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Ready for battle

Sport
McHale’s army ready for battle


PREVIEW
DANIEL CAREY


CARNACON have just one injury worry ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland club final. Michelle Higgins is currently nursing a hamstring injury but the corner back is expected to be fit in time for the weekend.
Standing between Carnacon and a second All-Ireland title are Donaghmoyne, a Monaghan side who are in their second successive final. The Ulster women had to play second fiddle to Ballyboden St Enda’s last year, but gained revenge in this year’s semi-final. Their star player is Catriona McConnell, a former Ulster young player of the year. She finished top scorer against Ballyboden and got no fewer than 10 points in the Ulster final.
“Any team that play Ballyboden in their own back garden and beat them have to be a formidable team,” says Carnacon manager Michael McHale. “We tried it twice and were beaten on both occasions. I have been talking to the manager of the Ballyboden team and he said they’re a fairly good team – they’ve a very strong midfield; they’ve two or three good scoring forwards, and their backs are very tight. We’re prepared for a tough game.”
The match has been scheduled for 2.30pm in Dromard, which is situated 15 miles from Longford. With their neighbous Emyvale playing in the curtain-raiser, Donaghmoyne won’t lack for support. McHale issued a plea to Mayo fans to head for the midlands to help balance the books.
The manager is in confident mood and feels Carnacon have “a good blend” of youth and experience. Many of those involved in this year’s county minor B success have been brought into the fold. Indeed, McHale estimates that approximately eight new players have come on stream since their only previous All-Ireland title in 2002.
“That’s key to our success really, nurturing the underage players along and bringing them into the senior ranks,” he said. “They mightn’t all be ready this year but they’ll get the experience of being on the senior panel. They’ll be ready next year to take over from the more experienced players.”
Carnacon accounted for Louisburgh, Castlebar Mitchels, a Northeast Mayo combination and old rivals Hollymount en route to taking the county senior title. Their performance in the decider “wasn’t great”, according to McHale, who regards their Connacht semi-final as the key to their season.
“When we played Corofin of Galway, that’s the game where I could see a turning points. There was a big improvement that day. From then on, I felt they could go places, because they were really up for that game and they played very well.”
That was followed by a massacre of Roscommon side St Brigid’s in the Connacht final. The one-sided result meant they approached the All-Ireland semi-final against the highy-rated Donoughmore “wondering how strong we were”, according to McHale.
“We knew Donoughmore would be good because they beat us two years down in Cork,” he said. “We couldn’t really gauge our performances until we played them, and fair play we got through and we beat them. So we’re feeling very confident at this stage.”

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