Salthill Devon Ladies contest first national final on Sunday

Salthill Devon Ladies enter new territory this weekend when they contest the FAI Umbro Women's Senior Challenge Cup final.

They are up against Peamount from Dublin at Tolka Park on Sunday (3pm ) with high hopes of creating history at the club and becoming the first to secure a senior All Ireland trophy.

Although the ladies have won a host of underage competitions, they have never advanced to a senior decider. Their opponents Peamount, having never won the trophy, are playing in their third final in five years.

On paper the Dubliners would be favourites. Having contested two finals - the last two seasons ago was a heartbreaking loss to St Francis in injury time - they also remain unbeaten in all competitions this season. They disposed of highly-rated Raheny by 3 - 2 in the first round, and up against Mayo in the semi-final, they left Castlebar with a satisfying 3 - 0 victory. Their experience is undoubted. The majority of their 2008 squad are still involved, while two players, including captain Linda Meehan played in the 2005 decider.

However Salthill also come into this final with form behind them. Many of the side were on the team that won the Intermediate Cup in 2008 and eight of the squad were part of the victorious u-16 teams of 07 and 08.

New additions to the panel this year are Rebecca McPhilbin, Laoise O’Driscoll, Sarah O’Connell and former u-19 international Jenny Critchley. These four, in addition to Annette Clarke, Deirdre Connell and keeper Tina Hughes, who enjoyed national success when playing for Galway Ladies in 2007, have added vast experience to what was already a strong squad.

The side is captained by Ruth Fahy and she is joined in the middle of the field by none other than Irish u17 skipper Dora Gorman. Up front Kara Mullins and supreme goal poacher Lucy Hannon will cause any defence problems. At the back Salthill are marshalled by Irish u-19 captain Becky Walsh and Emer Flatley, with Aine Hannon, Caroline Carter and Dee Connell adding attacking flair to their defence qualities.

Annette Clarke and Rebecca McPhilbin add steel to the team and the flair of full international Julieanne Russell, Tessa Mullins and Jenny Critchley gives great width and pace. Salthill also have an abundance of youth with three 16-year-olds in the squad, Lauren Ashmore, Sarah O’Connell and Laura Carroll.

Three players, Dora Gorman, Becky Walsh and Tessa Mullins, are lining out for Galway in the All-Ireland Minor Football final on Saturday evening against Donegal.

Captain Ruth Fahy says Salthill cannot be written off easily.

"Our first round game was against Limerick's Aisling Annacotty who defeated us 2-1 in the cup last year and I think our 2-0 win in Limerick was the result that gave us the belief to go on a good run in this competition. “

Salthill then defeated last year's finalists, St Catherine's 4-0, which Fahy believes was a statement of intent.

“The whole team has hit form at the right time and our strike-pairing of Lucy Hannon and Kara Mullins are the best strikers in this country on their day," she says.

"This is a very exciting period for Salthill Devon. While we know Peamount have a strong history in this competition, we are focusing on our own game without paying too much attention to our opponents. We did see them play their semi-final against Mayo so we know that they are a strong and attacking team, something similar to ourselves."

The game has all the hallmarks of a final between the best in the women’s game in Ireland.

Salthill Devon are looking to win their sixth national title in as many years. Having won the u-12 title in 2004, u-14 in 2005, u-16 in 2007, u-16 and Intermediate in 2008, the club is now hoping to complete a “full house” on Sunday.

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