Ladies Provincial Junior Championship Final Preview
By Damian Dolan
The prize on offer for London and Warwickshire at McGovern Park, Ruislip, on Saturday (1pm) couldn’t be bigger – the chance to have a crack at the junior All-Ireland championship.
Derry, Louth and Carlow await the victors.
For London, motivation will be high having lost out at the All-Ireland semi-final stage for the past three years.
The provincial title is, to all intense and purposes, a means to an end, therefore. Entry into the All-Ireland the champions’ reward.
“The big prize is to get into the All-Ireland series. You want to be playing the likes of Louth, Carlow and Derry,” London manager Paddy Bowles told the Irish World.
“The motivation is there to try and get back to where we were last year.”
London had too much for Warwickshire when the sides met in the opening round of this year’s championship, winning 2-15 to 1-4 at Pairc na hEireann at the back end of April. But Bowles isn’t reading too much into that result.
“If you look at the final scoreline it looks like a comfortable win, but Warwickshire had some great chances at the start of the game which if they’d taken it could have been a very different game,” he said.
But with Yorkshire then gifting them a walkover in Round 2, and safe passage into the final, London will have not kicked a ball in anger for seven weeks come throw in on Saturday.
Warwickshire on the other hand came out on top in their Round 3 meeting with Yorkshire – effectively a semi-final – by 2-9 to 2-7 on a waterlogged pitch in Newcastle.
One of the big pluses for Warwickshire was Mairead Bholah of Leicester’s Naomh Padraig. An unused substitute against London, she started at full forward against Yorkshire and put in an impressive display.
It was a tough, close contest that will surely stand to Warwickshire in the final, and they showed enough against London, despite the 14-point margin of their defeat, to suggest that Bowles’ side can ill afford to be complacent.
London’s Lisa Walsh finished with an impressive personal haul of 1-9 that day, and Warwickshire will need to find some way of containing the Tir Chonaill Gaels forward on Saturday.
Brid Murphy got the other goal as London took an unassailable 1-9 to 0-1 lead into the half-time break in Birmingham.
But the midlanders, managed by John Mitchel’s Harry McDaid, who is in his first year as Warwickshire boss, are not to be underestimated.
Coventry’s Roger Casements won the junior All-Britain last year, beating London’s Tir Chonaill Gaels in the semi-finals. They contribute heavily to this Warwickshire team, as do John Mitchel’s who are going well at junior level this year.
Naomh Padraig, Sean McDermotts of Birmingham and St Barnabas (Nottingham) are also well represented.
Full forward Aoife Caulfield and Laura O’Neill (both Roger Casements) found the target against London, while Warwickshire’s goal came from Ciara Desmond (John Mitchel’s).
And it was Casement’s Deirdre Doherty who opened Warwickshire’s account in Birmingham. Last year, it was her last-gasp penalty which knocked out TCG in the aforementioned provincial semi-final.
Doherty finished that game with 1-7 (3f), while TCG’s Walsh scored all of the London side’s points (11, 2f)). Doherty missed the game with Yorkshire and it remains to be seen if she’ll feature on Saturday.
McDaid has strengthened his panel since April and believes Warwickshire can take a lot from their second half performance against London.
“We were a bit shell-shocked in the first half. We went behind straight away and made some basic errors, but we’ve been working hard since then to minimise those mistakes,” McDaid told the Irish World.
“We came out firing in the second half and London only outscored us by 1-6 to 1-3, so the ability to beat London is there within the team.
“London are a very physical, fast side. They play football how it should be played and they’re good at it – they like to get it into the forwards. We’ve trained to stop that and to counter from it.
“If we can limit the damage done by London on the scoreboard, we’ve more than enough scorers in our team. We need to keep the ball, work it up, and not just kick it away. It’s all about support play and keeping possession.”
One player who could help Warwickshire do just that is John Mitchel’s Shauna Hamilton, who won an All-Ireland junior with Fermanagh in 2017 and played in an intermediate final in 2014. McDaid hopes she’ll be involved against London.
“We’re definitely going in as underdogs, but I think that suits us. London beat us by 14 points fair play, but this is a different day and a different game,” added McDaid.
As for London, Bowles concedes that the long gap hasn’t been ideal, but says training has been “really good” and the intensity “brilliant”.
The London boss has a 30 strong panel at his disposal with 12 new additions to last year.
The London junior championship reached its conclusion last weekend, between Dulwich Harps and St Anthony’s, while the intermediate title race has been in full swing. That in itself has caused a problem.
“That’s been difficult; we’ve had to balance the players’ workload and we haven’t seen them as much as we’d like. It’s been a bit hit-and-miss,” he said.
Bowles added: “Warwickshire have got some quality players and looking at their team against Yorkshire there’s a couple of new faces in there. The Yorkshire game will have brought them together.”
London will still be favourites to progress on Saturday, but Warwickshire are definitely not a side to be taken lightly.