St. Martin’s camo­gie team take first crown

Young guns beat ex­pe­ri­enced Rath­nure in poor fi­nal

Enniscorthy Guardian - - SPORT -

ST. MARTIN’S 1-9 RATH­NURE 0-7

IT WASN’T the fairy­tale end­ing for the Rath­nure old guard but it might just be the start of some­thing spe­cial for St. Martin’s af­ter they won their first-ever Se­nior camo­gie cham­pi­onship ti­tle in Belle­field on Satur­day.

The Pierces­town-based club had lost on their two pre­vi­ous fi­nal ap­pear­ances, in 2005 and 2016, but were de­ter­mined to write their own happy end­ing to this one. They did just that by smoth­er­ing out the Rath­nure chal­lenge and find­ing just enough scores at the other end.

St. Martin’s will be par­tic­u­larly pleased with how well they de­fended. The thing about their de­fence was that play­ers like Lau­ren Carty, Mary Bar­rett and Aine En­nis are not as used to high pres­sure games as their in­ter-county team­mates around them.

It’s to their credit that there was no dis­cernible dif­fer­ence in qual­ity. Ev­ery­where along the two back lines play­ers did the job that was asked of them, al­low­ing just two points from play, both in the fi­nal eleven min­utes to Ciara O’Connor.

In at­tack the vic­tors did just enough. They won the scores from play by 1-3 to 0-3 and that says a mas­sive amount about how this game went.

The goal was al­ways likely to be vi­tal and it came from a crack­ing strike by young­ster Let­tie Whe­lan. One mo­ment of magic proved piv­otal.

The game it­self was a huge let­down. The first-half was abysmal, and at times it was like Un­der-8 stuff with huge groups of play­ers swarm­ing around the ball. It was con­stantly on the ground, in rucks that swayed back and forth, and it just never got go­ing.

Ba­sic skills were lack­ing, es­pe­cially in at­tack. Poor hand­passes from great po­si­tions, il­log­i­cal runs, ques­tion­able de­ci­sion-mak­ing; it wasn’t akin to a usual county fi­nal. Maybe that’s be­cause Oulart-The Ballagh’s bril­liance has al­ways shone through in pre­vi­ous de­ciders, or maybe it was nerves?

When a game doesn’t flow, peo­ple usu­ally look at the ref­eree. How­ever, Justin Hef­fer­nan did a fine job of not blow­ing the soft fouls. He gave the sides ev­ery op­por­tu­nity play rugged, com­pet­i­tive camo­gie but it was just too ‘school­yard ball’.

Rath­nure started off with a pair of wides in the first few min­utes and had a third mo­ments af­ter a Chloe Foxe free put her side ahead. She added a sec­ond point in the 14th minute to en­sure St. Martin’s ended the open­ing quar­ter 0-2 to nil up.

Lenny Holo­han had a great semi-fi­nal but noth­ing went her way in this game. Maybe it would have all been dif­fer­ent had her hand­pass at­tempt at goal, when cut­ting in from the left, beaten Mags D’Arcy in the 17th minute. The for­mer county stop­per bat­ted the at­tempt away.

Rath­nure had more of the ball in the open­ing half but ran out of ideas pretty quickly. They did get on the board when Ciara O’Connor’s rasp­ing shot was flicked over the cross­bar by D’Arcy in the 20th minute, but they were un­able to add to it.

Then, right on 30 min­utes, St. Martin’s pro­duced that one mo­ment of magic. In truth, when Let­tie Whe­lan claimed pos­ses­sion just in­side the ‘45 there looked to be only mod­er­ate dan­ger. How­ever, she went un­touched far enough to have a crack at goal and she found the per­fect shot to the bot­tom left cor­ner of the net.

Af­ter St. Martin’s ended the first-half 1-2 to 0-1 ahead, it was more of the same early in the sec­ond pe­riod. O’Connor pulled one back for Rath­nure but Linda Bol­ger re­sponded at the other end two min­utes later.

Bol­ger reg­is­tered af­ter she was im­peded to make it 1-4 to 0-2 with 19 min­utes left. Fi­nally, with a few more chances taken, and Rath­nure sub­sti­tutes mak­ing their pres­ence felt, the game started to open up.

