“”Everything from here is a bonus,”” he says. “”We weren’t expected to win the Tipperary county final, and then last weekend we were up against a very good Cork team (Douglas) in Cork to win our very first Munster title. But, we have arrived, and we will be having a go.””
The Tipperary side produced a magnificent display to emerge as provincial winners in very trying conditions, and once again Harkin will be looking to stalwarts like his own daughter Niamh at full back, centre back Michelle Shortt who was crowned Player of the Match, her sister Therese, Joanne Ryan, and goalkeeper Roseanna Kennelly.
However, he admits to needing a big game from his charges, as the Galway side will be firm favourites.
“”We are going in as underdogs, and that is never a bad position to be in. We are very familiar with Atherny’s style of play, having played them a few times. We always found them good, and hard to beat. However, we are going all out for the win. We have home advantage. And we will see after that.””
Athenry club chairman Mixie Donohue says the challenge for them is to go one step further after falling to a star-studded Cashel side in the All Ireland final of 2007.
“”We felt we didn’t do ourselves justice last year. We hit a high beating champions Freshford in the semi-final, and weren’t ready for Cashel. They were a super team.
“”But, now that we are back, we want another crack at it. We have much the same line up as last year. Deirdre Ward has stepped up to the mark, she is an exciting U16 player, and lines out at corner forward. Our minor hurlers are playing in their first county final since the mid 90’s as a curtain raiser in Pearse Stadium to the Galway SHC final on Sunday, so it would be great for the club if we could pull off the double.””
Athenry, with local hero Eugene Cloonan in their backroom team, have plenty talent to call on. None more so, than Captain Therese Maher and exciting young player Jessica Gill – both of whom who wore the maroon and white with such distinction this year. Laura Linnane who won an All Ireland junior medal with Clare is selected at midfield alongside Donohue’s daughter Sarah.
Elsewhere, it will be a busy Saturday afternoon for the Ballyboden St Endas club who partake in the other semi-final. Fresh from their Leinster success over Rathnure, they head to Casement Park in Belfast to take on Ulster kingpins O’Donovan Rossa (also at 2.30pm). Three-quarters of an hour later in Parnell Park, their fellow hurlers will meet Kilmacud Crokes in the Dublin SHC decider.
Neither of these teams have ever won an All Ireland senior club title. Rossa are led by outstanding captain Jane Adams, and manager Mickey McCullagh has once again a very strong side at his disposal. Playing on home territory will give the northerners a distinct advanatge, and with players of the calibre of full back Pauline Green, Colleen Doherty at midfield, and Maorisa McGourty – whose brother plays football with Antrim – they will be anxious to get to the decider.
However, Ballyboden St Endas are also a formidable side. Overcoming Wexford county champions Rathnure in the Leinster final was a huge fillip. What a boost it would be for Dublin camogie if they could reach the final. PJ Donohue is an experienced manager, and no doubt Sile Nic Coitir, Natalie Hyland, Darelle Dolan, Fiona Ni Chorcorain, and Ciara Lucey will give it their all to make the journey north a successful one.
Meanwhile, also on Saturday, in the All Ireland junior club semi-finals Kilmaley of Clare clash with Four Roads of Roscommon in St Joseph’s Doora Barefield (2.30pm), while Derry side Lavey come up against The Harps from Laois who are seeking their third All Ireland title in a row. This game throws in at Casement Park at 1pm.
Drom an Inch: R Kennelly; C Kennedy, N Harkin, P McGrath; S O’Meara, M Shortt, T Butler; T Shortt, N Harrington; G Kinnane, M Looby, J Ryan; S McGrath, E Shanahan, C Shortt.
Athenry: S Gannon; K Glynn, A Poniard, D Coen; E Costello, R Glynn, K Ruddy; S Donohue, L Linnane; J Gill, N Nally, N Coen; D Ward, T Maher, M Keogh.
Ballyboden St Endas: S Nic Coitir; C Blair, O Smith, F Hughes; N Hyland, R Keaney, J O’Sullivan; F NÝ Chorcorßin, A Griffin; D Dolan, A O’Leary, E Hickey; R Ruddy, E Lucey, C Lucey.
O’Donovan Rossa: T McGowan; T Adams, P Green, M Quinn; A McCall, N McGuinness, B Orchin; C Doherty, S Daykin; K O’Neill, G Connolly, O McCall; M McGourty, J Adams, M Stewart.