The Harps will attempt to qualify for their second success All-Ireland intermediate camogie final this weekend, but to do so they must face down the team which wrecked their All-Ireland ambitions last year.
Derry side Eoghan Rua will once again provide the opposition in Tyrone on Sunday, with the memory of last year’s final defeat still very much to forefront of The Harps’ thoughts. Eoghan Rua were only the second team to beat The Harps in the last seven years, and Mick Bolger’s side still feel like they have unfinished business from last year’s decider.
They come into the game with a handful of injury concerns too, most notably over Aine and Elaine Mahony and Michelle Fitzpatrick. Aine Mahony is on the long-term injury list, having been forced off early in their Leinster final victory over Dicksboro with a knee problem. That still hasn’t fully cleared up, and she is unlikely to feature on Sunday. Elaine Mahony injured a shoulder in a practice game two weeks ago against the Tipperary intermediates, while Michelle Fitzpatrick is also struggling with a knee injury.
Despite those setbacks, manager Mick Bolger is remaining upbeat ahead of this weekend. “That’s what we have a panel for, we have 28 on the panel at the moment, and since the start of last year, it has been a year of injuries for us. There was no game in either the league or the championship where we weren’t down four or five players every time.”
As he turns his attentions to the challenge Eoghan Rua will pose, he doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge that the Derry girls are a “serious outfit”, but this game is something The Harps have been building towards almost since the final whistle in last year’s final. “We met the week after the All-Ireland last year and said we wanted to come back again” reveals Bolger. “There was mistakes made both on and off the field that day and we wanted to get back to the All-Ireland final and have another crack at Eoghan Rua.
“We felt we should have been six or seven points up after 20 minutes, and when we did get back at them, we lost Louise Mahony and Joanne Prior to collar bone injuries. We would have to congratulate Eoghan Rua, but hopefully they will be congratulating us on Sunday.”
The strength to keep coming back from this side is nothing short of incredible. Between junior and intermediate success, Bolger reckons they have been on the go without a serious break for four or five years, and he has made a conscious effort to try to keep the team a bit fresher this time around after training throughout the harsh winter of last year.
Things won’t get any easier for them this weekend either, as they face a 360 mile round trip for the game in Killyclogher, just outside Omagh. It’s hardly half-way, but The Harps know more than most that success sometimes requires going that extra mile. They’ve been doing it for a long time now, and even as the years go by the motivation remains as strong as ever.
Eoghan Rua are as big a challenge as The Harps could hope to face, and with injuries factored in it makes the task all the greater. After the last couple of weeks, the pitch is probably going to be heavy too, so nothing short of an epic effort will be good enough. The Harps have an All-Ireland final defeat to atone for, and that’s reason enough to drive them on to greater heights this weekend.