The ladies Sean Faherty final takes prime time this Sunday when Na Fianna and Kerry/Donegal face off at 4 p.m. at Gaelic Park.
Both sides had hard fought and close victories in their respective semifinals, with Na Fianna using a strong contribution from soccer star Aoife Herbert (2-1) to defeat holders Cavan, while Maire Dargan led the comeback for Kerry/Donegal in their thrilling victory over Fermanagh.
Na Fianna lost last year’s final as they pursued three in a row. They have been the dominant side in ladies football over the last four years. They had an excellent start to the semifinal, and after a Cavan comeback they pulled away again for the victory.
The side has a brilliant keeper in Alison Leydon, who is an outstanding shot stopper. The defense has a number of American born players, including Shannon Spillane, Stephanie Tierney, and Bridget Judd. All have been terrific this season.
Cathriona Lynch will have her hands full with Dargan, but the veteran has had a terrific year. Center back is Kathryn Sullivan, although if Joanne Monaghan is fit she may be back which releases Sullivan to the middle. Sully is a terrific ball carrier who puts sides back on their heels.
Aine Dwyer continues to prove that she is one of the top midfielders in New York, while Fiona O’Dwyer has also has a very good season. While Brianna Tierney and Kelly McCormack again show the homegrown talent that is available to the side, the inside power of Herbert, Emer Considine and Natasha Barnwell all have scoring potential.
Kerry/Donegal left it late against Fermanagh in their semi. Behind 3-6 to 0-9 at halftime, they put up a brilliant second half defensive display when they held their opponents to two points and pushed the side to victory.
Roisin McCafferty was in goal last time round and she displayed very sure hands, particularly in the second half. Collette McElligott and Louise Lilly are the center axis. with Lilly having a brilliant season.
Michelle McVann, Niamh Britton and Amanda McGovern have all made valuable contributions, with McGovern one of the brilliant New York underage stars.
Mairead Tennyson has been superb, and her battle with Sullivan promises to be worth the admission alone. Superb in full flow, she also loves to shoot, which she does with excellence.
Kelly Roche may start on the 40, or might be used in a roving role. She will look to get the ball to the inside forward line where Denise Dunnion and star Maire Dargan lie in wait to punish the defense.
The starting lineouts for both in the semifinals were as follows -- Na Fianna: 1 Alison Leydon, 2 Bridget Judd, 3 Cathriona Lynch, 4 Imelda Mullarkey, 5 Stephanie Tierney, 6 Kathryn Sullivan, 7 Shannon Spillane, 8 Aine Dwyer, 9 Fiona Dwyer, 10 Kelly McCormack, 11 Brianna Tierney, 12 Emer Considine, 13 Aoife Herbert, 14 Mary O’Rourke, 15 Natasha Barnwell.
Kerry/Donegal: 1 Roisin McCafferty, 2 Niamh Britton, 3 Collette McElligott, 4 Fiona Shultz, 5 Michelle McVann, 6 Louise Lilly, 7 Amanda McGovern, 8 Olive McCafferty, 9 Mairead Tennyson, 10 Michelle Dowd, 11 Anita McKenna, 12 Collette McGoldrick, 13 Denise Dunnion, 14 Maire Dargan, 15 Kelly Roche.