Ronayne just couldn’t quit Mourneabbey’s final quest

Tipperary manager Shane Ronayne.

Shane Ronayne practically had his mind made up to walk away before last year’s All-Ireland ladies club football final against Carnacon.

Mourneabbey were contesting their third senior final in four years and desperately seeking a first crown.

Yet, when they lost by two points, the Cahir-based PE teacher swung the other way. “Straight after the final whistle I said ‘God, I can’t leave this go.’”

He isn’t the only one obsessed with reaching this Holy Grail.

En route home, they pulled into the Poitín Stil for a pit-stop and Ciara and Doireann O’Sullivan immediately approached.

“Their honesty was incredible. They said, ‘Shane, we lost that out there today. Ye (management) didn’t lose it for us, we didn’t do what we were meant to do.’ That honesty said to me, ‘look, we’ll have another cut off this.’”

Mourneabbey have had a serious cut, traversing a county and provincial campaign littered with more landmines than they’ve ever before experienced, which Ronayne hopes will now help unlock their dream.

St Val’s, whom they’d regularly face in the Cork final, provided semi-final opposition this year, and with Rhona O’Buachalla now on board, had added firepower.

Mourneabbey were three points down after 40 minutes but managed to come back and close it out and victory secured their place in Munster because (divisional side) West Cork were their county final opponents.

But the Cork final still went to a replay, and though they won and progressed to beat Ballymacarbry for their fifth Munster in a row, that too was a lot harder than it sounds.

Ten minutes into the second half against Ballymacarbry, they were five down against the wind.

I turned around to Con O’Sullivan and said, ‘Jesus, it’s going to take a miracle to win this!’ because there were too many fires to put out. In fairness they just turned it on and blitzed them. We won by four and we probably could have won it by more.

Connacht champions Kilkerrin-Clonberne were mowed over like a mere speed bump and now they face a side who arguably want this as badly as they do.

Foxrock-Cabinteely may be the new Dublin and Leinster superpower but, despite four Leinsters in a row, this is only their second final and they lost it in 2016.

To add fuel to the fire, Mourneabbey dispatched them in last year’s semi-final.

The Munster champions may have had four players nominated for All-Stars last weekend (Ciara and Doireann O’Sullivan, Eimear Meaney and Maire O’Sullivan) and two winners but ‘Fox-Cab’ feature a handful of top Dubs, like All-Star Sinead Goldrick, All-Star nominee Niamh Collins and

Amy Connolly as well as Mayo goalkeeper Aisling Tarpey and Ciara Murphy (ex-Kerry).

An added twist is that Ronayne actually coached the Dublin club’s first ever adult team 12 years ago when he was teaching in Skerries and only embarking on a successful coaching career that now includes the UCC and Tipperary’s ladies.

“Pat Ring, who is their manager now, was actually a selector then. We were beaten in the (Dublin) semi-final by Parnells, I think. It was an enjoyable experience but I’d be a bit of a home bird and couldn’t wait to get back down South again.

Myself and Pat have stayed in contact down through the years.There’s great respect between ourselves and the two teams and I’m sure that will remain after Saturday as well.

Mourneabbey lost finals in 2014 (to Termon, Donegal), 2015 (Donaghmoyne, Monaghan) and 2017 (Carnacon, Mayo) so what would it mean to finally cross the line on their fourth attempt?

“I don’t think Mourneabbey will ever have seen anything like it,” Ronayne grins.

“Look, nobody has any God-given right to win anything. We know that better than anybody but there’s such drive within them because they have that monkey on their back.

“We’re not talking about winning it, we’re just talking about us performing. Not being disrespectful to anybody but, I think if we perform, we’ll win. If we perform and we don’t win, well then hats off to Foxrock.”

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