Louth ladies on All-Ireland missions
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.’