful youngsters with the transition into adult football. Attendance at training was strong pre-lockdown and interest is blooming with Bride’s having entered a second string in Division Three. Aimee McNally is their star in attack, while the Fagan and McArdle sisters, along with Karen Rafferty, will provide backbone.
Geraldines were denied the domestic treble by Cooley Kickhams in last year’s Division One final, so, with manager Paula Lavin remaining at the helm, the Haggardstown ladies will have another all-conquering campaign in mind.
First-time winners of the senior championship in 2019, they have an abundance of talent at their disposal, with Rebecca Carr, Eilis Hand and Holly Lambe-Sally on the Louth panel. The O’Connor sisters, Ciara and Abbi, had fine seasons last year and possess lots of ability up front.
CLAN NA GAEL
Clans, under Andrew Griffin and Gerry McKeever, look a cut above the rest, they already had in their ranks county panelists Ciera Woods, mily Norton, Shannen and Alannah McLaughlin, before being boosted further by the arrival of the experienced ex-Fechin’s star Pamela Campbell, former Fingallians and Dublin player Denise McKenna, and Donegal native Emer Gallagher and would appear to have assembled a formidable squad
Former Louth goalkeeper Stuart Reynolds remains involved with Naomh Fionnbarra, whose hopes of success were ended at the semi-final stage in 2019. All-Ireland winner Deirbhile Osborne is a significant absentee, to the Togher ladies who will be looking to go one better than last year’s championship final defeat to Pats. They have plenty of attacking talent while Annmarie Breen is among the top keepers in Louth. Jenny Devlin and Ellen Butterley are a highly regarded midfield combination. Sophie Turley one of the stars of Louth’s U16 All-Ireland winning team last year is expected to make a strong claim to make the starting 15.
The Clogherhead girls will quietly fancy their chances of faring well in a competitive division where there is little to separate many of the teams. Enjoyed a good championship run in 2018 and if they can find that spark once more, they may challenge for a place in the league’s latter stages.
Ella McEnteggart, Ciara Lennon and Caragh Brady are just three of the Division Three winners’ exciting youngsters who will hope to soften the blow of Sinead Woods’ departure to Australia. Jade McKeown and Fiona and Claire Lennon will provide a solid foundation to give Charlie Geoghan plenty of grounds for optimism
Runner-up in both the Division Two and Subsidiary League finals in 2019, Roche are under new management with former Louth star Gerry Curren taking the reins. In the Halligan sisters, Louise Byrne, Tracy Rogers and Niamh Callan they have some class players and will start the campaign among the favourites for second tier glory, having also reached last season’s SFC last four.
Hunterstown have been doing exceptonally well at underage in recent years and while not in a position to field at adult level, a number of their players are with Kevin’s. Aiveen Carolan, Holly Ferris and Abbie Sheridan are tipped for big futures. Kevin’s star Aoife Gregory is expected to miss the opening match and manager David Fedigan will not want to be without his playmaker for too long, but he will be hoping he can call on former Louth players Susan Byrne and Paula Murray, who alongside the experinced Eleanor Smith, Eimear and Grainne Murray will see them among the favorites to take this title they last won in 2017.
Glyde Rangers will be looking for an improvement on last season as they set about their Division Two campaign. County star Michelle McMahon will be crucial to their cause, while Alanna Conlon could also play a starring role in any Tallanstown success.
The Naomh Mairtin / Glen Emmets combination struggled towards the back-end of last season, but with many Louth underage players coming through in both clubs, the future looks brighter. Rachel Leonard and Aoife Russell, the current Wee County star, are two match-winners for a side that will be hopeful of competing, although they have a tough opening fixture when they travel to play Roche.
After a year spent re-organising, the Collon side are back. The 2018 Div 2 League winner’s will have Abbie O’Brien and Anna Dunne back in the fold after a year spent with St Mary’s . Barry Englishby will field possibly the youngest side in Louth this year and he can call on the brilliant Maria Reid and her sister Niamh Dooley and their experience will be crucial
The mid-Louth club are another club which quite a number of very talented youngsters and Ronan Shevlin like most managers can blood them without the fear of relegation to contend with. The Ardee girls will take confidence from winning last year’s Junior Championship and some notable successes at juvenille level in recent times.
DOWDALLSHILL / CUCHULAINN GAELS
Two clubs making a welcome return to competitive action after a couple of years absence wont have had much time time to get to know one another. Nonetheless with players of the calibre of County keeper Una Pearson, Rebecca Lambe Fegan, Caoimhe Creichton, Aideen McGahon and former Louth player Michelle O’Hagan to call on the combination XV under the management of Gerard Roe and PJ McGivern will be competitive in Div 3
Preview by Dermot Woods (Louth LGFA PRO)
Photos by Warren Matthews