Dolores Doyle will be in the unprecedented position of wanting her native Kilcoo to lose this Saturday when they visit Granemore in the ladies Ulster Intermediate Club Championship quarter-final (2pm).
Best known in these parts as an absolute stalwart of her adopted Granemore, the highly respected Dolores is originally a Kilcoo lady and naturally retains a fondness for her home club, whose men beat Burren in the weekend’s Down blockbuster.
“I’m Kilcoo born and bred, all my family still live in Kilcoo and I’m still a Magpie at heart!” she explains proudly, while catching a chat with the Ulster Gazette during a break in duties on yet another evening down at the field in Granemore.
“This will be the first time in my life I’ve ever not wanted Kilcoo to win a match in whatever code and it’s an incredible coincidence the two clubs are ending up playing each other in the provincial championship.
“I actually didn’t know what grade Kilcoo ladies were at present until I was down home for a wedding and found they had played Rostrevor in the Down Intermediate final and won, which meant they were already looking at their Ulster draw.
“We weren’t looking that far ahead at that stage because our final had still to take place and our full focus was on our own county championship and trying to win what would be a first Armagh Intermediate title.”
Having impressively seen off arguable title favourites Forkhill, last season’s beaten finalists, in the quarter-finals, free-scoring Granemore served further notice of their credentials by blasting Ballyhegan with nine goals in the semis.
They then demolished Mullaghbawn 8-18 to 2-3 in the final at the Athletic Grounds in spite of kicking 17 wides, hitting the woodwork twice and having a penalty saved so you suspect Kilcoo will have their hands full.
Back when Dolores was at home, Kilcoo was camogie country and she featured briefly for Down, albeit at a time when ladies gaelic football was very much in its infancy compared to being the dominant female code across Ireland now.
Of course, Granemore has been best known for camogie, with a hat-trick of Armagh Senior Championship successes up until last season before being dethroned by Madden in this summer’s quarter-final.
Now the club will join Crossmaglen in competing at Senior level in both codes in 2020, which will place considerable demands on their contingent of dual players and presumably mean Armagh missing out on the services of some notable talents.
It would be good to see some of Granemore’s top players putting themselves forward for Orchard duty but for now they can aim to bring glory to the county in club colours over the next few weeks.
“Hopefully we’ll beat Kilcoo though otherwise, especially with my sister’s daughter Carly McClean lining out at full back for them, I’d be wanting them to have a real run in Ulster,” says Dolores, whose maiden name was Greenan.
By neat coincidence, her own daughter Michaella, who was part of the Armagh Minors side which won the All Ireland B title in 2011, plays full back for Granemore and picked up Player of the Match when the club claimed the Junior county title three years ago.
Michaella, whose sister Tara also played in that Junior Championship-winning team of 2016 but is now overseas, has cousins on both teams, as this Granemore side has no shortage of related players.
Accomplished captain Aileen Doyle, former county camog Ciara Hill, young forward sensation Corinna Doyle who was Player of the Match against Mullaghbawn, and Maria Doyle, who started in the semi-final, are each from different families but all cousins of Michaella!
The team has been bolstered by several players from the parish who don’t have ladies football available at their home clubs, namely Ballymacnab camog Ellie McKee and two wing forwards from Clady, Orla Gorman, who top-scored in the Mullaghbawn game, and Megan Savage.
“Those two have been with us from Under 12s so are real Granemore girls in football terms and we’re very glad to have them and Ellie. There are a few young ones coming through but we’d only 19 players togged for the final so numbers are quite tight.”
Granemore ladies football began in 2007 with their first Junior final victory coming against Lissummon in Silverbridge three years later with another triumph, against Pearse Og, at Grange in 2016.
Former Armagh player Ailish McNaughton has since retired to the Gaelic for Mothers and Others circuit, Amy McBirney went to Liverpool and later tore her cruciate while Tara Doyle and her cousin Una, Aileen’s sister, were also part of that team.
However with the likes of Corinna Doyle and Edel Hagney having come through since and a handful of players with useful big game experience in camogie, Granemore’s footballing future should be bright.
Ladies club chairperson for several years and still listed as the designated first-aid person for the team, Dolores is trying to step back a bit and put her health first after recent challenges but you reckon not being involved would do her as much harm!
The team’s impressive passage to their historic Armagh Intermediate title triumph hasn’t tested her heart too much and, although the bar may be expected to rise at provincial level, you wouldn’t bet against Granemore going all the way in Ulster.
If they overcome Kilcoo this weekend, Granemore will also have home advantage in the semi-finals against either Antrim Senior champions St Paul’s or Cavan’s second tier title winners Gowna.