Think of some of the most successful teams in Ireland down the years and you think of the likes of the great Kerry team from 1977 to 1986, you think of the Kilkenny team of the past decade and a half, you think of the Mount Sion and Erin’s Own teams of the past in Waterford that won so many County Senior Hurling Finals over a number of years, or you think of the great Crossmaglen Rangers side that dominated the Armagh Senior Football Championship for so long.
But there is another team that has to be included in the greats, and maybe for one simple reason.
Ballymacarbry Ladies Football Club has as much a right as anyone else to consider themselves amongst the great teams. They have dominated the Waterford Ladies Football scene going back to the early 1980’s winning 32 senior county finals, going on to compete in Munster, winning Provincial Finals and then winning ten All-Ireland Finals.
They for a long time dominated the All-Ireland sevens competition and they have supplied numerous players to different Waterford teams down the years, often having maybe fourteen players in the White shirt of Waterford at different times when Waterford began their great era as kingpins or should that be queenpins of the game on the inter county scene in the early 1990’s.
This weekend Ballymacarbry will look to add to their already impressive roll of honour when they take on Comeragh Rangers in the County Senior Football Final at Fraher Field on Saturday afternoon.
Many of the finals they won in the past were won with some years and some years they were won uncontested, but this years one promises to be one of the toughest they have ever played.
Cross Comeragh rivalry when it comes to football is nothing new. For a long number of years the men from The Nire and the Rathgormack area have served up many great battles and now a rivalry between the ladies from the Nire/Ballymacarbry area and the women from Clonea and Rathgormack extending up into Newtown and Ballydurn is beginning to develop.
The two sides clashed in last years final where Comeragh Rangers really tested Ballymacarbry who needed to call on all their experience amassed over the years to secure a 1-11 to 0-8 win, needing a Danielle Hallahan goal to turn the tide.
Both sides have qualified for this year’s final with some ease. Both Comeragh Rangers and Ballymacarbry collected the full quota of points on offer from their games with Saint Anne’s and Abbeyside.
When the two sides clashed in the round robin section of the league, a close battle was fought between the two with Comeragh Rangers coming out on top on a 3-9 to 1-12 score line.
While Ballymacarbry were set up in the 1970’s Comeragh Rangers are a much younger club, being formed as late as 1999. They won their first county final, a junior one six years later, beating Ballyduff in the final and the following year beat the Brickeys to win the Intermediate Final. Since then the mid county club has grown from strength to strength and head into Saturday’s game confident that now is the time to win a first senior final.
Both clubs have produced some top quality players over the past few years.
Seven members of the Ballymacarbry Club were part of the Waterford Intermediate team this year while four members of the Comeragh Rangers Club were part of the Waterford side which lost the League Final to a strong Armagh side, won the Munster final against a good Limerick side and then bowed out of the championship against a strong Fermanagh side in the All-Ireland quarter finals.
Over the past few years, Waterford have put together some excellent under 14 and 16 sides and both clubs also have a share of their members involved in these sides and it is only a matter of time before they are called into the Waterford Intermediate team.
Ballymacarbry in this game will be looking to their inter county players – Linda, Mairead and Aileen Wall, Louise and Michelle Ryan, Karen and Michelle Ryan as well as Lauren Guiry for much of their inspiration. Others that could play a leading roll for Ballymacarbry are Sinéad Grant in goals, Eibhlís Cooney, Marian Ryan and Laurissa Hogan.
Not to be outdone, Comeragh Rangers have their star players. Nora and Anne Dunphy are players that have been part and parcel of the Waterford set up with a few years now and so will Ciara Dunphy who played at Full back for Waterford in many of their league games this year while Shauna Dunphy has the potential to be a leading light of the game in the years ahead. Another player involved with Waterford this year is Aisling Hahessy and is again a player to look out for.
And just like Ballymacarbry, Comeragh Rangers are a side that will not depend on their players that have played with the Waterford Inter county team for inspiration in this game.
Eibhlin and Geraldine Power, Clodagh Keane, Aoife Dunne and the Murray triplets Aoife, Emma and Katie Murray are all players to keep and eye on and could play a huge roll in this game.
If you are a regular reader of what I have to say here and elsewhere, I often tend to favour the team that lost the first day when teams meet twice to win second game. This time I am not too sure if this will happen.
Champions seldom if ever give you their crown easy and Ballymacarbry are going to show this on Saturday afternoon.
The players will feel that county title number 33 in a row as a bit of a ring to it and is unlikely to be equalled or bettered anytime soon by any club in any county.
But they will know that this could well prove to be the hardest to win. On paper, both sides have some very good players.
Some will say that the experience of Ballymacarbry has to county for something, but so too does the hunger of Comeragh Rangers to win a first. They will feel they have learned from last years defeat and will want to show all present this is the case.This is one of the few games that I am not going to make a call on as to who is going to win. It’s one where I will sit on the fence. It looks as though it is too close to call.