St. Martin’s camogie team take first crown
Young guns beat experienced Rathnure in poor final
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.