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From Cork powerhouse to no team and now back in an All-Ireland final - and the Rena Buckley factor

Eileen Lyons and Donoughmore are back in an All-Ireland final after not fielding in 2017.

FROM ALL-IRELAND SENIOR champions in 2001 and 2003 and contesting deciders in 2004 and 2009, to not having a team in 2017.

eileen-lyons Donoughmore captain Eileen Lyons. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

It has been a real roller coaster journey for Cork side Donoughmore, who are lining out in the All-Ireland junior final this afternoon.

It’s great to be back is the common theme in conversation with captain Eileen Lyons, just like it is with her team-mate, Cork legendary dual star and 18-time All-Ireland winner, Rena Buckley.

“We have a team again, that’s hugely important to me,” Buckley noted last weekend ahead of the showdown with Mayo’s CL McHale Rovers [throw-in 2pm, Duggan Park, Ballinasloe, live on LGFA Facebook] “If we capped it off with a win it would be very, very sweet.”

And likewise with Lyons, you can sense just how much it means.

“At the start of the year we aimed to win the Cork county so we’re in bonus territory. But we’re in it now, so we’re in it to win it,” she begins, before explaining the past few years and Donoughmore’s fall from their perch as a senior powerhouse in Cork.

“In 2017, there was no adult team playing in the club. Previous years and that, we were struggling to make a team. We had a lot of retirements at the same time and a couple of girls moved away. We were just struggling to have numbers.

“We went down to senior B, I think we played a year at intermediate and then in 2017 we didn’t have enough to field a team. We came back then again in 2018 because we had a lot of younger girls coming up.

“We got to a county semi-final and lost to Glanmire, who eventually won [the All-Ireland]. We thought we had some unfinished business there in that we were able to win the county.”

Back to it this year, they gathered the troops earlier to go again and give it a right crack. With plenty of up-and-coming talent and promising minors on board, they really have drove on.

“The teams coming up again,” the full-forward smiles. “We have Rena Buckley and Aisling Barrett who have given excellent service to football. They’re excellent to have in the team.

“We have a couple in the middle and then we have younger girls as well coming up, so it’s a great mix of youth and experience.”

rena-buckley Rena Buckley. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We had some very tough games in Cork, and were probably lucky to win out that county,” Lyons, a secondary school Biology and Ag Science teacher in Millstreet, adds.

“We just drove on from there then, won the Munster and now All-Ireland final. It’s great for the club. Two years ago, to have no team and now to have a junior team back in the All-Ireland final is great.”

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A word must go to the aforementioned Buckley, Gaelic games’ most successful warrior who captained her county to both football and camogie All-Ireland titles.

And Lyons is most definitely well versed to share her insights: she’s also a dual player, and lines out for neighbouring parish Iniscarra alongside Buckley.

“She’s super to have in training, she’s so enthusiastic,” she notes. “She’s excellent to be able to listen to at training, and be able to watch. We all learn so much from her, she’s such a smart footballer and she works so hard.”

Buckley, Barrett and goalkeeper Caitríona O’Connell are the three sole survivors from the glory days of ’01 and ’03, she reckons, while Lyons first came into the panel in ’09.

“A small sprinkle of the team before. A couple of us were on the panel then for the 2009 All-Ireland final that we lost to Donaghmoyne, I was U16 that year.

“A couple of us came onto the panel that year so being able to train with some of the older girls was great experience as well, we learned so much from them.”

A small village focused on football while Iniscarra flies the camogie flag, the excitement at home in Donoughmore is like nothing else. But it’s not just about today, a lot of it solely surrounds the fact that the side is up and running again.

Competing for national silverware indeed helps.

One step at a time, but the future is most definitely bright, Lyons assures

eileen-lyons-and-marie-larkin With CL McHale Rovers captain Marie Larkin. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“It’s super,” she concludes. “I mean people are just happy to see a club in Donoughmore again, and now that we’re doing well again it’s great.

“All the locals are chipping in with putting up bunting and flags and stuff, it’s just a good atmosphere around. It’s a good build-up to Sunday. We’ll be hoping to get a good crowd out.

“We’ve had great support in previous games. It makes a small bit of a difference when you have a crowd behind you because it will be a tough game.”

No doubt about that.

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Emma Duffy

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