Sunday September 22nd in St. Brigid’s Park, Dowdallshill, Dundalk
Senior Championship Final at 4:15 (Ref: David Loughran)
Geraldines V Cooley Kickhams
Intermediate Championship Final at 2:30 (Ref: Colin Halligan)
St. Patricks V Naomh Fionnbarra
Gers V Cooley
Just seven days after winning the All Ireland JFC final a number of the Louth players will be back in action for their clubs. The senior and intermediate championship finals take place on Sunday, with Dowdallshill the place to be as an attractive double header unfolds. In what is a repeat of last year’s Senior final, Cooley Kickhams take on Geraldines in what is emerging as one of the keenest rivalries on the domestic scene.
Gers will be keen to make amends for their failure to perform in the decider of 12 months ago and have reached Sunday’s decider unbeaten in both league and championship, which will see them begin as many people’s favourites for the crown.
In existence since 2007, the Haggardstown/Blackrock side qualified for their first maiden appearance on the showpiece stage last season and through sitting top of Division One, Paula Lavin’s side have continued their strong form into this year, brushing aside St. Bride’s and St. Mochta’s in the group stages of the championship before accounting for Newtown Blues and St. Kevin’s comprehensively in the knockout rounds.
They possess a strong and experienced spine to their team, with Eilis Hand and Lauren McFaul among the top defenders in the game. Helen Ryan and county star Rebecca Carr can edge the midfield battle, with Carr also capable of getting on the scoresheet. But they look particularly strong in attack with former Louth and Monaghan star Bonnie Fleming, along with former Cavan player Lisa McCabe and Ciara & Abbi O’Connor to call on.
Kickhams haven’t always fired on all cylinders to date, most notably against Roche in the group stages. They recovered from that setback to beat St. Kevin’s before seeing off Stabannon Parnells to set up a last four meeting with Roche.
In that game Eibhlin Rice was magnificent. The 23-year-old, who seems to have recovered fully from a serious hand injury, scored three superbly taken goals as the holders advanced to the final. They are an extremely confident group having won the last four minor championships and have a strong belief to go with their talented panel. And, in attackers Lauren Boyle and Niamh Rice, they have two of the most exciting players around.
If Cooley, who are chasing their 12th title, break even in possession around midfield, they have the firepower to pose serious problems for the Gers defence, which has been largely untested this year. However, Geraldines exude the sense that their whole year has been about September 22 and they start as firm favourites.
Pats v Barrs
St. Patrick’s go into this final as the form team after some outstanding displays. They have a 100% record in making Sunday’s decider and beat the Barrs 1-14 to 0-9 in early stages with the outstanding Kate Flood accounting for 1-08 on that occasion. The county star was simply majestic as she led her county to a memorable win in the All-Ireland final in Croke Park last Sunday.
The Lordship side, who won this title in 2013, had five of their members on this year’s Louth panel, and have dependable defenders in Caoimhe Breen and Anna Whyte, while Aine Breen and Grace Treanor are a strong midfield duo. Apart from Flood, they possess other scoring threats in the likes of Kate Cumiskey, Meg Woods and the experienced Nicola Connor.
The Togher side top Division Two with five wins from as many outings, but didn’t bring that form into the early stages of the championship, losing their opening two matches. It took until the meeting with Kilkerley in the quarter-finals where they showed their true form before getting the better of a fancied Clan na Gael in their last four meeting.
Deirbhile Osborne, left half-back on Darren Bishop’s team at Croke Park last Sunday, was the hero
of the hour in that one-point victory, but her role on Sunday may be more of a defensive variety given the potency of the Pats’ attack. While they lost to the green and white clad outfit in the championship, Barrs will take confidence having beaten Pat’s in the league. They have in Annemarie Breen, one of the most dependable ‘keepers in the county, while Heather Rogers, Osborne and ex-Galway and Louth star Marie O’Connell gives the defence a strong look to it.
Niamh Devlin and Ellen Butterly are a solid midfield partnership, while up front Laura and Leanne Sharkey, Ciara McMahon and Marianne Hullen will take some watching. Like last year, Pat’s are strong favourites and will be determined to make up for that below par performance and while the Barrs will provide stern resistance, the North Louth side appear to have too much and should prevail.
Verdict: St. Patricks
Preview by Dermot Woods | Photos by Warren Matthews