Two All-Ireland winners patrol the sidelines fortomorrow’s Bord Gáis Energy Ladies NFL Division Fourfinal at O’Connor Park,Tullamore.
Limerick boss Ann Eager was part of the Kerry side which dominated the game in the ’80s while her Longford counterpart Diane O’Hora has enjoyed glory days in Croke Park with Mayo.
Reaching the decider has been an achievement for Eager, who took charge of her first session on Shannonside in January.
“We only had a couple of weeks to prepare for our first league game,” she recalled. “We trained in Rathkeale on Wednesday and Friday nights and then started playing a few challenge matches so we could see players and they could get to know each other.
“A massive amount of players have gone from the squad over the last two years due to emigration, work and family commitments. But we have a fantastic bunch of girls coming through and we are developing a fantastic team spirit.”
Eager has been delighted with the progress in the game since she hung up her playing boots. “There are massive changes. Ladies football has become a lot more professional from when we were playing in terms of training, organisation and preparation. It is now on an even playing field with a lot of other sports. I love it. Everything is a challenge.”
And the biggest challenge of her fledgling management career comes tomorrow. “Longford beat us by nine points earlier in the league — indeed they have beaten every team well this season. They won their semi-final very convincingly [against Offaly] while we won ours by just a point [0-8 to 0-7 against Louth]. If you look back on results we cannot be called anything but underdogs. They are odds-on favourites.”
And silverware isn’t the only thing at stake tomorrow. Ballymacelligott native Eager explained: “Unfortunately the rules have changed. Before both finalists went up but now only the winners gain promotion.”
Meanwhile, O’Hora believes the feel-good factor engulfing the county can inspire her team to victory in the decider, which throws in at noon. Longford football is on the crest of a wave following the success of the senior men’s team in the Division 3 NFL decider at Croke Park. O’Hora said: “All of the girls went up to support the men last Saturday. Yvonne Barden has brothers [Paul and David] on the team, Edel Quinn has a brother [Michael] and Marie Brady’s brother [Dermot] was corner-back.”
LONGFORD: M Kilkenny (Dromard); S Farrell (Rathcline), E Brady (Killoe), M Moore (Clonguish); M Noonan (Carrickedmond), L Farrell (Rathcline), S Treacey (Killoe); J Brady (Killoe), A Reynolds (Ballymore); S Tierney (Edgeworthstown) AM Bratton (Killoe), E Quinn, (Killoe); C Greene (Rathcline), A McDonnell (Killoe), O Noonan (St Helen’s).
LIMERICK: M Giltenane (Mungret/St Paul’s); E McGuire (St Ailbe’s), Alva Neary (Old Mill), Rose Giltenane (Mungret/St Paul’s); Janet Garve (Fr Caseys), Yvette Moynihan (Mungret/St Paul’s), Carla Sheehy (Athea); Niamh Richardson (Monaleen), Joanne O’Gorman (Drom/Broadford); Paula Donnelly (St Ailbes), Caroline Hickey (St Ailbes), Mai Kennelly (Old Mill); Catriona Davis (Gerald Griffins), Claire O’Riordan (Monagea), Dymphna O’Brien (Gerald Griffins).
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