The long journey to Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon won’t phase the Kerry ladies joint captain Lorraine Scanlon – after all she has been travelling the highways and byways of Ireland as an intercounty player since 2009.
Scanlon was a mere 16 years of age back then when she made her debut in an away National League tie against Armagh, and she has been an ever present in the Kerry side since. She was not alone in gaining her first start that day and she was joined by her Castleisland Desmonds teammates Aisling Leonard and Aoife Lyons as Kerry embarked on a youth policy to try and wrestle back past glories. Kerry can still call upon 5 players that lined out that day with Scanlon, Sarah Houlihan, Amy Foley, and Louise Ni Mhuircheartaigh all likely to feature against Donegal next Saturday.
Scanlon’s debut against Armagh capped the end a hugely significant 12 months for the Knocknagoshel starlet. In 2008 she had been picked on the Irish U/16 basketball squad, and after months of travelling to Dublin for training, she was rewarded with a seat on the plane for an international tournament in Bulgaria. Superleague basketball beckoned afterwards, and a phone call from head coach James Weldon saw Scanlon line out with UL for the 2009 season. It is a year that she has very fond memories of.
”I was just in 5th year at the time. It was all very new and exciting and I really enjoyed the experience of playing at that level. I didn’t play the year after though as I was in the middle of the Leaving Cert and with the football as well there just wasn’t the time. UL trained 2 nights a week and had a game at the weekends as well so I ended up having to make a choice so I chose the football”.
Ironically Scanlon ended up in UL again after her Leaving Cert when she embarked on a PE degree there. Her love of basketball saw her tog out for the college’s inter varsity team and at weekends she played on the St Mary’s Castleisland Division 1 National League side. Once again she had to choose however, and in her 3rd and 4th years in the college it was the football that won out.
“The football sessions in the college were from 9 to 11 and then I’d have to run across campus to try and make the basketball. It was too much in the finish so really football was number one in the college so I had to make a decision in third year. I continued to play with St Mary’s though, and we played National League up to the 2016/17 season. We took a year out last year but are back again in National League for the coming season so I’m really looking forward to that”.
For now Lorraine’s attention turns to next Saturday’s mouth watering clash with Donegal, and she is under no illusions on the enormity of the task that awaits her Kerry side. Kerry shipped a 6-11 to 0-9 defeat to the Ulster kingpins in the National Football league last March and she is well aware of the threat that they possess.
“That was a bad day. Everything that could go wrong did and we got a fair auld hiding. I think that we are in a better place now however. There is a great buzz in the camp, especially after our win over Tipperary 2 weeks ago. Although he is only here for a short while, Eddie (Sheehy) has brought his own style and vision to our play and I think that we are very much on an upward curve”.
Donegal defeated Tipperary by 3 points in Round 2 of the qualifiers last Saturday, and it is a result that leaves Kerry automatically into the quarter final no matter what happens this Saturday. A win for either side will see them top the group, and it is very much the carrot that Scanlon feels Kerry needs.
“If we beat Donegal we will more than likely be playing either Monaghan or Armagh in the quarter final. It all depends on how Cork get on against Armagh and will come down to scoring difference afterwards. If we lose to Donegal then we could end up playing the winners of Group 4 which are likely to be either Dublin or Mayo. Obviously we want to avoid either of those teams so a win is hugely important against Donegal. Having said that, we fear nobody so we will prepare for whatever cards we are dealt with”.
First of all there’s the big tie against Donegal next Saturday though. The Ulster champions defeated Tipperary on a 0-17 to 0-14 scoreline in Round 2, with corner forward Geraldine McLaughlin chipping in with an impressive 12 points. Scanlon is fully aware of the threat that the Donegal forward will bring, but says that there is serious quality throughout their side.
“McLaughlin is lethal of course. If given space she will make us pay so we will have a massive job on our hands against her. They also have the likes of Karen Guthrie and Niamh Hegarty as well and they are super players. We really will have to be on top of our game if we are to get a result. There is competition for places on our team now though, and that is a very positive thing. We will give it everything and hopefully come out with the right result on Saturday”.
Kerry can report a clean bill of health coming into the game and thankfully the dead leg that Scanlon picked up against Tipperary in Round 2 is now fully healed. Kerry enjoyed a 3-13 to 2-10 win that day. Donegal are a step above Tipperary however, and they will have to call on all of their resources to defeat the Ulster champions. With a more attractive quarter final place on offer, the Kingdom girls could just about shade it.