Congratulations to the Senior camogie girls & their mentors on a thrilling game in Bellefield today winning over Oulart/The Ballagh 2-12 to 2-11. Congratulations to Kate Kelly on receiving Player of the Match. Report as follows
It was a roller-coaster ride of a game from the off, with Deirdre McMahon signalling her intention to have the game of her life as early as the third minute when she danced around Colleen Atkinson and fired over a point to equalise Ursula Jacob’s earlier free. We shipped a blow 90 seconds later when Ursula rattled the net, but we never expected to have matters entirely our own way for the duration of this game so we simply knuckled down and got on with it.
Shelley Kehoe made it 1-2 to 0-1 before we struck back with a vengeance in the tenth minute when Kate Kelly’s probing delivery went all the way to the net as Deirdre McMahon made a nuisance of herself in the danger zone. Another Kehoe point was quickly cancelled out when Kate tapped over a free after Deirdre was fouled, leaving us trailing by 1-3 to 1-2 at the start of the second quarter.
Anne-Marie Kelly and Katrina Parrock swapped places in the half-forward line at this stage, with Ursula Jacob converting a free before Michelle Hearne gathered possession in the right corner and scored a peach of a point from a tight angle.
Another free from Ursula made it 1-5 to 1-3 before we hit the front for the first time in the 27th minute with a well-worked goal. Deirdre McMahon and Katrina Parrock played major roles before the latter ran at the heart of the Oulart-The Ballagh defence. Michelle Murphy had the presence of mind to peel off her and move to her right, and when Katrina popped a handpass in that area, ‘Murf’ slammed the bouncing sliothar past Helena Jacob to edge us ahead by a point.
Kate followed up with a pointed ’45 which Ursula cancelled out from play, leaving us ahead at the interval by 2-4 to 1-6. It was a good position to be in given our bad start and the fact that our rivals had the advantage of the elements, but the job was only half done and it was going to take so much more to bring the title home.
We resumed brightly, with Kate sending another ’45 between the posts before increasing the lead to 2-6 to 1-6 from a free after her sister, Anne-Marie, was impeded. That was the biggest lead we were to enjoy though as Ursula Jacob’s second goal in the 35th minute brought the sides level and left us with an enormous amount of work to do.
These players are made of stern stuff though and proved that no challenge is beyond them when they knuckle down and play as a unit. Kate restored our advantage from a free, but the next three points fell to Ursula from two ’45s and play to leave Oulart-The Ballagh on top by 2-9 to 2-7 heading into the final quarter.
This was a critical period of the game because in our last two final battles in 2010 and 2012 it was around that time when the initiative slipped away from us. It was never going to happen again, not with the burning desire these players had to end so many years of hurt.
A brace of frees from Kate levelled matters on 2-9 each, only for Ursula to edge the holders in front once more from a placed ball in the 54th minute. It would be their last score though, and we were simply unstoppable in the closing stages. The equaliser came from a familiar source, the right paw of Michelle Hearne, when she had the presence of mind to handpass the sliothar over the bar as her angle tightened at the scoreboard end.
It was frenetic stuff at this stage, with one supporter telling me afterwards that it was the first time he had ever seen everybody standing on their seats on the pavilion side of the field such was the high level of excitement. Mag Kelly and Hazel O’Leary had been introduced to bring freshness to our challenge which is the main advantage of having such a strong panel this year, and at this point it was time for our youngest player, Niamh Walsh, to take centre stage.
Niamh, who turned 16 only last month, was on the field for less than five minutes when she stepped away from a ruck developing close to goal in anticipation of receiving the ball. Deirdre McMahon read her mind and gave the most important pass she will ever give, but our talented teenager still had a lot of work to do as she was about to be closed down.
With an incredible piece of skill, not to mention great awareness of what was going on around her, Niamh tossed the sliothar over her shoulder and fired it high and handsome towards the posts. Mentors didn’t have the best view of its trajectory from the far side of the field, but the roars of delight from the Ibar’s supporters told us everything we needed to know as the white flag was raised and we were one giant leap closer to dreamland.
It was far from over though, and we were fighting a desperate rearguard action for what seemed like an age before the siege was lifted. It was all a blur of frenzied activity at that stage as we strove might and main to preserve our lead, with a magnificent catch by Aine Lacey providing a key moment. The clock read 36 minutes and 41 seconds when Kate – the official player of the match – stepped up to take a free, and from the moment it left her hurl it was going one place and one place only as she nailed it to give us a precious two-point lead (2-12 to 2-10).
When that final whistle did blow after over seven minutes of added time it brought a sense of joy and elation that none of us will forget for the rest of our lives. Sport has a happy knack of doing that sometimes: it elevates you to a place you never thought was possible to reach, and when you do that with lifelong friends and special people it makes it all the more memorable.
Eleven years is such a long time to wait, so it was only fitting that we should all make the most of it! When the players finally arrived on the pavilion, it was a proud and emotional moment as Ciara Donohoe, our captain fantastic, accepted the cup on behalf of this wonderful team and made a very fine speech.
From there we travelled in triumph to Hotel Curracloe for our team meal before making our way in to Whites Hotel to support our colleagues in the ‘Strictly Club Dancing’ fundraiser. The event started in a fitting manner as the players were called on stage by MC Aidan O’Leary and given a standing ovation as vice-captain Sandy Carr led the way with the spoils of success. Our dancers did us proud and it was a memorable double for Deirdre McMahon who, partnered by Chris Gordon, emerged as the overall winner after a great night’s entertainment! Well done Dee, our very own twinkle toes, who got loads of practice for the stage earlier in the day when she danced her way around Oulart-The Ballagh defenders as if they weren’t even there!
Congratulations also goes to Ciara Neville and Joe Kelly who advanced to the Grand Final on Saturday 9 November. Well done to Ciara Donohoe (with Sean Byrne) and Catherine Doyle (with Colm Tynan) who also gave it they all on such a memorable night.