Steelstown Ladies seek to cap fairy-tale week for Derry club by claiming Ulster title

Ulster Intermediate Ladies Football Championship Final: Steelstown v Kinawly (Sat, Augher, 2pm)

Friday, 12th November 2021, 8:00 am
Updated Friday, 12th November 2021, 9:30 am

It has already been the greatest season in the history of Steelstown Brian Ogs but this weekend could yet top a fairytale seven days for the city club.

The Derry Senior Ladies’ and the Men’s Intermediate football titles are already safely tucked away inside the Paric Bhird trophy cabinet ahead of Friday’s Intermediate Men’s Reserve Championship final against Castledawson at Owenbeg (7.30pmn). That game doesn’t get top billing this weekend though. That particular distinction belongs to the club’s senior ladies who will be trying to land a second provincial title for the Ballyarnett club when the meet Kinawly in the Ulster Intermediate Ladies Football final in Augher at 2pm on Saturday.

The final is a first for Steelstown but not for their talismanic midfielder Emma Doherty who will be in search of her second Ulster Intermediate medal after winning one with St. Gall’s in 2010 while studying in Belfast. But if that was special for the 2017 All Ireland Junior Players’ Player of the Year, it would pale into insignificance next to lifting the trophy with her own club.

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The Steelstown Ladies panel who take on Kinawly this Saturday in Augher. (Photo: George Sweeney)

“There are always nerves,” smiles Doherty, who helped Brian Ogs to the Ulster Junior title in 2015, “There are nerves for every game but nerves can be a good thing. I believe you need to have a few nerves, it shows how much something means and gets you going on the day.

“Everything seems to be going well. Obviously we have been playing every week now over the past couple of weeks so it has been a tight enough turnaround but sure it’s the same for Kinawly as well, so we’re all looking forward to the final now and hoping for a good game.”

If the former Derry player was a rising star when she won with the Antrim side, she’s now a stalwart of this Steelstown team and captained the Brian Ogs to that 2015 victory over Monaghan’s Neill Shamrocks. Doherty scored four points and was named ‘Player of the Match’ in a victory which made Steelstown only the second Derry team to lift an Ulster title. One of the young girls who travelled on the supporters’ bus to Killyclogher that day was Ella Rose Sainsbury who will line out alongside Emma in Augher this weekend.

“It’s funny but I was chatting to Ella Rose after we had reached the final and she was saying that when we reached in the Junior final of 2015, she remembers very well travelling down on the supporters’ bus and cheering us on,” revealed Doherty, “Stuff like that is brilliant and she’s now such a huge part of our team. That is what the club is all about, it shows the good work going on behind the scenes in terms of coaching and what these type of days means to a club.

“The years have flown but we have a great bunch of girls now and are all looking forward to the final.”

Despite their recent dominance of Derry, Doherty believes Steelstown go into the final as underdogs against a seasoned Kinawly outfit who have won the Fermanagh crown four years in succession.

“We know a bit about Kinawly,” she explained, “They have been in a couple of Ulster Intermediate finals over the past few years. In fact I think they’ve been beaten by a point in two finals so they will be a decent outfit but having won four in a row in Fermanagh, you know that they will be a good team.

“It’s going to be a tough game. The Fermanagh County Ladies have been playing Intermediate this year and Kinawly will be going into this final as big favourites given their experience in the competition over recent years but it’s up to us to show what we can do.

“This is our first Intermediate final. Last year’s competition was cancelled because of Covid after we had won the preliminary round against the Monaghan champions. Everything was halted after that game which was a huge disappointment so this year is our first real crack at the Intermediate grade and we’ve been lucky enough to get to the final.

“We have had two really difficult games to reach the final. There were 11 goals in the St. Eunan’s game and then coming up against St. Brigid’s was a very tough test. We did well to come through that, St. Brigid’s had plenty of supporters there and it was a very good win in the end.”

Doherty described the atmosphere at the Ballyarnett club last week after the men’s first senior championship title as unreal and said the Ladies team are anxious to build on that.

“The club has been on a real high over recent weeks and the men’s reserve side have their final this week too so it is another big weekend for the club.

“It was great for the senior men to finally win their championship. They’ve had three final defeats and it was brilliant to see them get over the line. We all went back to the club last Saturday after our semi-final win and it was a brilliant evening. The buzz about the place was something else, it was great to see, and hopefully the club can enjoy more days like that.”

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