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'We Wouldn't Have Thought We'd Get Out Of Ulster Three Years Ago'

'We Wouldn't Have Thought We'd Get Out Of Ulster Three Years Ago'

"Unbelievable times," is how Siobhan Bradley describes recent years for Slaughtneil.

The club has experienced a blaze of success over the past five years. Their men's teams have reached All-Ireland club football finals and All-Ireland club hurling semi-finals. While the men experienced heartbreak in both codes this year, the Slaughtneil camogie team have marched on.

At Croke Park on Sunday, they look to win their third successive AIB All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship when they face Wexford's St. Martin's.

"If you asked us three years ago that would be in this position, we wouldn't have believed you," says Bradley's teammate Grainne O'Kane.

"We wouldn't have thought we'd get out of Ulster three years ago, it was a huge achievement for us, never mind going on and winning two more All-Irelands.

"And we weren't in Croke Park last year, so it makes it even more special.

"We had a great management team that came in four years ago. They brought a lot of structure and confidence to the team. There was a lot of focus on getting the basics right.

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"I would say we were just lucky in a sense that we had a panel of girls who were hungry, loved to win, loved to get better within themselves and that just really brought out that positive energy from one person to another."

While O'Kane says there is an element of luck, the dedication of the players is a product of the club's culture.

"I genuinely just think it is the attitudes of people in the club, everyone buys into the same ethos," says Bradley.

"Slaughtneil itself is a small rural Derry club but full of people with passion and heart for GAA and all the one culture. I think with all those ingredients, it bodes well.

"We suffered through a lot of heartache in all codes for so many years and we’ve learned from them and now."

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Though the Slaughtneil camogie team would love to see the men's teams replicating the achievements of previous years, their early exits have had a beneficial side effect.

"We've been able to train in Slaughtneil the whole time whereas last year because of the conditions and because of the three codes playing on the one floodlit pitch, we were here, there and everywhere for training," tells Bradley.

Wherever we could get really, other club pitches - we went to Dunloy in Antrim, Randalstown, indoor 3G pitches, Lavey in Derry also has a great indoor facility.

I suppose the winter was so harsh last year in comparison to this year and that meant the ground was so bad, particularly in Slaughtneil because of all the trainings going on with the three codes.

You went with it, you did it and there wasn’t any moans or groans about it because we knew the position we were in.

This year it’s been in Slaughtneil alone and that’s been great.

Last month, a pre-All-Ireland final meet and greet was held between the players and younger members of the club. For O'Kane, it was a moment where she realised that the role models she once looked for elsewhere were now in her community.

"It's lovely to see them come up asking ‘Who's training?’ I know when I was growing up, I would have been looking at the Kilkenny hurlers and thinking 'they're my role models and who I want to be like,'" says O'Kane.

"Having the younger girls come up and asking 'Who's playing well?' It's great for the girls to have girls to look up to now too."

Above: Slaughtneil’s Grainne O'Kane and St Martin’s Katie O’Connor pictured ahead of the AIB All-Ireland Senior Camogie Club Championship Final taking place at Croke Park on Sunday, March 3rd.

Pictures: Sportsfile and INPHO

See Also: 'There Was Talk Of Painting The Road' - Wexford Club Gripped By All-Ireland Final

PJ Browne
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