From wedding bliss to All-Ireland final for Donaghmoyne

Cathriona McConnell travelled 70kms or so back to her home club by helicopter the day after her wedding to play against Kilmacud Crokes in the semi-final
From wedding bliss to All-Ireland final for Donaghmoyne

MATCH-UP: In attendance at a photocall ahead of the All-Ireland Junior, Intermediate and Ladies Senior Club Football Championship Finals next weekend are Donaghmoyne captain Niamh Callan, left, and Kilkerrin-Clonberne captain Louise Ward. Pic: Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Exactly 16 years to the day after inspiring Donaghmoyne to their maiden All-Ireland ladies club football title, Cathriona McConnell tied the knot and partied hard.

A five-time All-Ireland club winner now, the 32-year-old inadvertently inspired her colleagues all over again on perhaps the most memorable weekend of her life.

From her wedding celebrations at the Slieve Russell Hotel, the ex-Monaghan forward travelled 70kms or so back to her home club by helicopter the next day to play against Kilmacud Crokes in her latest semi-final.

The entire squad cheered her arrival and she duly scored 0-7, helping to secure a seven-point win that booked Donaghmoyne's place in this Saturday's final against holders Kilkerrin-Clonberne at Croke Park.

"You don't see that too often," smiled Donaghmoyne captain Niamh Callan of the helicopter episode. "It was a great buzz. We were all at the wedding, were at the mass and the celebrations. Obviously there was no drinking or anything like that. We were told to be in our beds early but we were also told to enjoy ourselves, it was Cathriona's big day after all. So we were still out on the dancefloor and I don't think we were in our beds until half one or half two in the end. So it was a late night but it was great and Cathriona had a ball and that was all that mattered."

McConnell is one of six Donaghmoyne players who lined out in both the 2006 final win over Carnacon - when she scored 1-9 - and the recent tie against Kilmacud 16 years later.

Given the age profile of that core of players, weddings are a regular enough occurrence and Callan herself has plans to walk down the aisle.

Her partner, former Monaghan footballer Barry Kerr, popped the question while down on one knee in Dubrovnik in October.

"We have no plans for the date," she said. "It's been hectic ever since getting engaged, with the football and engagement parties and everything. We're going to start planning after Christmas hopefully."

Callan hopes to be a four-time All-Ireland winner by that stage. She won't lack motivation to achieve that feat as opponents Kilkerrin-Clonberne beat Donaghmoyne in last season's semi-final, 2-8 to 0-8.

"It was hard to take that loss, we learned a lot from it," said Callan. "We regrouped and we all came back together. We wrote down our goals and obviously our number one goal was to get back into an All-Ireland final. We said we didn't want to experience that hurt again."

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