By Niall Gartland
BEFORE this season, Maria McLarnon had never represented Antrim at any level or age group, but now she’s set to lead her team out on All-Ireland final day alongside vice-captain Emma Laverty.
The Portglenone defender says it’s been a roller-coaster of a season culminating in Sunday’s decider against Armagh, a game which will be broadcast live on TG4 as part of a triple header of All-Ireland finals.
They’re flying the flag for camogie in the county as their seniors are out of the picture at this stage, and she’s trying to enjoy the buzz around the county as well as focusing on the prize on offer.
“It’s brilliant, we had a meet-the-players night and there’s a good atmosphere around the place. There’s a lot of girls on the panel, we’ve a big squad with a lot of different clubs represented, so that helps everyone get behind us. The u-16s played in an All-Ireland final at the weekend and they’ve inspired us as much as we’ve inspired them, I’d say.
“It’s great that people are rooting for us, it’s not every day you get to an All-Ireland final so we’re trying to stay focused while enjoying it at the same time.”
Describing it as a “rollercoaster” of a season, McLarnon knows that they aren’t quite the finished article but they are improving and claimed a remarkable extra-time victory over Clare in the semi-finals.
“It’s been a real rollercoaster, we only started the team this year so the focus was getting girls used to playing alongside each other. We’re young and inexperienced so we’re just delighted to get to this point. We’d a mixed league and a good championship run and I think we’ve learnt a lot from our mistakes.”
“I’d never been on a county team myself so I’ve been just so delighted to get the opportunity to experience this and play with girls from different clubs. I’ve learnt a lot from them. The younger girls are so talented, they’re unbelievable really.”
McLarnon and her colleagues in defence will be kept on their toes by a formidable Armagh forward line that contains the likes of Ciara Donnelly, Jenny Curry and Rachael Merry, but an All-Ireland title isn’t handed out for nothing.
“They’re a fantastic team and are experienced at All-Ireland level and they’ve beaten us a couple of times already this season. We know how good their players are, and we’ll need to be at our best, but we’ll give it our best shot.”