Louth ladies on All-Ire­land mis­sions

The Argus - - SPORT - GAA 39-41

THE ap­pren­tice is hop­ing to be­come the mas­ter at Croke Park on Sun­day (throw-in 11.45) as Dar­ren Bishop at­tempts to lead Louth ladies to a sec­ond All-Ire­land JFC crown in four years.

The Mon­aghan man took the reins in un­for­tu­nate cir­cum­stances fol­low­ing the sad pass­ing of his good friend and fel­low coach Micheal McKe­own.

Louth have been vir­tu­ally un­beaten since and Bishop is hop­ing that run con­tin­ues against Lim­er­ick at Head­quar­ters on Sun­day.

‘I knew Micheal for years, he was a close fam­ily friend, and he got me to come in the odd Fri­day to do a few ses­sions with the girls,’ Dar­ren re­veals. ‘It was just an odd ses­sion here and there, a dif­fer­ent voice for the girls and to maybe try and bring the bit of ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve had with other teams to it.

‘So when his un­timely pass­ing hap­pened, Der­mot Woods, the chair­man, asked to come on board and I was de­lighted be­cause I saw the re­spect they showed Micheal and they’ve shown me the same re­spect. Their com­mit­ment and the sac­ri­fices they’ve made over the last 10-12 weeks has been phe­nom­e­nal and they’ve been re­warded with a place in the All-Ire­land fi­nal.’

A metic­u­lous coach and man­ager, Micheal left no stone un­turned. He knew Dar­ren might pro­vide the x-fac­tor his team needed to reach the next level and per­suaded the Cre­martin man to ditch plans for a ‘year out’.

Prior to that Bishop guided O’Neill Sham­rock’s in Mon­aghan to a ju­nior dou­ble and mi­nor Di­vi­sion 1 ti­tle and missed out on Ul­ter glory by a sin­gle point to Steel­stown from Derry.

He also coaches the school team where he teaches and was in charge of Cre­martin in 2017.

‘I was tak­ing a wee break, just do­ing the odd ses­sion, but then this came along and I sup­pose I wanted to do it in hon­our of Micheal and his wife Mary, who is just a lovely woman. So I said I’d try and con­tinue his legacy and see the year out.

‘At the start it was en­joy­abl, the Fri­day night ses­sions were great to be in­volved in, but when Micheal passed away I didn’t feel right do­ing it for the first month or so. But I spoke to Mary and she en­cour­aged me to con­tinue on his legacy and build on his foun­da­tions and I have to say the girls are just amaz­ing.

‘I just can’t be­lieve their ef­fort and de­ter­mi­na­tion and they’ve def­i­nitely pro­duced the goods. They’re so young and that’s great for me, let alone Louth ladies foot­ball.

‘I think it’s 17 play­ers un­der the age of 21 in the panel and you could have five or six more who just couldn’t com­mit at the out­set due to Leav­ing Cert and var­i­ous other com­mit­ments. So if those girls come back in the next few years, they could be a real force to be reck­oned with.’

In fact, Bishop feels the tal­ent at Louth’s dis­posal at the mo­ment is a credit to the county board and clubs.

‘Der­mot and the com­mit­tee have backed the team and any­thing that was asked for they’ve got­ten. When you have a com­mit­tee pulling be­hind you and not against you it’s half the bat­tle and there’s ob­vi­ously great coach­ing go­ing on in clubs be­cause these girls are com­ing to my ses­sions with all the ba­sics and fun­da­men­tals and more. That’s great to see and it makes our job a lot eas­ier.’

His side have ne­go­ti­ated and bat­tled their through some re­ally tricky as­sign­ments en route to Sun­day’s show­down and Dar­ren is ex­pect­ing an­other ding­dong bat­tle against Lim­er­ick.

‘I know a lit­tle bit about them, like any man­ager you do a bit of home­work and watch a few DVDs. Louth have played them twice this year and beaten them both times, but I think they’ll have a very changed team on Sun­day. They sup­pos­edly have a few stal­wart play­ers back and we’ll have to look out for them. They’re ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers who’ve done dam­age in their last two games, so it’s up to me and the man­age­ment team to get our match-ups right.

‘What we’ll look for is the girls to carry the en­ergy and en­thu­si­asm they show in train­ing into Croke Park. It’s ob­vi­ously a big pitch, 147m or so long and with youth on your side you’d be hop­ing to have the stamina to con­tinue run­ning for the en­tire 60 min­utes and if not we have very ca­pa­ble play­ers on the bench who are mad to get play­ing.

‘With them be­ing so young there’ll nerves there too, but that’s a good thing. If you don’t get a few but­ter­flies you shouldn’t be get­ting on the bus to go to Croke Park. Even the great teams have a few lit­tle nerves but it is im­por­tant that we cur­tail it as best we can.

On thed in­jury front Dar­ren ex­pects Michelle McMa­hon to re­cover in time fol­low­ing what at first seemed like a very se­ri­ous neck in­jury sus­tained in the semi-fi­nal win over Derry.

But the Glyde Rangers star re­turned to train­ing last week and could be a key fig­ure in a Louth de­fence that will have to cur­tail the in­flu­ence of Lim­er­ick vet­eran Dympna O’Brien.

‘Hope­fully Michelle will come through the knock. She’s back do­ing her own work and the physio is do­ing a great job too. It was a se­ri­ous knock and we’re not putting her un­der any pres­sure, so we’ll just wait and see.

‘We’ve no other in­jury concerns at the mo­ment, touch wood. Ob­vi­ously we’ve been with­out Rachel Kane and Emma Sin­gel­ton, who both did their cru­ci­ates, since the start of the year, so they’re big, big misses in terms of in­flu­ence and ex­pe­ri­ence.’

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