DREAM COMES TRUE FOR DEADLY DONARD
DONARD-THE GLEN put a stop to Knockananna’s ambitions of four Senior crowns in a row when they held on for a magical victory over their archrivals in beautiful sunshine in Dunbur Park last Saturday afternoon.
It was a dramatic and full-blooded battle from start to finish with Donard-The Glen’s sharper attack proving a vital difference over the course of the game in that they managed to build a considerable lead which Knockananna’s late burst couldn’t reel in.
All over the field the DonardThe Glen side had players who stepped up to the plate for what was a huge game in the context of their season.
Losing three county finals on the trot to Knockananna had created a hunger for revenge and to reclaim the crown and in the last championship game against Tom Byrne’s side they had laid down a huge marker.
The questions that remained after that game were: Could Donardthe Glen repeat that stunning performance in the county final on a dry sod and could Knockananna recover in time to put on a brave showing and possibly clinch the four-in-a-row.
When John Keenan sounded that final whistle to the roars and cheers of the Donard-the Glen faithful we had our answers, and, funnily enough, they were mostly in the affirmative.
Donard-the Glen did produce a stunning performance but, also yes, Knockananna did recover and did take the game to the challengers but, alas for them, could not get over the line in what has been something of a difficult year for the Carlow border side in terms of loss of players.
Donard-The Glen captain Katie Daynes, who put in a massive shift at full-back on the talented Sarah Byrne, paid tribute to manager James Whelan from Johnstown in Kilkenny for what he brought to the team this season.
‘He just brought so much to the table,’ said a delighted Katie after the final whistle. ‘He’s from Kilkenny, he played on the Kilkenny team, he’s played on teams, he’s coached teams. He brought different things. We’ve always had trainers who live near us, who were with the club before, so he brought something really different. He had a strategy that we had never used, and it was to keep the ball in that half of the pitch away from the backs. And as long as we do it, it worked well,’ she added.
Katie says that the Donard-the Glen’s fitness was a massive factor in their clinching of the county crown. Credit for that improvement goes to James Whelan as well.
‘He had this horrible drill where we had to run figure of eights for so many minutes and that really got our fitness up because in the past our fitness levels was something that brought us back a bit, and Knockananna, such fit players, running around the pitch, midfield, catching balls, fair dues to them. But this year the players coming up and the fitness he gave us, he just brought us up so much.
‘We came out here willing to fight. One of the big things is that we found it hard to find our fire to get us to go. We had matches, not that the other teams aren’t good, but with the Avondale and Glenealy games, they’re not Knockananna, so for a while we didn’t have to push as hard to win. And that’s why even after the other day in Knockananna he (James) was giving out that we weren’t pushing it, people weren’t making the runs, if the ball went by them, they were like, ‘oh it’s someone else’s problem’.
‘So really the main thing today was to get everyone to want this. To make them know that we aren’t going to walk into this and take the cup. We have to earn it. And that’s what he was giving out to us about (at half-time).
‘Fair dues to Knockananna, they really kept it going, and that goal in the last three minutes, that almost shook us to the core,’ she added.
Katie says that losing the county finals over the last three years really hurt and that the players felt they were letting down a proud tradition and that this year they were determined more than ever to put a stop to that.
‘It means absolutely everything (to win). We’ve been fighting for this and every year we are like we have to get this back, we have to, because Donard were this huge club of absolute prestige and in the last few years we’ve been letting them down. We felt that, every training session, we were saying we are going to be facing Knockananna in this thing and we need to be aware that we are equals, every county final it’s barely a few points at the end, it’s never a big 10-point lead. It’s such small difference. We have to fight to the end. There’s no other choice,’ she said.
And the honour of captaining this wonderful Donard-The Glen team is not lost on the team captain who oozed class as she accepted the cup.
‘It’s unbelievable (to captain the team). Ever since I joined the team in 2013, and I’d only been playing camogie for a few months, so absolutely insane. I remember the first year I joined we won the league and in the paper it said ‘Katie Daynes, the youngest player, holding the cup’ and Nora (O’Neill) was captain at the time and honestly my hero, her and her sister, Mary O’Neill, they made me want this. They have so much passion for the sport, and they had a vote and I was named, and I just couldn’t believe it,’ she said.
Donard-The Glen manager James Whelan from Johnstown in Kilkenny said that the big thing for him was the get the players past the defeats in three finals and playing to their huge potential and that while they didn’t hit the heights in the county final they did enough to get over the line.
‘In all honesty the last three years really weighted on the girls’ minds. The toughest part for me really was to come in...I didn’t really care about the last three years, but to just try and get their minds right for today and I don’t think we did ourselves justice in the first half, like effort and stuff was there but we weren’t playing like I had seen them play. We conceded a soft early goal and at that point I could see some of the girls and I was questioning the mentality and the previous three losses and all this stuff, and then we only had one chance, get in at half-time and try and regroup, against a strong wind in fairness, and a team that fought very hard, and they looked like they were outplaying us in big parts of it, to get the heads right at half-time and push on, and try implement what we’ve been trying to do all year.
‘And luckily there near the end we got a good goal. When we were going we got good movement and then a bit of nerves and the last few minutes and we got the injury to the girl and they were unsettled but they just fought and they fought, they have plenty more in them ability wise but the fight they showed there in the second half was phenomenal.
‘You could tell from the line and the supporters how much everybody wanted it and it was just a matter of - because the players would clearly want it twice as much – to balance what they wanted and being able to control the game and get the last few points. And then they piled savage pressure
on us in the last few minutes and as the injury time built up, we were questioning was it ever going to be over and they got it back to a point and we just held out. I was happy to hear the final whistle.
