London Ladies play their biggest game in nine years as they strive to reach Croke Park final
By Damian Dolan
London Ladies manager Tommie Donohue wants his team to face the fear of losing, as the Exiles look to reach a first All Ireland final since 2008.
London take on Ulster champions Fermanagh on Sunday for a place in the All Ireland Ladies Junior Football Championship final and Donohue wants his players to draw inspiration from the fear of falling one step short of a Croke Park, and use it as a source of motivation.
“You cannot play without a bit of fear, and that’s the fear of losing,” said Donohue.
“It’s a balance; you can’t let it destroy you, but you’ve got to let it give you enough motivation to give everything you have in your body for the next hour.
“They believe we can win it, and I believe we can win it, but Fermanagh is a different ball game. Mentally we’ll have to be a lot stronger.
“It doesn’t matter what level you’re at, if you’re not mentally right you’re not winning anything.” By Donohue’s own admission, London didn’t get that balance right against Carlow, going down 3-8 to 1- 12 at McGovern Park, having flown into a six-point lead after just ten minutes.
Lack of games
Although a lack of games going into the Round 1 fixture didn’t help the Exiles, it was a harsh lesson learnt.
“Carlow was a big shock to the system because the girls couldn’t see themselves getting beat. The worst thing that happened was going 0-7 to 0-1 up – we were cruising,” said Donohue.
“They only had six attacks but we got caught going forwards too much, and we thought we were going to walk all over them. Our subs up in the stand were saying ‘this is going to be a rout’, but things can change very quickly. Players don’t see the dangers.
“We only lost by two points and we were camped in their half for the last 10- 15 minutes, but they knew how to put 15 people behind the ball”.
London Ladies took out their frustration against Kilkenny in Callan, racking up an impressive 4-18 to 1-10 win, albeit against the side which propped up the rest of the national league, and followed that up by thumping Lancashire 6-25 to 1-2 to book their semi-final place and lift the All-Britain title.
Two confidence boosting victories, but Donohue knows that Emmet Curry’s Fermanagh will be a massive step up.
Fermanagh failed to win a game in 2016, suffering relegation to Division 4, but regraded to the Junior Championship this year they won the Ulster Junior Championship, with 16-year-old Eimear Smyth claiming a hat-trick in the final to help beat Derry, 4- 10 to 1-10.