By Michael McMullan
IT’S another weekend and another walk down the championship street for Rasharkin.
The club’s camogs take on Drumsurn in the final of the Bridie McMenamin Shield on Saturday (Portglenone, 2pm) at the end of the season that also saw their footballers win the championship in Antrim.
“There is a great buzz around the village,” said Sharrifa O’Kane, referring to the level of interest.
Like their opponents Drumsurn, the Rasharkin social media presence has been awash with pen pics and good luck messages.
“When you are walking down the street or go into a shop, everybody is chatting to you about it….the PRO team has been flat out.”
Since emerging from Antrim, Rasharkin were awarded a walkover against the Cavan champions after their competition was incomplete and they had a convincing win over Ballela in the semi-final.
“The mood is good and we have been flat out training but it has not been as intense this week with the game on Saturday,” O’Kane told Gaelic Life.
With no All-Ireland series at this level, it will be Rasharkin’s last game of a season that began without a manager.
The group sought a new direction to drive on their ambitions for silverware from last season. The feelers were put out before Thomas ‘Tam’ McGilligan put his name forward.
A management team was assembled that included Brendan Kelly and Shauna Doherty. It was time to get down to work.
“Tam said he would give us six weeks to see what the commitment was like and he would decide and thankfully he stayed with us,” O’Kane said of their manager’s early demands.
Rasharkin’s third place finish in the league was an improvement on most years. While there was a focus on winning games, there was the need to reshuffle the deck and try players in different positions with the view of having everthing in place for the championship.
“We were happy with that,” O’Kane said of the progress. “We were going out to use our skills and new drills from training in the matches.
“It does show all the trainings we have been doing have been showing in our matches.”
Rasharkin were quarter-final winners over Loughgiel in the championship, a team they drew with in the first league meeting.
With up to nine players in the midst of exams at the time, preparations weren’t ideal but it was a different story for the return leg.
“We had to change it up a bit,” O’Kane said. “We came out winners and with that win; we were full of belief for the championship.”
It was a tough battle in the semi-final against a St John’s team operating at a league above before facing off against St Paul’s in the final.
In her teens, O’Kane as on losing Rasharkin team in the 2010 and 2011 finals and told the current team her pain of defeat.
“I knew what it was like to lose in the final so I told them that we played St Paul’s from what happened during the year,” O’Kane added.
St Paul’s and Rasharkin met twice with a draw and a point St Paul’s win the outcome.
“We knew how we felt during the year whenever the result didn’t go our way against St Paul’s,” she said.
“I told them we won’t be feeling like that again and we took that it into the game. We are a tight-knit group and everybody was buzzing.”
The winning feeling was bliss and Rasharkin were champions. It sets up another final. Again it’s in Portglenone and it’s another team in red and white.
Is it written in the stars? Saturday will tell.
“We need to play our game and keep the scores coming,” O’Kane said of Saturday’s final. “When you look into it (the opposition) too much that when the nerves start and you don’t want that.”
By Michael McMullan