Crosserlough and Lacken vie for ladies SFC crown

Captains looking forward to senior decider

The first Senior Championship final of a most unusual season is down for decision this Saturday as Crosserlough and Lacken ladies do battle in an eagerly-awaited Imperial Bar championship decider (3pm, Kingspan Breffni).

Champions Crosserlough will start as favourites but according to their captain, Shauna Lynch, there is no extra pressure on them this time around.

“Last year, I don’t think anyone expected us to do what we did having been senior for just two years. I know as players we don’t feel the pressure. It’s just great to be able to play this year, it’s just great to get out. We all love being together,” Shauna told The Anglo-Celt this week.

“I couldn’t get over it when the restrictions were lifted for football. I was thinking, ‘this is a bit mad’ because there were still other restrictions in place.

“There were girls doing some training but with work and all, I didn’t get doing as much which kind of shows now, I’m not as fit as I should be! It was a big shock to come back but once we got back, it really was like we never left at all.

“It has been such a strange year, for football to come back, we were all really shocked initially. I know myself, I was a bit sceptical.

“But once we got back to the first two trainings, it was like we never left and we got back into the swing of things very quickly, we really hit the ground running. We did well I suppose with the year that we had.”

Crosserlough had a two-point win over Lurgan in the semi-final last weekend while Lacken had 12 points to spare against Mullahoran. The final will be preceded by the Junior Championship decider between the second strings of Crosserlough and Killygarry.

“The junior team did really well at the weekend, they were the underdogs going into that semi-final,” said Dublin-based Garda Lynch (pictured above).

“It just shows that the underage structure is just phenomenal in the club, there are girls coming up and pushing for places in the senior team.

“There are girls on the junior team who will be togging out for the senior team on Saturday as well and possibly getting places so there is great competition for places which is great overall for the senior and junior teams.

“After we won on Sunday it was just pure excitement and looking forward to the final on Saturday. We’ve played Lacken twice this year, we beat them by a very small margin in the league, it was a really tough game, and we drew with them then in the championship.

“They have some great players, the likes of Roisin O’Keeffe and Erinn Galligan are two of the best forwards we have in Cavan so they are definitely a team that you wouldn’t under-estimate.

“We always have good battles with them and they’re so physical. We’re really excited for Saturday, it will be interesting.”

Meanwhile, in the opposite corner, Lacken captain Aisling McInerney is hoping that the Crowe Park-based side will make up for a few disappointing losses in recent years.

“This year with Covid and everything, I don’t think any of us expected to be playing football. It took a bit of pressure off and everyone is just going out playing and relishing every game we play,” stated Aisling.

“With our past experience, we put a lot of pressure and expectations on ourselves. I think sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves and we lost games we should have won, in particular last year, that semi-final against Mullahoran, we threw it away.

“If you had told us in 2016 that we wouldn’t be back in a championship final for four years, things may have been a little bit different. That was a final we let slip away.

“For me personally it was definitely one of the most disappointing losses of my career, I think it’s one we should have won and a lot of girls would agree but I don’t think you can dwell on those things either.

“We are hoping that we can use that hurt to drive us on this Saturday.”

Asked what has changed to catapult Lacken back to the big day, their captain said: “It’s a mixture of a couple of things. I think we always had the potential there and nothing major has changed. We have a couple of young girls coming through that is pushing us on and our junior team have improved this year.

“There is competition for places and that drives you on as well. There is no magic formula, I think it’s a combination of lots of different things and just enjoying football and taking every game as it comes.”

While Crosserlough are favourites to retain their crown, Lacken – under the stewardship of manager Sean Finnegan and selectors Ollie Brady and Simon Fay – are confident in their own ability.

“Ah look, Crosserlough are county champions, they are littered with county players. We are under no illusions, Crosserlough are raging hot favourites and they deserve to be but we’re not going there just for the occasion or to make up the numbers.

“We know that we are in with a shout, it’s not going to be an easy task but if everyone plays to their potential, I think we can give them a good fight and who knows, maybe the outcome will fall in our favour on the day.”

There will be a strange atmosphere at the county grounds as no supporters are allowed to attend but, said Lynch, that will not disrupt the players’ focus.

“It’s upsetting for families and friends looking on. When you’re on the field playing the game, you won’t realise there’s nobody there but after the game, when you’re looking for support or to celebrate, that would be when it would hit home.

“But once you’re on the field, you’re focused on the game and I don’t think the lack of a crowd would affect that.”

Crosserlough, under the guidance of Paul Cahill, Mark Rehill, Gerry Charters and Breda Cusack, drew with Lacken when the sides met earlier in the competition and another close tussle is expected.

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