DERRY GAA: Oak Leaf Ladies target All Ireland final shock

Steelstown captain, Emma Doherty represents Derry in the TG4 Ladies Football All Ireland Junior Championship Final against Fermanagh at Croke Park on Sunday.
Steelstown captain, Emma Doherty represents Derry in the TG4 Ladies Football All Ireland Junior Championship Final against Fermanagh at Croke Park on Sunday.

TG4 Ladies All Ireland Football Junior Final: Derry v Fermanagh (Sunday, Croke Park, 11.45am)

STEELSTOWN captain, Emma Doherty is the sole surviving member of the Derry Senior Ladies panel that lost out to London in the 2008 All-Ireland Junior Championship Final and she’s desperate to make amends this Sunday.

The Derry Senior Ladies squad are back in Croke Park for the first time since that defeat nine years ago as they meet firm favourites, Fermanagh in the Junior decider (throw-in 11.45 a.m.).

It’s taken a long time for the Oak Leaf Ladies to get back to GAA Headquarters but that defeat is still fresh in Doherty’s mind and, at 29 years of age, she’s determined to make the most of what could be her final chance at All Ireland glory.

“Back then I was young enough and probably thought I’d get back again but this is the first time in nine years and you realise the importance of it,” she said.

“I’ll be telling the young girls in the squad to make the most of it because they might never get back and take the opportunity as best they can.

“I definitely didn’t think it would take us this long. It makes you hungrier to get back there and do the business.”

The local dentist captained the Brian Og’s to a first ever Derry Senior County Championship win with a 2-08 to 1-00 victory over Ballinascreen last weekend and she’s hoping that win helps inspire Derry to a shock win over the Erne Ladies.

It would be an outstanding end to what began as a memorable week for the Steelstown contingent who make up most of the Derry county panel. In fact Doherty is one of 13 representatives from the Ballyarnett club, alongside

Enya Doherty, Katy Holly, Megan Devine, Aoife McGough, Aoife Laverty, Lea Casey, Beth Heaney, Rachel Roberts, Leah McCready, Eimhear O’Doherty, Sarah Doherty and Ciara McGurk.

The Brian Og’s came up against several of their inter-county teammates in last weekend’s county final against Ballinascreen, including Derry captain Cáit Glass.

Now they have a common goal and are reunited on Sunday as they look to bring the All-Ireland Junior trophy back to the Oak Leaf county.

“The nerves are definitely starting to kick in now but we’re excited,” admitted Doherty.

“It would be great to finish the week the same way that it started.

“It was great to get the win last weekend but it was weird too as we were playing against girls who we play with in the county team and who we’re playing with this weekend.

“It was a good competitive game and thankfully everyone came through without injuries. It was good to get a good, tough match a week before Sunday’s final.”

Fermanagh have beaten Derry four times this season including a 4-10 to 1-10 win in the Ulster Junior Final.

However, after upsetting Antrim in the Ulster semi-final and Carlow in the All Ireland semi-final, Doherty explains that confidence levels are at an all-time high.

“Fermanagh are definitely the favourites but 60 minutes can go either way.

“The underdog tag suits us. We’ll go down and enjoy the occasion and hopefully come out with a win,” she added..

“Even against Carlow in the semi-final we were completely written off. And that will stand to us in the final.

“There maybe was a mental block when it came to Fermanagh in the past after getting beat in the Ulster Final and then in the first round of the All Ireland phase. But that tough game against Carlow will stand to us.

“They will be nervous as well and we’ll go out and get stuck in.”