The Roscommon U-16 ladies’ football team will look to create history on Saturday when they face Sligo in the Connacht A championship final at the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence, Bekan (throw-in at 4 p.m.)
In the absence of traditional heavy-hitters Galway and Mayo, there are grounds for optimism that Roscommon can win their first A title at this level, which would represent a massive shot in the arm for ladies’ football in the county.
Roscommon beat Mayo (2-10 to 1-7) in their first group game before edging out Galway in a terrific match by four points (3-14 to 3-10). Those results buttressed confidence levels among the players and management, and a comprehensive victory against Leitrim followed to pretty much seal their place in the decider.
However, there were warning signs against Sligo that formidable opponents are lying in the long grass for the final as the Yeats County secured a deserved 3-8 to 1-10 victory when the sides met in Curry. Roscommon will have revenge on their minds this weekend but there’s also the acceptance that they’ll have to scale the heights of earlier rounds to prevail.
Cara Cox (St. Barry’s) and Shauna Walsh (Roscommon Gaels) are the team captain and vice-captain respectively in what is, overall, a very balanced team with plenty of talent and a ravenous appetite to work hard.
There are nine dual players on the panel, including Emma Hough, Siofra Hession, Shauna Walsh, Tara O’Brien, Eve McNeill, Hannah Murray and Lily Murray who ply their trade with the county U-16 camogie team. There are other players involved in basketball, rugby, soccer, showjumping and rowing, so there’s plenty of qualities from other sports that the panel can call upon if needed.
Full-back Aisling Shanagher is a sister of Niamh Shanagher who is part of the county intermediate football panel. Shauna Corrigan from Éire Óg is a Connacht handball champion, while twins Millie and Erin Hagan from St. Barry’s are potential match-winners if they can get on enough ball.
For these players, it’s a huge occasion for their clubs and families, and they will approach Saturday’s decider in the knowledge that no stone has been left unturned in their bid to go where no team from the county have gone before.
If they do themselves justice on the day, they have every chance of rewriting the history books.
ROSCOMMON: Leah McCawley (St. Michael’s/St. Ronan’s), Erica Jordan (St. Barry’s), Aisling Shanagher (Kilbride), Alaoise Regan (Strokestown), Denise Duffy (St. Barry’s), Holly Rogers (St. Barry’s), Natasha O’Rourke (St. Croan’s), Erin Hagan (St. Barry’s), Millie Hagan (St. Barry’s), Niamh Walsh (Oran), Ciara Cunningham (Northern Harps), Anna McGrath (Northern Harps), Lucy Shefield (St. Brigid’s), Cara Cox (St. Barry’s), Hannah Murray (St. Dominic’s), Shauna Walsh (St. Brigid’s), Shauna Walsh (Roscommon Gaels), Siofra Hession (Roscommon Gaels), Emma Hough (Roscommon Gaels), Shauna Corrigan (Éire Óg), Eve McNeill (Roscommon Gaels), Martha McSharry (Roscommon Gaels), Keeva Campbell (St. Barry’s), Chloe McGuinness (St. Michael’s/St. Ronan’s), Vanessa Kielty (Northern Harps), Gillian Regan (Strokestown), Tara O’Brien (St. Ciaran’s), Sarah Gunn (Northern Harps), Keeley Sammon (St. Brigid’s), Niamh Reynolds (Clann na nGael), Lily Murray (St. Dominic’s).
Management: Declan Walsh, Aidan Cox, Paul Reaney, Michael O’Connor, Michelle Hughes-Walsh, Aodhnait Casey (physio).