Galway City Tribune - Opinion Piece
County player at the heart of Annaghdown’s glory bidOctober 25, 2012 - 8:43am
HAVING won almost every honour in the game – from All-Ireland minor to senior medals – by the age of 19, Annaghdown ladies footballer Niamh Duggan expected that her list of honours would grow . . . and grow . . . and grow. Yet, fortune designed to deal a very different hand.
The emergence of Cork ladies as a superpower – they have won every All-Ireland senior title, except one, since 2005 – deprived Duggan and Galway of further success following their historic win a year earlier while ‘bad luck’ and, arguably, inadequate structures to build on significant underage success has meant the Tribeswomen have slipped down the pecking order.
Naturally, by association, Duggan’s star waned – as did those of her team-mates – although they have continued to fight the good fight and they received their just rewards for their endeavours when, as underdogs, they captured this year’s Connacht senior title with a shock win over Mayo in July.
“In fairness, to get a Connacht title out of the way things would have been earlier in the year was a great achievement. It shows the potential is there,” says Duggan, who heaps praise on manager Gabriel Naughton, trainer Nigel Concannon and the backroom staff for turning around the team’s fortunes following the National League (Division 2) final mauling to the same opposition and the subsequent resignation of then boss Con Moynihan.
Duggan, herself, had missed that furore as she only moved back home from Dublin, where she played for three years with Sword’s outfit Fingallians, in the Spring and she did not join the Galway panel until Naughton took charge in early Summer.
In any event, under Naughton, Galway did put a fine run together, only later to lose out to Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final. Still, hope at senior level has flickered once again. For Duggan, her zest for the game – not that it had ever extensively diminished – is now burning brightly and another reason for this is the rebirth of her own club Annaghdown.
For this Sunday, at McHale Park, Castlebar, Annaghdown will not only contest the Connacht Junior ‘A’ decider against St. Farnans of Sligo (1:30pm) but they will bid – and this is open to correction – to become the first team from the parish to claim a provincial football title.
Certainly, Annaghdown have the talent to see the job through but Duggan and others will need little reminding that they have been in a similar position before – in 2006 – and come up short. On that occasion, they lost the intermediate final to Geevagh after a replay. It was heartbreaking stuff.
Since then, Annaghdown have gone senior, been quickly demoted back to intermediate and fallen to the lower echelons of the local game, where they have languished in recent years. That was until they claimed the Junior ‘A’ county title with a cracking 4-7 to 2-10 victory over Leitir Móir last month – full-forward Grainne Barrett tallying three of the Annaghdown goals.
In the semi-final of the Connacht championship, they faced Leitrim champions Annaduff and this also turned out to be a thriller with the Galway women surviving an early scare to win 4-10 to 4-8. “We had a shocking first half really and they hit us with a soft goal in the first few minutes,” recalls Duggan.
“They went five points up and then we got a sin-bin. Even when we were a player down, though, we were still creating chances for ourselves. So, we knew, bit by bit, we could claw it back and we knew we were still in with a chance.
“I suppose, the competition in Galway stood to us. The Leitrim manager remarked on that. Annaduff didn’t have matches like that game in their own county where in Galway the competition is fierce. So, that stood to us and I think in almost every game we had to come from behind to win it.”
It was Barrett, once again, who proved the hero with all four goals against Annaduff and, to some degree, she has taken over the mantle of leading the attack from Duggan, who has been redeployed from the forwards to centre-half back. It is just one of a number of astute switches made by the management team led by Thomas Murphy and former Mayo All-Star Pauline Curry (nee Mullen).
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.