‘They fully deserved it. I’ve seen them all year and the ability they have is phenomenal and take the final aside and take the pressure of losing three in a row aside and if you get them out on the field and watch them play, they’re just brilliant. But to cope with what they had in their heads and come out on top especially after the last 10 minutes it’s a testament to them,’ he said.
And how has he found west Wicklow?
‘I love it. We had footballers and two teams went well in the championship and we had a few injuries and we just questioned... there were days we turned up at 9am of a Sunday morning and you might have eight or nine players and people looking around questioning what are we doing here and running the legs off them. I knew if they got it right, we’d have it. I don’t think we got it right today, but we done enough to get over the line,’ he added.
Knockananna got the dream start to this final when Loretta Mutton got her hurl to a high ball from Sarah Byrne to finish to the back of Nora O’Neill’s net and the defending champions followed this up with a pointed free from Kellie Byrne.
Knockananna were playing against the wind in that opening half and Donard-the Glen recovered very well to the early setback and they started making inroads into the lead.
Kelly O’Neill was looking sharp at full-forward, but she was having a torrid time from Knockananna’s excellent full-back Claire Byrne, but she opened Donard-the Glen’s account after eight minutes with a fine score after a ball from the superb Lizzie Brophy before adding a second moments later.
Tom Byrne’s side welcomed back Kellie Byrne at centre forward and she certainly gave them a major boost but Knockananna’s problem was that they were finding it really hard to get scores on the board after their magic start.
Points from Samantha Mills and Katie Tyrrell brought James Whelan’s side level with Knockananna after 17 but a Kellie Byrne free pushed the defending champions back in front shortly afterwards.
The challengers would finish the half superbly well, nothcing singles from Emma Hayden, Samantha Mills and Kelly O’Neill from a free to leave them 0-7 to 1-2 ahead with Nora O’Neill also saving from the hurl of Sarah Byrne right at the death of the half.
Knockananna started brightly in the second. Kellie Byrne pulled them level and then Laura Hogan sent them ahead in the seventh minute as James Whelan introduced Daisie Summer Cullen Dunne to the dray. Her impact on this game shoud be noted as she brougth an abrasive energy which the Knockananna defence found very hard to cope with.
The excellent Sive Byrne leveled proceedings after 14 and Kelly O’Neill sent Donard-the Glen ahead after 18 in this savagely tense tussle by the sea.
Knockanana then fired three wides in what would be a crucial period in this game with the wind at their backs but credit the Donardthe Glen defence for the ravenous approach they were taking to all comers.
Daisie Summer Cullen Dunne set over an uplifting score after 23 but Kelly Byrne replied after 27 and we were all square again.
And then Donard-the Glen found their feet. Kelly O’Neill from a 45 was followed by a goal from Sheila Whelan and this was followed by a point from aoife Grace and Donard-the Glen had one had on the cup with a 1-12 to 1-7 lead with time almost up.
But Knockananna weren’t champions for nothing. Kellie Byrne from a free and the excellent Aine O’Keeffe with a late goal brought Knockananna to within one and while they had a late chance to level proceedings the attempt flew wide and Donard-The Glen became the champions of Wicklow. And boy did they enjoy it!
Scorers – Donard-The Glen: Kelly O’Neill 0-5 (2f, 1 45), Sheila Whelan 1-0, Samantha Mills 0-2, Katie Tyrrell 0-1, Emma Hayden 0-1, Sive Byrne 0-1, Daisie Summer Cullen Dunne 0-1, Aoife Grace 0-1.
Knockananna: Kellie Byrne 0-7 (7f), Aine O’Keeffe 1-0, Loretta Mutton 1-0, Laura Hogan 0-1.
DONARD-THE GLEN: Nora O’Neill; Jenny Tyrrell, Katie Daynes, Carmel Whelan; Chloe Dwyer, Lizzie Brophy, Casey Kelly; Sive Byrne, Roisin Toomey; Samantha Mills, Aoife Grace, Katie Tyrrell; Emma Hayden, Kelly O’Neill, Sheila Whelan. Subs: Clair Whelan, Zena Carey, Daisie Summer Cullen Dunne, Grace O’Neill, Aoife Brophy, Sophie Mills, Izzy Keenaghan, Mollie McCormack, Lillie May Cullen Dunne, Amy Barrett, Hollie Eve Cullen Dunne, Amy Switzer.
KNOCKANANNA: Macayla Murphy; Niamh Byrne, Claire byrne, Aoine O’Keeffe; Dervla Byrne, Shannagh Goetelen, Eimer Mutton; Jessie Byrne, Laura Hogan; Aimee Maher, Kellie Byrne, Alice Mulhall; Niamh Mutton, Sarah Byrne, Loretta Mutton. Subs: Jane Kehoe, Jodi Murphy, Siobhan Mulhall, Erin Byrne, Emily Madden, Emily O’Reilly, Aine Byrne, Rachel Byrne, Eireann Moiules.
REFEREE: John Keenan (Aughrim)
Donard-The Glen celebrate winning the Wicklow Senior camogie title in Dunbur Park last weekend. Wicklow County Camogie Chairman Ivor Lehane presents Donard-The Glen captain Katie Daynes with the cup in Dunbur Park. Katie Daynes lifts the cup as her colleagues c
Donard-The Glen players rush to embrace their captain Katie Daynes.
Savouring a wonderful and dramatic victory against their old enemy, Knockananna.