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'I Was Used To Playing Football. It Wasn't Going To Be A Hindrance Or A Danger'

'I Was Used To Playing Football. It Wasn't Going To Be A Hindrance Or A Danger'

Just five years after winning the All-Ireland junior title, Monaghan travelled to Croke Park for the 1997 ladies football senior decider looking to win back-to-back championships.

A mainstay of the Monaghan team through those years was Brenda McAnespie. The Monaghan legend is the subject of a new Laochra Gael which airs on TG4 at 9:30pm on April 9th.

"The difference between '96 and '97 was that Waterford, our big rivals, were going to be our opponents in the final. We hadn't beaten them in a final," says McAnespie.

In the build-up to the game, McAnespie discovered that she was pregnant with her daughter Eimear.

"Coming up to maybe two or three months before the game, we were training really, really hard," she says.

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Everything was going [well], and all of a sudden I find myself in the situation again that I was pregnant.

I went to the doctor and asked her opinion and they said sometimes when you're pregnant you're encouraged to keep doing what you're doing.

If you're taking on something new, well that's a completely different story. I had been that used to playing football that it wasn't going to be a hindrance or a danger to me.

I spoke about it with Vincie (her husband) and we said we'd just take it a week at a time.

After negotiating a scan at a Monaghan hospital without being recognised, McAnespie's next step was to tell manager Mickey Morgan.

"It was just like that: silence and shock," Morgan recalls.

"Football was my first thought. 'Brenda, you're pregnant, you're going to miss the game. It's an All-Ireland final, it's Waterford and you're our centre-forward, our driving force'.

"[She said], 'Mickey, I'm playing, I'm telling you I'm playing'. I couldn't sleep. Brenda was the only thing I was thinking about."

Despite developing cramp during the game, McAnespie was a rock at number six for Monaghan.

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"We thought we had found a chink in the Monaghan defence but suddenly, there's Brenda and she sorts it out for them," Waterford manager Michael Ryan says.

"She was a great reader of the game, a great organiser - she kept those two midfielders from straying too far forward.

"The referee, in his wisdom, decided to add on 11 minutes and 52 seconds. We were ahead after five minutes of added time."

Though Waterford led so late in the match, it was Monaghan who triumphed by two points. It was their second All-Ireland title and also the last time that the county won the senior championship.

It was not until after the game that McAnespie told her teammates that he was pregnant.

See Also: 'The Shot Rang Off, One Footballer Looked Up The Road... Aidan Was Dead At That Stage'

PJ Browne
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