Croker calling for Louth Ladies

Lisa Kelly is set to hop on a plane to Australia early next week. A sabbatical down under for a year awaits the young Louth player.

Lisa Kelly is set to hop on a plane to Australia early next week. A sabbatical down under for a year awaits the young Louth player.

However before that there is the small matter of a match in Croke Park and an All Ireland title to fight for.

Kelly, a nurse by profession, has had to reschedule the flight several times already as the Wee County have marched inexorably towards the final this year.

Not that that bothers her at all. Winning is part of her mentality and she wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Sport is also a family business for Kelly, her uncle is former Leeds and Republic of Ireland defender Gary Kelly and her cousin is also another famous Ireland international – Ian Harte.

With that background, Lisa was able to view the extra week before the final, due to the All Ireland Hurling replay, as a bonus and not a hindrance.

“When we originally heard the game was being put back a week we were worried we might lose a bit of momentum. But now we look at it as an advantage. We’ve an extra week for players with injuries to regroup.”

The semi final against Offaly presented a number of challenges for the Louth Ladies and Kelly is of the belief that it was just what was needed heading in to the final.

“If anything it was probably the scare we needed. I know we were favourites going in there. But like that you can’t just predict that you’re going to just walk away with it at the end of the day.

“We got them in the end, but it could have gone either way. It made us realise that we need to start from as soon as the whistle goes.”

Captain Aine McGee reiterated Kelly’s view on the semi final.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be as easy as the Leinster final. They were a lot hungrier and they had nothing to lose. We knew we had a game on our hands, but the main thing was that we didn’t panic.”


Their opponents next Sunday came through a bruising semi final themselves and although Louth will go in as favourites, Kelly is taking nothing for granted.

“I know Antrim will be just as geared up as we will. We’ll be going in as favourites but we’ll keep the head and hopefully come out with the result.”

That favourites tag can be a distraction and sometimes even a millstone as well. But it’s being kept in check by the squad’s dedicated management team according to Kelly.

“I think you just discard it. It’s at the back of everyone’s minds that we have had a good run of games. But it’s good that we have had the Offaly game.

“And John and Paddy are keeping us very grounded. The medal can be taken away from us at any moment.”

The Wee County have played Antrim twice already this year. Once in the league and the second time earlier in the championship. Yet it is a completely different set up for a final and past results have little bearing on such big occasions.

“Like any team you’ve played before, you know a bit about them,” added the Louth player. “But we won’t look into that too much. We’ll be looking at ourselves and we’ll look back at our own games and were we can go right next time.”

The Ulster finalists have a few handy players at their disposal and their captain Claire Timoney is the inspirational leader behind the team. But again Louth’s focus will be on their own game and their own players.

“Claire is the driving force. But we’ve got players like Grace Lynch coming through. She’s a real leader and Aine McGee and Rosy Heaney and Trish Marmion.

“Anyone who’s coming on is equally as strong as anyone that’s coming off.”

Aine McGee feels the Ulster girls will be a different proposition from last time the two teams met.

“They’ll be a lot fitter. As far as I know they’d a number of girls just back from travelling the last time we played them. So their fitness is going to be lifted.

“They’re very quick up front and they’ll probably utilise that more.”

One way of countering that threat has been the increased level of training her side has gone through in the last few weeks in order to lift their own fitness.

“The intensity has been lifted over the last few weeks since the semi final. Everyone is pushing for places and putting it in”, explained McGee.

Reaching a final is a long journey, but there is usually one moment when a team as a unit begins to believe they can run the whole way. For Kelly that came with the confidence boosting victory over Wexford earlier in the championship.

“We had a great game at the start against Wexford in Stabannon,” explains Kelly. “That was a great game for us and everything just clicked and we got the confidence. They would have been the favourites, but since that win the confidence has grown.”

McGee is equally enthusiastic about the effect that win had on the squad.

“At the start of the year everyone was saying they were the time to beat. And on paper they were the team to beat. They had only lost to both Wicklow and New York by a point and both those sides were the finalists the year before. We knew we had to give it everything that day it all came together.”

Croke Park

HQ awaits Louth next Sunday. It’s a daunting proposition for most players, no matter what their skill level or experience. Still Kelly sees nerves as a good thing on such big days.

“Everyone will be nervous. But nerves can be positive. We went up to Croke Park about two weeks ago to try and familiarise ourselves with it.

“But like any final, nerves can get the better of people. But it’s a case of forgetting the venue and realising it’s still just a pitch and play your own football.”

With a few days until D-Day how does a player prepare themselves for such a match.

“We’ll have training for two or three nights and we’ll regroup and relax as much as we can on the days off. Plenty of water and plenty of sleep and just look after ourselves.

“I don’t know if there’ll be much sleep next Saturday night, but we’ll try,” added Kelly.