By Niall Gartland
WHEN Gaelic Life contacted Jenna Boden on Tuesday lunchtime about Clonduff’s All-Ireland Intermediate triumph three days prior, it was only too obvious that the sense of glee was yet to fade by even a fraction.
Clonduff were full value for their win over Kilkenny side James Stephen at Croke Park last Saturday night, and Boden says the thrill of victory was even more pronounced than in 2019.
That wasn’t because she was captain of the side – albeit hoisting an All-Ireland trophy into the Croke Park nightsky is the stuff of dreams – but because there was even more of a family feel to this, their second All-Ireland triumph in four years.
“For me it’s a little bit more special because I have my sister [Cara] and the absolute show-stopper Katie Morgan, as well as her wee sister Amy. There’s actually quite a few groups of sisters on the team so it’s really nice and brings us even closer to together.”
It’s some turnaround after a disappointing 2021 season, but there were a number of factors in this year’s renaissance. Their three most well-known players, Fionnuala Carr, Sara Louise Graffin and Paula O’Hagan returned after a year away, while former Antrim player Kieran McGourty took the big step up to manager and that’s also had a big impact in its most positive sense.
“Having the girls back was a big lift – not only are they inspirational players but they have great character and everyone listens when they speak.
“Kieran was involved already but now he’s the main man and his work speaks for itself. He’s very vocal and if he does have something critical to say it isn’t personal and he pulls you aside instead of saying it in front of everyone.
“He’s a really good coach in that respect because he treats us all as individuals, he gives us tips on how we can improve our game and that’s only benefited us as a team. Speaking personally he’s brought me on big time, a lot of simple points that usually I wouldn’t think about.”
While it was gratifying to represent the team as captain, Boden was conscious that she wouldn’t have been able to get her hands on the trophy without the efforts of her teammates.
“If you look back on the footage, you can see I’d been crying, I was overwhelmed really. The whole community was pushing us on so to go up the steps as captain was unbelievable, but at the same time I was representing the entire team.
“The whole community is on cloud nine, but just us as players, but the whole community. We came back into Hilltown on Saturday night and it was unbelievable, all the supporters came out to see us.”
Boden also noted the contribution of their Antrim teammate Claire Kearney, who joined the club last year.
The Cushendall native played a big part in her county’s All-Ireland Junior triumph back in the summer, so it really has been a wonderful season for Kearney.
“Claire’s had an absolutely great year, fair play to her. She came in last year and it wasn’t exactly a great season but maybe it did no harm.
“We were without Fionnuala, Paula and Sara Louise and maybe it allowed some of the rest of us to develop as players. Claire has gelled in really well and we’re really happy to have her.”
While a lot of the praise goes the way of the more established girls (and they’re more than deserving of the praise), Boden is also confident of a bright future for the camogs from Clonduff.
“We won the u-14, minor and senior championships so moving forward things are looking good for us. There’s players on the panel, including a couple of starters, who are only 17 years old and there’s more coming down the tracks so we’re feeling really optimistic.”