By Damian Dolan
Parnells ladies manager Tommie Donohue has warned his side against complacency when they face Round Towers in Saturday’s All-Britain IFC Club final at McGovern Park, Ruislip (12:30pm).
Parnells were 21 points Towers’ better when the sides met in the London intermediate county final at the same venue in July, but Donohue says that will count for nothing on Saturday.
A lot of football has been played since then, and Towers’ impressive win over provincial heavyweights Dunedin Connolly’s in their All-Britain semi-final in York, should be enough to guard against any Parnells complacency.
“The average person, if they’d seen the county final, would give Towers no hope at all, which is a desperately dangerous position to be in,” Donohue told the Irish World.
“They’re (Round Towers) a much better side than they were that day. They’re a good team – there’s no mistake about it.”
He concedes Parnells had the “easier side of the [semi-final] draw”. Dunedin were All-Britain champions in 2018 and 2015, and runners up in 2017.
“It will be a different game to the county final,” forecasts Donohue.
In July, a blistering second half display, in which they scored four goals, saw Parnells storm to a 4-12 to 0-3 victory over Towers, and reclaim the intermediate trophy they’d lifted in 2017 and 2016.
Player of the match Claire O’Brien scored 1-3 (1f), while Parnells’ other goals came from Helen Hughes, Renee Murphy and Alice O’Brien. Catriona McGahern struck 0-4 (2f) and Hannah Noonan chipped in with 0-3.
Parnells were again amongst the goals in their All-Britain semi-final with Glasgow Gaels – the Londoners prevailing by 5-7 to 0-4 in York.
Donohue concedes it “wasn’t pretty to watch” at times, before Parnells “ripped them apart” with four goals in a devastating ten-minute spell in the second half.
McGahern finished with 2-1, O’Brien 1-2 and Noonan 1-1, with Parnells’ other goals coming from Murphy and Niamh Walsh.
Parnells will naturally go into Saturday’s final in confident mood, but Donohue is wary.
“You have to think of the dangers, and the danger for me is beating a team by 4-12 to 0-3 and people thinking there’s no way that can be turned around,” added Donohue.
“But it can; I’ve seen it before.”
Parnells have been bolstered by the return of the experienced Rebecca Mills – she came off the bench in London’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Fermanagh and chipped in with a couple of points against Glasgow.
Wing back Orla McKay is another who missed the county final.
Their return is tempered by the loss of Niamh McGill and Sinead Carroll, but Donohue believes Parnells have a “better team” for the All-Britain final, than they did for the county final.
That victory in July meant a huge amount to the club. Parnells have been a team on a mission this year, fuelled by not making last year’s London intermediate final.
Now they desperately want to be called All-Britain champions once again – a privilege they last enjoyed in 2016.
Driving Parnells on has also been a desire to pay tribute to the memory of the club’s former chairman, Brendan Lynch, who passed away suddenly in June.
The Co Meath native won’t be too far away from the players’ thoughts once again on Saturday.
“We can’t forget Brendan. He was an incredible guy,” said Donohue.
“He cared about the sport, the girls and Parnells more than anything. He was Parnells to the core and part of everything we did.”
There is clearly a burning desire to win the All-Britain, and go on and repeat their All-Ireland success of 2012.
Their opponents, Round Towers, are playing in their first-ever All-Britain final. They’re a club which has come a long way in a short time.
Founded in 2017, they were soundly beaten in that year’s intermediate final by Parnells by 17 points, and then “blown out of the water” by Liverpool’s John Mitchel’s in the provincial semi-finals.
They bounced back last year to be crowned London champions, beating Kingdom Kerry Gaels in the final, before losing out to Dunedin in their All-Britain semi. Revenge was sweet in York no doubt.
Saturday is therefore a step into the unknown for the south Londoners, but from the outset Michael Maher’s team has set out its stall to peak for the All-Britain.
Having peaked too early last year, their performance against the Edinburgh side would suggest they’re “firing on all cylinders” this time around.
“All credit to the girls, they put in the best performance in the three years the club’s been in existence,” Maher told the Irish World.
Niamh Foley 2-1, Roisin Kelly 1-2, Aedin O’Donnell 1-1 and corner forward Jennifer Sheehan 0-3 did the bulk of the scoring damage.
The latter didn’t feature in the county final loss to Parnells, nor did wing back Orlagh Moran.
But the rest did and Maher says that can only be a “good thing”. While they have “no qualms” about the result that day, Towers have a point to prove.
“The manner of that defeat will certainly add to the intensity we’ll bring to the table. We’ve got a bite about us now and I’m confident the result will be far closer,” he said.
“They’re chomping at the bit in training and we’re going to be more than ready for 12 October – it’s going to be a serious game of football. We’ll give them one hell of a game.”
While Parnells have been here before, and done it, these are unchartered waters for Towers. Maher is respectful of their opponents.
“Parnells are exceptional and their recent record and long-standing history means they’ve got great experience in games of this magnitude,” he said.
But Towers aren’t heading to McGovern Park just to immerse themselves in the occasion.
This is a team, the vast majority of which have been there since the beginning of this journey, and they mean to see it through.
“It means a lot to be in the final, but you’re only remembered for winning finals. That’s the only thing on our mind; it’s 100 per cent about winning,” added Maher.
It has the makings of being a great final.