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Clontarf Aim For History With Help Of Grand Slam Captain

Clontarf Aim For History With Help Of Grand Slam Captain

Having already created history for their club this year, the Clontarf ladies football team could also do so for their county this weekend.

The club won its first ever Dublin Ladies Intermediate Championship when they beat Cuala in September. They have since progressed all the way to the All-Ireland final where they will play Monaghan's Emmet Óg at Parnell Park this weekend. A Dublin club has never won an All-Ireland ladies club title at intermediate level.

The Dublin championship had been a mountain too high for Clontarf in the past. Prior to this year, they had lost four finals.

"How we got through it was, we couldn't lose another one," tells Clontarf captain, Sarah Murphy.

"And then, we lost another one! And then next year, we couldn't lose again because we were the strong team and the teams we've played, we've beaten many times before."

Murphy played in all but one of those finals. The year she missed out, she was stranded in Thailand. The club had offered to fly her home but the travel logistics were too complicated. She arrived home on the day after the loss to Parnells.

Every year we've been favourites in Dublin [finals]. We play senior league and intermediate championship. We have been the stronger team but just on the day, injuries, wrong decisions and just not playing as a team and it wasn't working out for us.

We did think we were going to win every year but it just didn't work out for us.

I was there for the first one and would have been one of the youngest then and now I'm probably one of the oldest so there's a lot of people coming through. There's a lot of girls who have come in from the country and other Dublin clubs when their clubs have folded.

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The quirk for Clontarf this season is that they finally summited Dublin without their best player: All-Ireland winner, Sarah McCaffrey - sister of four-time men's All-Ireland winner, Jack McCaffrey - who is in New Zealand.

"Not having her this year is sort of bittersweet. That's how I feel so I can't imagine how she feels.

"She has been in touch with me but I think the time difference over there is so massive. Some of the girls would know her but not as much [as I would].

"She would have went in May. So some of them wouldn't have got to know her as well as myself. I try to keep her in the loop but also, I don't want to be like, 'We won again!' Just to let her know that I'm still thinking of her."

Sarah McCaffrey's father, Noel, was manager last season but departed when his daughter went travelling. The management team has since been supplemented by Fiona Coghlan. The 2013 Grand Slam-winning Irish women's rugby captain also played for Clontarf.

"When you hear her voice, you're gonna get to the line, she's brilliant," says Murphy of Coghlan.

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She's such an inspiration for the younger girls and young girls like to talk, but when Fiona's around you don't talk. I would be there saying 'be quiet' but sometimes they don't listen to you.

Sarah McCaffrey may be absent but there are still plenty of Dublin players in the Clontarf team: Ireland soccer international, Siobhan Killeen, along with Katie Fitzgibbon and Katie Murray. They also recently had a coaching session run by Dublin ladies manager, Mick Bohan, himself a Clontarf man.

"Sometimes you just have to shake each other - we're just so lucky to have all these girls." says Murphy.

"No one's like, 'Oh, I should be there in front of her.' The thing is, everyone is so good. If you're on the bench, you can't complain. Who are you going to step in for? Everyone is so unbelievable and everyone wants to be on that pitch."

A victory on Saturday evening would be a momentous moment for the club but there's another thought for Murphy: playing senior in Dublin next year. The Dublin Ladies SFC is named after her uncle, Michael Murphy.

"My granddad used to present it every year but it's a bit cold for him now at that time year. So, my uncle comes up.

"It'd be unbelievable to win it someday."

The All-Ireland Ladies Intermediate Club Championship final between Clontarf (Dublin) and Emmet Óg (Monaghan) takes place at Parnell Park on Saturday evening at 7:30pm. It will be broadcast live on TG4.

Picture credit: Sportsfile

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PJ Browne
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