BY CHRIS MCNULTY
MAUREEN O’Donnell is hoping that Sunday’s All-Ireland Comortas Peile na Gaeltachta triumph will be just the spur for the Termon Ladies as they prepare to go down the long road again.
Their win over An Fhairce (Clonbur) saw them capture the All-Ireland Gaeltact title for the fifth year in succession.
O’Donnell has played in all five and the experienced forward savour success’ sweet taste again last weekend in Moycullen.
The Donegal champions have their eyes on more silverware this summer.
With their Donegal championship title to defend, the Burn Road brigade would dearly love to go a step further this time, having been beaten by Donaghmoyne in an Ulster final replay last year. The greatest hour for this golden generation of girls came in 2010 when Termon defeated their nemesis from Monaghan to win an Ulster Championship, only for Inch Rovers of Cork to lower their colour in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Now, Termon are aiming for the top again.
“Last year, I don’t know what happened us,” O’Donnell says.
“We won the club championship in Donegal, but the Ulster was a real anti-climax for us.”
Last weekend, they overcame the absences of scorer-in-chief Geraldine McLaughlin, her sister Nicole, their teak-tough full-back, and the suspended Maria Carr to take the All-Ireland Gaeltacht back to the Lagoon.
A 6-8 to 2-9 win over Claregalway in the semi-final paved the way.
O’Donnell says: “Once we got going in the second half, we pushed on and we got a serious score in the second half.”
And in the final, Termon scored a 4-15 to 2-10 win over their Clonbur opponents. Roisin Friel was the star turn in the final, netting a hat-trick, with Shannon McGroddy bagging the other goal.
O’Donnell says: “Lorna Joyce plays for them and they were doing so well in their semi-final they were able to take her off after ten minutes. Our defence is very good, though. It wasn’t a bother on them. Again, we pulled clear in the second half and there was no comeback for them.”
With the McLaughlins to return to the fold, Termon are gaining momentum and their scoring power in the absence of the Donegal stars was surely a chilling message to the pretenders to their throne.
“We’ll need Geraldine for later in the year so we didn’t want to chance her,” O’Donnell says. Francie Friel’s side saw Dara Kelly return to action after exactly a year out with a cruciate injury sustained at last year’s finals, while their blooding of youngsters has worked a treat, too.
With the Donegal ladies championship to begin in July, Termon have the goals set.
O’Donnell says: “We’ve always thought that we aren’t too far away. Glenfin pipped us in 2011, but maybe we thought we were better. We got caught out and maybe we looked too far ahead.
“It’s a case of balancing it, of aiming high but not taking anything for granted. Anyone can beat a team on a given day.
“We really want to get over that hurdle of Ulster. We always look at the one that we have never got our hands on – the All-Ireland club. But we can’t get that close without winning Ulster and we can’t really think about the Ulster until Donegal is over.”
O’Donnell has hailed the team spirit in their camp, epitomised by the trio of players who return home to play: Niamh Friel jets back from Belgium, while Roisin McCafferty hops across the Irish Sea from Coventry and Olive McCafferty regularly comes from her Edinburgh base.
O’Donnell says: “It would be easy for the girls to turn around and say: ‘Listen, we’ve had great success, but I’m away’. It’s a credit to them that they haven’t walked away. It makes it all the more special when you see the effort these girls are putting in. No-one wants to miss out.”
And the former Donegal attacker, a teacher at Deele College in Raphoe, says the management of Friel, Trevor Alcorn and Paul McDaid deserve their slice of the cake, too. She says: “They can see the potential that we have and are willing to put in the work for us. They’re very passionate about it and they’re really committed to what they do.”
The player thought about pulling the pin herself, but the lure of the summer odyssey proved too hard to turn town. She says: “It was touch and go if I’d come back or not, but when I still have it in the legs and I’m feeling good, why would I leave?”