Irish Senior Cup finals: Sunday
The Glenanne connection will be out in force on Senior Cup Sunday as a week of national titles tips off at Belfield with the finals the men’s and women’s knock-out competition throwing up a pair of Leinster derbies.
Graham Shaw is the man to link the two fixtures as he coaches Loreto in the day’s opening tie against first-timers Railway Union before lining out in the Glen’s green in search of a third men’s title – becoming the first person to perform such a double.
The recently retired international recently took over the head coach role at Beaufort from Orla Bell – having been number two for much of the season.
But while he admits the dual role will be a challenge, Shaw believes he can transfer the knowledge from his many playing successes to the coaching arena.
“Having both finals on the same day is not ideal, personally but that’s the way it is. It’s something I need to deal with and feel that I am strong enough to do so.
"All my preparation, as a player and a coach, has been done over the past two weeks and Sunday is a matter of applying it.
“Loreto have a group of superb talents, of which I have thoroughly enjoyed coaching this season and am looking forward to sharing the experience of an Irish Senior Cup final with them all.”
Step one of the assignment requires the re-assimilation of Loreto’s international contingent — Louisa Healy, Lizzie Colvin, Nikki Symmons and Niamh Small — back into the side following their return from Ireland’s failed World Cup qualification campaign in Chile.
He will be hoping they have shaken off the jet lag in time, as they bid to turn the tables on a Railway Union outfit that have come on leaps and bounds under the stewardship of Mick McKinnon.
Railway annexed their first two Leinster titles this season and last and are competing at this juncture outdoors for the first time.
But as their assured Irish Hockey League performances have proven, they won’t be intimidated by a big occasion in the eyes of McKinnon.
He told the Hook, getting the side’s head around playing on centre-stage “hasn’t been a hard process at all.
“We may not have played a national final but we have played big pressure games like the league decider against Hermes and the national indoor final. “Also, you have to remember that a number of our squad have played high pressure games in other sports, cricket, camogie and so on while Holly Jenkinson won the final last year.”
He welcomes back Emma Smyth to his set-up while there are a couple of injury niggles, he has a full squad of 19 to pick from.
As for the men’s final, Monkstown stand in Glenanne’s way and are looking for a first title in 96 years.
They do so with a man at the helm privy to some of the best intel going. Rory O’Donoghue was a stalwart of the Tallaght side who made the breakthrough to provincial and national prominence in the mid 1990s.
And he is central to another of the day’s fascinating story-lines. Rory brings them to their second Irish Senior Cup final in three years and faces off against his 17-year-old son, Shane.
The younger O'Donoghue has netted 18 times, the Glen’s second highest scorer behind Stephen Butler, and was recently nominated for the IHA youth player of the year.
But speaking to the Hook about the close links, Rory says it’s all business this weekend:
“As regards my connections with the Glens and Shane's involvement in their side, I have played and coached Glenanne and gave them my best effort. Now, I am coaching Monkstown, they are getting all I have to give as a coach.
"Effort, commitment and loyalty are important values to me in life and sport. When I came to coach Monkstown I committed to help them achieve in senior hockey and instil those values in them in order to achieve that goal.
“All emotions regarding Shane's involvement will be on hold until after the final whistle and I’m looking forward to the game.
“We are far from the finished article but we have a dream and ambitions and we are going to give it our best effort.
“Glenanne are a very good side with lots of experience and we would be foolish not to accept that. We don't want to leave anything behind us on Sunday as we felt we did the last time we made the final.”
The sides have produced some cracker this term already but the Glens hold the balance thus far with a 3-1 home league win and a 3-3 tie on the final day of the season despite the absence of Butler and Steven Doran.
Gareth Watkins and Brian Groves return in place of Keith Kenning and Richard Sykes from last week’s 0-0 draw with Pembroke and a growing self-belief – coming off the back of late steals against Annadale and Banbridge – is steadily building.
Factor in both sides’ supporters – among the biggest and loudest around – and a 9-4 goalfest in the Neville Cup and this could be a true cracker for the RTE cameras who will be in situ on the day.
ESB Women's Irish Senior Cup final: Loreto vs Railway Union, 1pm, Belfield Men's Irish Senior Cup final: Glenanne vs Monkstown, 3.15pm, Belfield
* RTE2 will broadcast an hour-long special on the two matches on Monday from 8pm. To read the Irish Times preview of the men's game click here and the women's can be seen here. Here is David Medcalf's take in the Independent on the men's final.
** Thanks to David O'Malley, Alan Good and Gareth Evans as well as the three interviewees for their time in helping put together this piece. The Hook was in a bit of a bind and was sorted out by their help no end!