Points were swapped be­tween Bol­ger and O’Connor to end the third quar­ter. When Marie Mor­ris­sey was fouled for the sec­ond time in a cou­ple of min­utes, the gap was closed to four again.

Bol­ger re­sponded by col­lect­ing D’Arcy’s puck-out and drilling over the cross­bar to make it 1-6 to 0-4. Rath­nure had their best spell in the next four min­utes but the goal they badly needed wouldn’t come, de­spite Aoife O’Connor set­ting sis­ter Ciara in on goal.

The an­gle was tight for the for­mer ‘Soar­ing Star’ win­ner but her shot lacked power and D’Arcy eas­ily saved. She did score the re­sult­ing ‘45 and then added her sixth of the af­ter­noon to make it 1-6 to 0-6.

Rath­nure looked to be get­ting up a head of steam when Mor­ris­sey fed O’Connor in the 50th minute to cut the gap to two, but they made a mess of any half-chances that came their way there­after and wouldn’t score again.

Nine min­utes passed with­out a raised flag but that hia­tus was bro­ken when St. Martin’s Ciara O’Connor was felled and Bol­ger pointed. Bro­ken, Rath­nure im­peded Lisa Bol­ger and Emma Codd in quick suc­ces­sion as Linda Bol­ger ended the fi­nal with seven sec­ond-half points.

It may be the end of the road for sev­eral of the Rath­nure stal­warts. Of­ten when the new sea­son comes around, the con­vinc­ing voices of one more year fol­low but if this is the end for some or all of them, they have served their club and county with pride and would never go out on any­thing other than a high, re­gard­less of re­sults.

For St. Martin’s, the av­er­age age of their 19 play­ers used was a cou­ple of months over 20, with Mags D’Arcy the only starter over 25. They have plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties ahead and it starts with a home Le­in­ster Se­nior semi-fi­nal against the Dublin cham­pi­ons on Oc­to­ber 29.

St. Martin’s: Mags D’Arcy; Katie O’Connor, Sarah O’Connor, Lau­ren Carty; Mary Bar­rett, Marie Claire Mor­ris­sey, Aine En­nis; Amy Cardiff, Chloe Foxe (0-2, 1 free); Ais­ling Cronin, Linda Bol­ger (capt., 0-7, 5 frees), Emma Codd; Let­tie Whe­lan (1-0), Lisa Bol­ger, Ciara O’Connor. Subs. - Ella O’Connor for Cronin (43), Ni­amh Dunne for En­nis (46), Rachael Bridges for Carty (53), Becky Hamil­ton for Whe­lan (56), also Me­gan Carty, Elsa McDer­mott, Amy Ryan, Alan­nah Davis, Ciara Howard, Ellen Bar­rett, Lisa Fir­man, Anna Mul­li­gan, Anna Hen­nessy.

Rath­nure: Fiona Don­nel­lan; Bernie Holo­han, Louise O’Leary, Jean Hay­den; Laura Red­mond, Claire O’Connor, Leanne Fo­ley; Michelle Martin, Eve­lyn Quigley; Oon­agh Doyle, Aoife O’Connor, Ciara O’Connor (0-7, 3 frees, 1 ‘45); Aoife Guiney, Sandy Carr, Lenny Holo­han. Subs. - Nora Hig­gins for Doyle, inj. (18), Marie Mor­ris­sey for Carr (31), Jackie Quigley for E. Quigley (35), also Far­ren Byrne, Ni­amh O’Connor-Roche, Ash­lynn O’Leary, Emma O’Connor, Eimear Byrne, Jackie Carr, Lisa Martin, Lizzie White­ley, Laura Brennan, Eimear O’Connor.

Ref­eree: Justin Hef­fer­nan (Black­wa­ter).

St. Martin’s get used to that spe­cial feel­ing of be­ing crowned county Se­nior camo­gie cham­pi­ons for the first time.

An­ton and Yvonne Treacy (spon­sors) with St. Martin’s cap­tain Linda Bol­ger and Don­nacha Kerins (Co. Chair­man) af­ter Satur­day’s fi­nal in Belle­field.

The Rath­nure squad prior to Satur­day’s county fi­nal in Belle­field.

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