Sarsfields hoping for third time lucky against Slaughtneil

The parish of Sarsfields is heading to Croke Park on Sunday for the highly anticipated All Ireland Senior Club Camogie Championship final.

The Galway champions will meet old foes Slaughtneil in the decider at 3.30pm, preceded by the intermediate final between Waterford's Gailltir and St Rynagh's of Offaly at 1.30pm.

The two clubs have had a month to prepare for this decider since Sarsfield's saw off Dublin's St Vincent's by 1-13 to 0-8 at MacDonagh Park-Nenagh en route to their third final, while current holders Slaughtneil overcame Scariff-Ogonnelloe by 2-10 to 1-10 in their bid for four in a row.

The two rivals have met twice in the past three years at this stage with the Derry side prevailing on both occasions. Thus, Slaughtneil will be favourites, but the County Galway side will be hoping it is a case of third time lucky for them, having lost in 2016/17 by 1-10 to 0-11, and 1-9 to 2-11 the following season.

Sarsfields manager Michael McGrath applauds Slaughtneil's pedgree, and knows they will be tough to beat.

"They are a magnificent team, a huge club team, and we will have to play the best game of our life to win this All Ireland."

Sarsfields are backed by the four McGrath sisters, and Niamh McGrath says it is time Sarsfields got some revenge.

"The first year, they were definitely the better team. We were so young and inexperienced, it hit us like a wave going out onto Croke Park. We weren’t really prepared, we only lost by two points, but they were the better team on the day.

“In 2018, it was the year of Storm Emma, and the match was called off twice and in the intervening period, we had a lot of injuries. I damaged my back and my sister injured her groin in the warm-up, so it felt like it wasn’t meant to be that year.

"But fair play to them, they are an unbelievable team, won three-in-a-row and are going for a fourth. An unreal club, but hopefully we have matured and can be good enough this time.”

Another key player who is looking to add to her success is Sarah Spellman, who claimed National League and All-Ireland crowns with Galway last year, having been promoted to the senior ranks by Cathal Murray.

Spellman, who turns 21 in June, was a newcomer when Slaughtneil got their three-in-a-row run underway against Sarsfields.

“I remember the first final with the club in 2016 - the feeling when you ran out onto the field, you were so young. You couldn’t really prepare for it, the feeling of the first time playing in Croke Park. The nerves got to us that day playing Slaughtneil. Hopefully we settle more and get over the right side of the line Sunday.”

The 2017 decider took place at St Tiernach’s Park after the initial fixture fell foul of the weather.

“Orlaith (McGrath ) got injured in the warm-up and Niamh pulled her back the week before the (refixed ) Final. She was in awful pain. She wasn’t able to play but she started and lasted 40 minutes. She was the fulcrum in midfield. So it is good to have her at full fitness.”

McGrath’s return to the Galway ranks, along with sisters Orlaith and Siobhán, will certainly boost the Maroons’ shot at history – retaining an All-Ireland title for the first time.

“They are massive additions. The skills they have. Orlaith is lethal in the forwards, Niamh with the workrate in midfield. Siobhán is lethal too. When you play against her she is like a snake she goes in through you. She is so small. Every ball into her hand and she is thinking about hitting the net. She is hard to stop.

“There will be a lot of competition. It will benefit the team.”

Certainly, if it is to be third time lucky against Slaughtneil, Sarsfields will need to battle like never before.

“They [Slaughtneil] have such athleticism and fitness. We were taken aback nearly the first year. They ran us off the ground. Hopefully in the last few years we upped our strength and conditioning with Kevin Ward doing the running. Hopefully we can prove ourselves this year. We have the skills so hopefully it all comes right on the day.”

 

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