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Dublin: 17 °C Wednesday 17 July, 2019
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Galway and Connacht champions hoping to put 'the cherry on top' of an incredible year

Niamh Duggan’s Annaghdown are in bonus territory, but determined to take home the intermediate All-Ireland title on Sunday.

Duggan, left, with Shane O'Neills captain Louise Kenny. The sides meet in Parnell Park on Sunday (throw-in 1pm).
Duggan, left, with Shane O'Neills captain Louise Kenny. The sides meet in Parnell Park on Sunday (throw-in 1pm).
Image: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

IN THE EARLY months of 2016, Niamh Duggan’s Annaghdown looked at the year ahead with one goal – to win the intermediate county championship.

Little did she think that she’d find herself in Croke Park at the end of November, representing her side at the media day for the All-Ireland club finals.

Having lost the previous two county finals, the Galway contingent had one priority and one priority only. They wanted to put the heartbreak from the previous two years to bed and bring the cup back to the shores of Lough Corrib.

That’s exactly what they did. And more.

“We’ve just been taking it one… I know it’s a cliché, but one game at a time. We aimed for the county, we’d lost the previous two, so I mean that was the number one goal,” the club captain tells The42.

“The experience we gained from [losing back-to-back county finals] has stood to us in the tighter games. I mean a few of us, the older players, have experience, but it’s brought the younger players on as well. It’s stood to them as well this year, so it’s helped.

“Then we had the Connacht semi-final. They were five weeks apart so we took a bit of a break then and tackled the Connacht series, and now we’re onto the All-Ireland series which would be the cherry on top at the end of it all.”

The former Galway inter-county star was pivotal for Annaghdown as they saw off Waterford and Munster champions Abbeyside in their All-Ireland semi-final, but she admits that it was no easy day at the office.

“At half-time it was only 0-3 to 0-2. I think the first point was scored after 24 or 25 minutes, so it was a real close game, it was a tight affair.

“About 10 minutes into the second half, we got the goal — not that they never came back from it, but we kept the lead then from then on. It was a real tight affair, especially having to travel down, but our support down there was unreal and that helped us through as well.

“In terms of the match itself, it was a low-scoring affair, and we just had to be patient and build up and finish off the scores then when we got the chance.

“It’s great to be training for an All-Ireland final. We don’t mind if there’s snow out on the pitch, we’ll go out and train. We’re really enjoying it, looking forward to it.”

Niamh Duggan Source: INPHO

Duggan was part of the Galway side that won a historic senior All-Ireland title in 2004, just before Cork emerged as the superpower of ladies football in the country and deprived them of further success on the biggest stage.

That being said, Galway did stay in the top few teams, dominating Connacht alongside Mayo and reaching the latter stages of the All-Ireland series every year.

The attacking midfielder also spent a period playing club football in Dublin with Fingallians. She is well accustomed to playing in Parnell Park, which hosts Sunday’s final, having played a club final there and also various league finals with her county.

Duggan is most definitely not short of experience when it comes to big matches, that’s for sure.

“Myself and Fiona Wynne were involved with Galway when we won [in Croke Park] in 2004. We beat Dublin here in the All-Ireland, and we were involved with league finals as well with Galway in Parnell Park, they’ve been held there recently.

“A few of us have that experience of playing in Parnell Park. I suppose travelling down to Fraher Field [for the All-Ireland semi-final] at the weekend, it’s given us that experience of travelling too – that’s their main pitch in the county – so we’re treating Parnell Park the same.

“I suppose we just have to look forward to it. It might not come around again so we’re really just looking forward to it.”

Opposition in the final comes in the form of a promising Shane O’Neills side from Armagh. Although they’re quite a small club, they have produced some of the county’s best-known footballers including Aimee Mackin, and her sister Blaithín.

Ladies Football All Ireland Club Championship Final Captains Day Source: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Duggan knows it’s going to come down to the wire.

“They’ve reached an All-Ireland final so they have to be respected. They’re going to be a very tough opposition. I mean, any team that reaches the last two in the country, they deserve to be there.

“We’ll just have to really focus in on ourselves, make sure we’re right on the day and look, for the next 60 minutes we’ll do all we can to hopefully come out on the right end of it.”

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Emma Duffy

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