‘Great position to be in’ – Getting married and back-to-back All-Ireland finals in two months

IT WAS AFTER her club defeated Slaughtneil in the 2020 All-Ireland camogie club semi-final that Stacey Kehoe could see a hectic schedule of events coming down the line.

The concluding stages of that competition was delayed until the end of last year due to the Covid pandemic. There was also a high-profile fight to protect the All-Ireland series from being dropped that season.

The affected club teams rejoiced at the decision to proceed, but for Kehoe, it would be a tight squeeze to the finish line.

Her husband-to-be was waiting for her at the altar in the Ballagh Church on Friday, 17 December, and Sarsfields of Galway were waiting for Kehoe’s Oulart at Nowlan Park in the All-Ireland final 24 hours later.

Not your traditional wedding weekend, but the busy turnaround seemed to bring out the best in Kehoe, and her twin sister Shelly. The new bride picked up the Player of the Match award while Shelly bagged 1-3 as Oulart dethroned Sarsfields to finish the staggered season as All-Ireland champions.

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On Sunday, they’ll have to do it all again as Oulart and Sarsfields square off in the 2021 AIB All-Ireland final.

“It’s a great position to be in playing two All-Ireland’s in the space of a couple of months,” says Stacey Kehoe. “We’re happy to be there and we’ll go hell for leather on Sunday and please God we’ll get over the line.

“We’re looking forward to getting back to Croke Park and that’s what you dream of, playing with your club in a senior final in Croke Park. We’re all looking forward to it.

“There is a great buzz around the village of Oulart, everyone you meet is stopping to talk to you. It’s so uplifting for the parish when you get to these All-Irelands to see how much it means to the people, and the generosity from the people.”

Reflecting on that 24-hour block in December, Kehoe added:

“We all knew we had job to do on the Saturday, this, after the time and effort that went into the training and all the arguments to get the final played. Thankfully we got over the line.

“It was only when we beat Slaughtneil (in the semi-final) that it became an issue, that the final was the day after the wedding. Everything was in place to get married in December, not thinking that we were going to be playing camogie in December. We were delighted we got to play the 2020 championship. Everything went according to plan and we couldn’t have asked for better.”

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This Sunday, the Galway champions will have revenge on their mind when the sides collide at Croke Park. The senior final will be the main event of a double-header at GAA headquarters, and will be preceded by the intermediate final between Salthill/Knocknacarra [Galway] and St Ryangh’s of Offaly.

Oulart had little trouble accounting for Clare’s Scariff/Ogonnelloe in the semi-final, but Kehoe is confident that they are adequately prepared to face Sarsfields who defeated camogie heavyweights Slaughtneil in the other final-four tie.

“We’re facing a huge battle on Sunday,” Kehoe notes.

“Any team you meet will be the best of the best. We will take nothing for granted. All the hard work is done now. It’s going to be a real dogfight and it will be down to who wants it more, who wants to win the dirty ball in the rucks.”

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