By Niall Gartland
BALLYHAISE ladies have been making incremental progress and now they’re one step away from a place in the Ulster Ladies Intermediate final.
They travel to Antrim champions Glenavy, on their home pitch, (Saturday, 2pm) and they already have a provincial win under their belts with a convincing quarter-final victory over Aghadrumsee from Fermanagh.
The club is bidding for provincial success on two fronts as their men’s footballers won their respective Intermediate title in Cavan, so it’s a happy period but these things don’t happen overnight.
Manager Martin Tackney, a native of Ballyhaise, is in his third year in charge.
“It’s my third year in charge and it’s been a bit of a journey for us,” he said of their progress.
“We made particularly good strides last year, we got to the league semi-final and the semi-final of the championship as well – Mullahoran beat us after extra-time so we knew there was something we could really go after.
“We sat down at the beginning of this year and decided we were going to give it a good rattle. The girls have bought into our plans and have gone at it with everything they’ve got.”
This is uncharted territory for Ballyhaise as they recently won the Cavan Intermediate title for the first time in their history.
In saying that they do have a little bit of experience in Ulster, but it’s barely worth mentioning.
“We won the Cavan Junior title 10 years ago but we didn’t get by the first round. It was great to get over that hurdle this time around.
“It’s an exciting time for us, we’ve a couple of girls studying in England and they’re all going to come back for the game at the weekend.
“We don’t know much about Glenavy but we’ll do a bit of digging this week and hopefully we can get the better of them,” said Tackney.
Ballyhaise are predominantly a young team but they do have a few elder players who carry with them invaluable experience.
“The age profile is a strange one, we’ve a lot of 16-20 year olds, a few girls in their mid-twenties then a couple of girls in their early 30s.
“We’ve a couple of exceptional younger players, we’d two u-16s, Clodagh Clarke and Ruby Gilmartin, who played with the Cavan team that won the All-Ireland U-16 ‘A’ competition.
“Then we’ve two county minors, Ellie Brady and Alex Peters, they have county experience as well and won a lot at schools level with the Loreto in Cavan. They’ve really come to the fore this year.”
Opponents Glenavy already have two wins under their belts with a preliminary round victory over Naomh Muire,a phenomenal game that ended up 5-9 to 4-10 in the Antrim girls’ favour.
Then in the quarters they claimed a 4-7 to 2-7 win over Rostrevor, so they’ve already been road-tested.
As is common in Ulster, these games can be hard to predict but both teams are laced with scoring power so it could be a very entertaining contest indeed.