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'Winning an All-Ireland with your club is something else' - Wexford and Oulart greats aiming for another

Shauna Sinnott and her side face Sarsfields in Saturday’s delayed 2020/21 All-Ireland club final.

Oulart-the-Ballagh star Shauna Sinnott.
Oulart-the-Ballagh star Shauna Sinnott.
Image: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

THERE’S A GROUP of Wexford legends aiming for yet another All-Ireland crown this weekend.

Names like Mary Leacy and Ursala Jacob, and other three-in-a-row winners from 2010 to 2012, seeped back into the national conscience on Sunday after Oulart-the-Ballagh saw off All-Ireland club final specialists Slaughtneil to reach the delayed 2020/21 decider.

There, they face reigning champions Sarsfields of Galway at Nowlan Park on Saturday [throw-in 1.30pm, live on RTÉ Two] in their third final. They won their first in 2011/12, and added another coveted crown in 2014/15.

Shauna Sinnott can’t remember a whole pile about the first. The smaller details slip the mind. One of the younger players on the team at the time, “It’s a complete blur,” she admits, encouraging everyone involved to soak this one in.

“There were nine of playing on Sunday that had started in our first All-Ireland back in 2011/12. There were a few girls on the bench that were involved as well,” she recalls.

“I was in fifth year in school when we won our first All-Ireland. I was only 17. I was in college then for the second one in 2014/15. That seems like a long time but it doesn’t feel that long ago. 

“It’s fantastic to be in an another All-Ireland. When the years do go by, you feel like you’re after missing your opportunity to get another one. It’s a bit surreal to be in another one.”

“Definitely down as underdogs” facing recent three-in-a-row champions Slaughtneil last time out, that’s not something Sinnott and Co. buy into.

“I suppose we had probably been written off as maybe an ageing team in the last few years. There had been a bit of a gap since we had won any provincial or All-Irelands. But that’s not definitely the case, the hunger is definitely still with all the girls.”

She laughs that her team-mates will be mad if she calls them old, so goes with “more experienced players,” agreeing that secret must be the Wexford strawberries.

But it’s much more than that.

“The girls are so competitive,” Sinnott, a secondary school teacher in Ramsgrange, nods. “They are such a driven team, from one to 26. All of us want to win.

“There are a few of the girls coming towards the end of their careers. I don’t know how they still have the hunger to still be playing. Some of them are playing over 20 years at senior level.

“A few of us were talking the other day, some of us started playing with the senior panel when we were 13. It was a completely different time compared to the rules now.

“There are a lot of us going for our third All-Ireland. A few of us have won with Wexford. Winning an All-Ireland with your club is something else. There isn’t much that you could compare to it. It’s just a really special feeling. If we could top it off with another one, it would be fantastic.”

It would be the perfect way to round off the careers of some of the golden generation, Sinnott agrees, and comes after a long wait after the uncertainty surrounding the completion of the competition.

Sharpshooter Sinnott has been a revelation at corner forward this year, hitting big scores having lined out at half-back and midfield in Oulart’s previous two All-Ireland finals.

Her next challenge is certainly a lofty one, against a Sarsfields side managed by Galway great Michael ‘Hopper’ McGrath, and backboned by his daughters, who helped the Tribe to All-Ireland glory in September.

“They’ve played in the last three All-Ireland finals and I suppose they probably had that hunger and hurt in the 2019 campaign against Slaughtneil,” Sinnott concludes. 

“They are a fantastic side, there’s no doubting that and we will show them the respect. They are reigning All-Ireland champions. But we’re going up there to do our job as well, and there’s so many of us that know what it takes to win a club All-Ireland.

“We’re going to give it our all on Saturday and there’s no doubt it will be an absolute battle between the two of us.”

BTL 5

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Emma Duffy

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