Ulster Senior Club Ladies Championship
St Paul’s v Donaghmoyne
Sunday, St Paul’s, 2pm
THE old saying that it’s darkest before the dawn would certainly resonate for St Paul’s and Antrim ladies star Saoirse Tennyson.
The talented 23-year-old endured a hellish 2019, rupturing the ACL in her knee during Antrim’s All-Ireland Junior Championship semi-final defeat to Louth.
A massive setback, and one that was compounded when she wasn’t able to play any part in her club’s run to a narrow All-Ireland defeat to Offaly side Naomh Ciaran.
She initially postponed her operation so she could be Maor Uisce at St Paul’s Ulster Final win, and if that isn’t dedication and commitment to one’s club, then we don’t know what is.
Tennyson is already on the record as saying that she found it extremely difficult to come to terms with her injury, but she’s made a full recovery and returned to the field of play last month in a Junior Championship match for her club.
She took another major milestone when she played in St Paul’s Ulster Championship quarter-final victory against Armagh Harps, so all the hard work behind the scenes looks like it’s paid off.
We caught up with her ahead of this weekend’s semi-final clash against Donaghmoyne, and even though they’re massive underdogs, Tennyson is just glad to be back.
“Things have been brilliant, I’m back starting with the senior team so I’m delighted.
“I actually feel a lot fitter and stronger this year. Initally I played for our Junior team – 15 minutes, then 30 minutes and so on so I could build up match fitness.
“Then I played a friendly and my first proper 60-minute game with the seniors at the weekend.”
There was no Antrim championship as such for St Paul’s to compete in this year, so they qualified for Ulster by virtue of doing well in their league matches. They have continuity from last season – Brian Coyle, who’s basically Mr St Paul’s, leads the team with his daughter Donna also heavily involved, while Don Burns and Damian Duffy also do a great job behind the scenes.
They obviously have some brilliant players in their ranks as well; Lara Dahunsi and Kirsty McGuinness were named on last year’s Gaelic Life Ladies’ Football team of the year, and Tennyson herself would’ve been a shoe-in if she hadn’t got injured.
And that’s without mentioning Hannah Doherty, a brilliant talent who’s been playing soccer in America in the last number of years but who is presently committed to representing her club back home in Belfast.
So things are really positive at the moment, and Tennyson says that the lockdown actually served to benefit her recovery.
“My personal trainer has his own gym so he was able to lend me some weights. I was able to come home and do a lot of online classes and do my running sessions as well. It allowed me to work my way back into training properly.
“I didn’t really touch a ball for about six or seven months after my surgery. There was a lot of balance work and then strength training and getting the technique right for running.
“I’m confident it won’t happen again, I’ve been doing a lot of hops and landing training so I’m as strong as I’ve ever been.”
St Paul’s shipped a heavy beating to reigning Ulster Champions Donaghmoyne two years ago, but Tennyson is relishing the chance of having another go at taking on the Monaghan girls.
“We were really glad to get over Armagh Harps as we haven’t got past the first-round in the Ulster Senior Championship in a while – we’d always been pitted against the likes of Donaghmoyne and Termon and got a few hammerings.
“But we’re very positive going into the match. We still take a lot of confidence from last year even though we were beaten in the All-Ireland final, and beating Armagh Harps has given us a good buzz as well.”
Lacken v Glenfin
Sunday, Lacken, 2pm
LACKEN have been one of the big success stories in ladies football in Ulster this year.
First of all, they won their first Cavan Championship in six seasons, but they weren’t content with that and earned a magnificent win over Tyrone titans St Macartan’s in the quarter-finals of the Ulster Championship. Under the management team of Sean Finnegan, Ollie Brady and Simon Fay, they’ve absolutely excelled themselves and their narrow victory over St Macartan’s was forged in hard work defensively from the likes of Annmarie Moynagh. They have a tough task on their hands against Glenfin, but they’ve shown they’re more than capable of competing with the very best. The Donegal champions are also going brilliantly, defending their county crown with a convincing win over Termon, and any team that can call upon the likes of Yvonne Bonner will always be hard-stopped.
Sleacht Néill camogs out to defend title
Derry Senior Camogie
Sleacht Néill v Swatragh
Saturday, Bellaghy, 4.30pm
THE Sleacht Néill camogs are red hot favourites to keep hold of their Derry Senior Championship camogie final, but it’s something of a free hit for opponents Swatragh.
Sleacht Néill have basically the same team as last season, albeit joint captain Siobhan Bradley is pregnant while Therese Mallon has taken a year out.
They had a tough enough time of it in their semi-final against Ballinascreen, eventually winning out by 2-11 to 1-8. Their best performer on the day was Louise Dougan, and her personal tally of 1-6 included a late free which dropped to the net.
Opponents Swatragh had an easier time of it in their semi-final, pulling away in the second-half to record a 5-14 to 2-7 win over Lavey, with Dara McGuckin hitting a hat-trick of goals. It’ll give them great confidence heading into the final but it’s still a big ask to beat Sleacht Néill.
Meanwhile, mention must also go to the Intermediate and Junior finals; Kilrea take on Glen in the Intermediate showdown on Sunday while Ballerin play Magherafelt at Junior level.
Verdict: Sleacht Néill