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Joline targeting All-Ireland glory in St Macartan's quarter-century anniversary

By Declan Bogue

So confident was St Macartan's ladies' captain Joline Donnelly that they were finally going to get the better of All-Ireland champions Donaghmoyne in the Ulster club final, that she had a lengthy acceptance speech prepared.

Delivering it in perfect Irish, the Bunscoil teacher in Lisnaskea became visibly emotional under a watery Emyvale sky as the wildest dreams of St Macartan's came true in their 25th year.

And the emotion flowed when Donnelly looked around herself.

"I think it was just that it all hit me," she recalls now, just days before the 'Macs' host Mayo side Carnacon on their home turf of Augher this Sunday in the All-Ireland semi-final.

"Whenever I looked around I saw all the past players and some of the past managers that were there.

"There was the likes of Deirdre Kelly, Fiona Shevlin, Bronagh Holland, all the Hollands, all the girls that would have played back in the day and even players that were there right back at the start like Alice McMahon, Alice Donnelly as she was then. Players like that were all there and as happy as we were."

She adds: "We were thinking also of family that weren't there, that had passed away. The likes of Sean McElroy and my own auntie Marie Donnelly, that would have loved to be there with us. I am sure they were there with us. It was just such a special occasion, everybody was just delighted."

It sparked a raucous night of celebrations that centred around that famed Clogher Valley GAA hostelry, Dessie McKenna's in Augher. Not for Joline though, as she couldn't get the day booked off her teaching duties.

Still, the victory has resounded in the Valley.

"I think around Augher, the men that mightn't have known much about the ladies are all talking about it in the pubs and the shops," she reveals.

"Both sides of the community are in and wishing us well. It's not just our own followers, everyone is going into the shop and wishing us well and telling us we did great to beat the All-Ireland champions."

By the Tuesday, they were all back out on the pitch for training, but not before their manager, Ryan McMenamin though.

"Every training, he is out an hour and a half before everybody else. Maura (his wife, and a key player) comes down too. He comes home from work and he is there from about 6pm and training is not until half seven and he goes out onto the pitch and lays everything out.

"We are just so lucky we have somebody like Ricey who gives up his time to take our ladies' team. He really likes taking it. Some men might think it's only ladies' football but he puts it on the same level as the men's and I suppose that's why we react so positively to him, we can see that he appreciates our club."

Last Tuesday, he even went to the bother of getting the name of 'Carnacon' up on the scoreboard just to bring it all home. It's hammer-time on weeks like this.

He also learns from some serious football men. Thirty-five years ago, Tony Donnelly was managing Augher senior men's teams to unlikely county titles with a clever brand of football before assisting Mickey Harte through Tyrone's glory years.

"Him and Ricey go through each game with a fine tooth comb seeing different players. I suppose he is watching different players and seeing what Ricey might not see. And then they go off and have a chat about it."

It's a sideline and backroom loaded with expertise when you take into account running coach Conor McCarroll and former Tyrone footballer Peter Hughes as selector.

Top of their list has to be how to stop Carnacon's Cora Staunton. When all this is done, she is heading for Australia to play in the Women's Aussie Rules League.

"We haven't watching any videos or anything. There are a few on YouTube that I was just looking at," states Donnelly.

"But Cora is Cora. I don't think anyone can stop her really. It's probably about keeping the ball away from her and worrying about the rest of the players around her. There is more than just Cora on the team."

Belfast Telegraph


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