Donoughmore captain Eileen Lyons is hoping Sunday’s All-Ireland Club Ladies JFC final can be the springboard for a bright future at the Cork club.
National senior champions in 2001 and 2003, the Leesiders also competed in the 2004 and 2009 top-tier deciders. They then went through a difficult period of transition, arriving at a point where they couldn’t field a team for the county championship two years ago.
However thanks to an influx of underage talent, Donoughmore have bounced back for another shot at All-Ireland glory.
“At the start of the year we set out to win a county, so we’re in bonus territory. We’re going to be in an All-Ireland now. We’re going to be in it to win it. We got to a county semi-final last year and we were very disappointed after that. It’s great this year to have progressed. We work hard as a team, we work together. That’s important as well,” the full-forward acknowledged.
“We were struggling for numbers for a couple of years, but it’s great to have a panel back in Donoughmore now again. There’s great girls coming through. We’ve a girl, Claudia Keane. She’s on the Cork minor team and others like her. It’s good to have and good to see in Donoughmore.”
Keane is expected to line out at midfield this weekend, where she will be joined by legendary former dual star Rena Buckley. Despite announcing her inter-county retirement in 2018 — with a combined 18 All-Ireland winners’ medals to her name — she continues to exert a powerful influence on the club scene.
“She’s great. When she talks at training you listen. She’s full of wisdom and a very smart footballer. She’s great to have in the panel. The likes of Aisling Barrett as well. Whatever they say in training you listen to,” Lyons said.
Standing in Donoughmore’s way at Duggan Park, Ballinasloe on Sunday (throw-in 2pm) will be Mayo outfit CL MacHale Rovers — conquerors of Ulster champions Edendork St Malachy’s in the last-four. Full-forward Rachel Kearns was a standout performer in that game, amassing a haul of 1-9.
It has been a memorable couple of weeks for Kearns, who was named as Mayo’s sole representative on the Ladies Football All Star team for 2019 last Saturday night.
Lyons admits the Donoughmore defence will need to keep close tabs on her opposite number, while also being wary of the wider challenge posed by their unfamiliar counterparts.
“She [Kearns] will be a scoring threat up front. It’ll take good girls to mark her. I don’t know much about them to be honest, only that Mayo football is strong enough. It will be a very tough test. Anyone that makes it to an All-Ireland anyway, they’re the two best of the junior competition,” Lyons added.