'A bit surreal,' as four Sarsfields sisters and their dad finally taste All-Ireland success

19-year-old Siobhán McGrath clinched their first title and ended Slaughtneil’s four-in-a-row bid.

Siobhán McGrath celebrating with her father, Michael 'Hopper,' at the final whistle.
Siobhán McGrath celebrating with her father, Michael 'Hopper,' at the final whistle.
Image: RTÉ.

TWO INJURY-TIME goals in Croke Park yesterday, two long waits for All-Ireland glory ended.

Both were fired into the Canal End, and both changed the outcome of the finals.

Sarsfields star forward Siobhán McGrath — the youngest of the four sisters whose father, former Galway All-Ireland winner Michael ‘Hopper,’ manages the side — settled the tight battle in the 61st minute and clinched their first-ever All-Ireland senior club championship crown.

How fitting it was that the match-winning move went from Niamh, the eldest and the captain, to Orlaith, and then to 19-year-old Siobhán, who made no mistake in rattling the net. Clodagh, of course, was also involved plenty around the middle.

And all the sweeter, too, that it was a case of third time lucky after their previous two deciders in 2017 and 2018 ended in heartbreaking defeat.

But this time, the Tribe side ended Slaughtneil’s four-in-a-row dream.

Sarsfields, to their credit, largely dominated the first half, and while their Derry opponents staged a brilliant fightback, the Westerners managed to hold them off, just about, despite a late, late point making it a one-point game again.

The outpour of emotion at the final whistle said it all, and the McGrath family encapsulated that afterwards in a flurry of feelings.

“It’s a bit surreal to be honest,” 24-year-old Orlaith, who finished up with a 0-3 tally as she starred in the forward line along Siobhán, said. “It doesn’t feel like I thought it would feel.

“Something you’ve always dreamed about and it actually comes to pass, it’s just wow! An unbelievable feeling.

“It’s a relief. Especially considering our second-half performance was nowhere near winnable. I don’t know what happened to us in the second half. They came at us all guns blazing and we didn’t react to that at all.

“Only for a few possessions we got and we capitalised on, that game was gone. They were making darting runs down the centre. Tina Hannon [Bradley] and Shannon Graham could easily have gotten goals there. So in that case, in Croke Park, we were lucky for a change.

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“Of course your luck comes down to hard work and in the first half we worked immensely hard and maybe didn’t capitalise on that ourselves. We didn’t score as much as we should have.”

“To be fair, the goal did come against the run of play,” she added. “We weren’t in it, but we kept within touching distance. We’re over the moon. It comes down to experience. We’ve pushed on as a team and we know each other inside out.”

A word had to go to their opponents too, their great rivals on the biggest stage. Another dogged battle but this time it was Sars who came out the right side of the narrow result.

“When Slaughtneil came out of the other semi-final, we said, ‘Great,’” McGrath smiled.

“They beat us twice and they beat us fair and square. We were coming up against the best. What’s the point in playing if you’re not playing the best and Slaughtneil are an unbelievable team.

“It was just our turn today.”

That, it was.

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Emma Duffy

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