After St. Helen’s ladies defeated Dreadnots from Louth in their opening game in the Leinster Junior Club Championship, their management team believed this side could go far. Their aim then was to win the Leinster title and they have achieved that following the wonderful extra-time victory over Monasterevin.
Now they are preparing for an All-Ireland semi-final against Dunedin Connolly’s from Edinburgh (Scotland) on Sunday next in Monaduff. Mentor Ken Leonard is delighted with how far his side have got: “It’s great that we are in the All-Ireland semi-final. Before we played Dreadnots we said we would take each game as it came and see how it goes. After that the management team sat down and said ‘we are quite good and we are capable of winning Leinster’. It’s amazing to have the Leinster title now. It’s not too often that honour comes back to Longford at any grade,” he told the Leader.
No matter what happens on Sunday it has been a marvellous year for St. Helen’s. It’s hard to believe at the start of the season that they struggled to get numbers out due to injuries and various other things. But they gradually managed to assemble a strong panel and haven’t looked back. Leonard said, “At the start of the year for our first league match all we had available to us was 13 players. The second one we even struggled to get 13. We got younger players back into the panel as well as experienced player Emma Davis and we started to work with them. Our aim at that stage was to win the County Junior Championship and then take it from there.”
St. Helen’s have received a great boost with the news that the big game is down for decision at their home grounds. “It’s a great advantage having it in Monaduff and definitely worth a couple of points. The girls are used to playing there and it’s great to have an All-Ireland semi-final there,” said Leonard.
Ken has been overwhelmed by the support the girls have received not just from their own club and parish but from the various other clubs in the county. “The road signs before the final were great to see and representatives from different clubs have been at our games. It’s brilliant. We are not just representing Drumlish/Ballinamuck anymore, it’s Longford and now Leinster. It’s great that the county is getting behind us on our great run.”
Sunday’s Scottish opposition beat Armagh and Ulster champions Shane O’Neill’s in a high scoring game to set up a meeting with St. Helen’s. The management team have researched Dunedin a little but the main focus for them is getting their own game right on the day: “Myself and the other members of the management team did a bit of research on them but we will concentrate mainly on our own game with the belief that we can reach the All-Ireland Final.”