Granemore girls hoping to end year on a high

By Shaun Casey

IT’S been a long, hard year for Armagh forward Rachael Merry, but you’ll not hear her, or any other Granemore dual player for that matter, complaining. This weekend, they head to Kinnegad and the Granemore girls are hoping to finish their historic season on a high.

Already in 2023, Granemore have collected championship honours in both camogie and Ladies football in Armagh, collected the club’s first-ever Ulster Camogie title and made it all the way to their maiden All-Ireland final.

Merry starred for both sides and was one of 12 starting players to pick up two Armagh championship medals, and the accurate attacker has enjoyed the journey immensely.

“You feel like it’s preseason again because we haven’t stopped,” suggested Merry. “It feels like every single time we go out to train it’s lashing out of the heavens, and you’re mucked to the eyeballs but at the end of the day it’s where you want to be at this time of the year.

“No one can really believe that we’re actually still going. It’s been a long year, even if you take into consideration the county season right through to now, we’ve been going 12 months at this point.

“I know the county have started back now for next year and a lot of us have been on the go the last 12 months but it’s obviously enjoyable because we’re winning. It’s a different sort of feeling being dragged out of the house at this time of year to start preseason.

“Whereas we’re at the other end of the year in an All-Ireland final so it definitely feels completely different. It’s not as hard to get into the car and go to training knowing that you’re in a final and that we’re winning games.”

Granemore will just be treating this one like any other game and although fans and supporters within the club can enjoy the All-Ireland final build up, Merry suggests the players are trying to keep everything “pretty low key.”

“It’s a massive occasion but at the end of the day it’s just another game,” added Merry. “There’s a serious buzz about the place at the minute and everyone is so excited. We haven’t really been doing anything different, you don’t want to distract everyone.

“We did have a coffee morning and they’ve had a ‘sponsor a player’ to get the player profiles out and probably generate a bit of income for the team as well. But in terms of events and stuff it’s been pretty low key, we’re just trying to keep the head down and get over the line.”

Granemore face the challenge of Athleague of Roscommon and like the majority of their games outside of the Orchard County, Merry and her teammates are heading into unknown territory, where they’ve excelled so far.

“We’ve never come across them as a club team, but I’d know a couple of the girls that have played for Roscommon so they’re definitely a great side. At the end of the day, if you get to an All-Ireland final, you’re going to be a good team.

“We don’t know too much about them and there’s not much out there about them to be honest. But I can’t remember the last time I played a team from Wicklow (Granemore’s semi-final opponents) even with the county.

“We didn’t really have a clue about them either. You don’t really know about teams outside of Ulster because we’ve never been out of it, and we never would have played any of those teams.

“It’s really just going on word of mouth and stuff like that – but it’s more about showing up on the day and seeing what they’re like and hoping for the best.”

Merry paid tribute to the management team of Connor Devlin, Noel and Adam Murtagh along with Darnell Parkinson, who have pushed the team to new levels this year.

“They’ve been brilliant this year,” added Merry. “Noel is just in this year, and he provides a fresh face and some new knowledge, he’s been a brilliant addition to the management team this year.

“Because a lot of us are dual players, our two managers would have had to work alongside each other to try and make sure that we weren’t over training because it’s basically the same team, there’s 12 starters in each (camogie and football).

“When it was coming up to the camogie championship, we would have trained with the camogie team that week and vice versa.

“There was good balance to the teams that way and good communication between the two sets of managers because otherwise you would have ended up being useless for both teams due to over training.”

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