Glanmire head into Sunday’s Irish women’s cup final looking to win the title for the fifth straight year. Having plugged for years to reach the top, now it’s the Cork club with a target on its back. Emmet Ryan on how history can’t be a distraction for the defending champions
Way back in 2014, ancient history really, Glanmire were the would be champions looking to dethrone the dominant force in Irish basketball. UL Huskies had won all there was to win multiple times and had always had that little bit too much for anyone when it came to deciding where the trophies went. Finally, in an overtime thriller, Glanmire dethroned UL that cold January night.
They haven’t lost a cup game since. The 2015, 2016, and 2017 finals were all comprehensive wins for the Cork club. Killester couldn’t live with them those first two seasons after UL fell away while Liffey Celtics served as the team that just couldn’t contend with Glanmire in a decider last January.
On each of those three occasions, there were reasons to be wary of a blowout. Killester’s sides had question marks (too one dimensional in 2015, too many injuries in 2016) while Liffey Celtics just looked too young a side to live with the undisputed bosses of the game in Ireland. DCU Mercy had been expected to face the Cork club in the decider but had gone down to the Co. Kildare club in a shocker in the semi finals.
This season, despite a massive roster overhaul, they made it to the decider following a demolition of NUIG Mystics in the semi-final. The Dublin club is joint-top of the standings in the league at 10-2 and have won both of their regular season encounters with Glanmire. This is a team that knows it can win but has suffered enough blows along the way, including a squeaker at Killester in their last game before Sunday’s cup final, to know there’s no room for complacency.
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It’s basically the most plausible challenge for Glanmire since they scaled the mountain to become the top dogs. Right now it’s their own records they are looking to break. They have more cup wins than anyone else and making it four in a row last year set a new record for consecutive titles. History has become a burden more than a goal, they are already the most dominant side ever in Ireland and the only challenge is remaining at that level.
That makes hunger an awfully important part of matters. The production line is there. While some veterans and imports have moved on, Glanmire’s strength at youth level remains vital in keeping that hunger there. Casey Grace filled that role once, now she’s a veteran despite being in her mid 20s. There are under 18 internationals logging real minutes in serious games. The pressure is there so that the likes of Gráinne Dwyer, Clare Rockall, and Áine McKenna know the process keeps going.
When you’ve got players who have dominated for so long, it’s as important to have players challenging them in practice as it is opposite them on gameday. That’s the only way to maintain the fight, the desperate need to win as opposed to not losing. It’s about making each new championship matter in its own right.
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To keep your best at their best they need that kind of fight season-long. On Sunday they will, at least in the eyes of casual observers, be carrying the tag of favourites. Their two regular season losses to DCU won’t matter to those that tune in once a year. They are used to seeing Glanmire win the cup and will view the league leaders as underdogs.
Glanmire however enjoy a rare opportunity. They get to go into this one with a legit chip on their shoulder. While the cup has been their property for half a generation, they have scores to settle. They can bring an underdog mentality into it while also holding a psychological edge. This is their property and they won’t give it up easily.
The Irish women’s Cup final is live this Sunday at 5.25pm on TG4 in Ireland and around the world on TG4.ie
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