Donaghmore star Cathriona McConnell hoping for the perfect match

By Daragh Small

CRUCIALLY it’s a home game because it might have been difficult to get married on Saturday and play a All-Ireland semi-final on Sunday, if they had to travel.

Cathriona McConnell takes it all in her stride but after 18 months of preparation, even she had to take a few days off work and miss one or two Donaghmoyne training sessions this week.

She gets married today and promises the celebrations in the Slieve Russell Hotel won’t be cut short, even despite the huge fixture that awaits a mere 24 hours later.

The 32-year-old has already won five All-Irelands at this level and while she expects a really tough outing against Kilmacud Crokes tomorrow, she knows the importance of celebrating the biggest day of her life.

“All is grand for the day, we are going with the flow. I mightn’t go to bed at all,” jokes McConnell.

It was so different to the usual preparations for a huge final four tie, she was working until Wednesday but Thursday and Friday were devoted to the preparation ahead of today’s wedding.

She ties the knot with Darren Murnaghan this afternoon and the rest of her loyal Donaghmoyne teammates will be there to cheer her on.

“All the girls will be at the wedding but we won’t be worrying. We will enjoy our day and on Sunday we will worry about the match then,” said McConnell.

“It can be a bit of a distraction for the whole lot of us. We are away for the day. You are spending it together with your friends and teammates. There probably will be a bit of a buzz as well at the wedding, talking about it. It will get the girls excited and motivated for the next day. We will go with that anyhow.”

Luckily for McConnell, the Ulster and Leinster champions were picked to play tomorrow rather than this afternoon – when reigning champions Kilkerrin-Clonberne go to Ballymacarbry in Waterford.

It could have been a different story altogether but McConnell knows that her sporting life was always likely to cause a few hiccups at this time of the year, especially when you play with a juggernaut like Donaghmoyne who just recently claimed their 20th Monaghan county title in a row.

McConnell hasn’t quite been there for all of them but she has helped the team to secure five All-Ireland Senior Club crowns during her glittering career.

QUALITY TIME…Cathriona McConnell pictured with her fiancé Darren Murnaghan and daughter Amelia.

In the past, she was a star for Monaghan too but more recently family life has come into focus, and she retired from the inter-county fold when her daughter Amelia was born in 2018.

Now, she is a Special Needs Assistant but continues her on-field exploits with her club, and she was never going to sit out an All-Ireland semi-final, even on the weekend of her own wedding.

“We have been planning well over a year now, maybe a year and a half. Football always gets in the way,” McConnell laughs.

“We saw the fixtures from the start of the year and we had it all booked. That was a long way down the line. You only take it one game at a time. We were thinking, we will deal with it if we do get to the All-Ireland semis. As it got closer, we were starting to panic and think, oh God, what are we going to do?”

McConnell and her fiancé do have a special celebration planned for tomorrow night too and that would be all the more satisfying if it followed a win over Kilmacud Crokes.

Donaghmoyne got to this point thanks to a 1-11 to 1-7 victory over St Ergnat’s, Moneyglass, and any fears of an ageing unit only adds fuel to the fire.

“Any final you are going into, there is a lot of talk about our team that they are getting that bit older,” said McConnell.

“Sometimes it is annoying and sometimes it drives us on even more because you’re like: ‘we are not finished yet’.

“But every final you go into you want to win. We were up for it. We didn’t know much about the Moneyglass team. It can be a bit nervous at times going in but we did know that they did beat Bredagh and St Macartan’s on the way.

“So, they were two good teams and Bredagh took us to a replay last year. We knew they weren’t going to be too bad. They were, they were tough, a very, very tough team and definitely a team to watch out for in the future, very, very good players.”

Now, it’s time to take stock, and the wedding might provide the ideal outlet to unwind and forget about everything a day out from a huge game but then Donaghmoyne will have to regroup.

McConnell knows how difficult the opposition are going to be and it will take all of the Monaghan outfit’s experience to negotiate this weekend.

“They are going to be tough. This is their first time coming out of Leinster but I know they have been knocking on the door for a few years and they have been unlucky,” said McConnell.

“They have come up against Foxrock-Cabinteely. Foxrock have been the dominating team in Dublin in the last few years. But now Kilmacud have come out of Dublin and Leinster they are going to be good and tough. They have a good few county players as well.

“We were in the All-Ireland semi-final last year too but Kilkerrin-Clonberne beat us below in Galway. We have been there before so we do have that bit of experience playing in the All-Ireland series.”

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