Report provided by Daragh Ó Conchúir.
"We're over the moon," said coach Rodney Kerr.
Brídíní Óga (Antrim) 2-7
Knockananna (Wicklow) 1-5
Rodney Kerr has lauded the first-half performance into the wind as providing the platform for his Brídíní Óga outfit to become AIB Camogie All-Ireland junior A club champions.
The first Antrim team to secure honours at this level, the Glenravel side only trailed by a point at the interval, 0-3 to 0-2.
Two goals in the third quarter, from Aisling Millar and Molly Woulahan, gave them an advantage they never looked like relinquishing, although Rachel Byrne’s goal from a well-struck free for Knockananna did quicken the pulses as the margin was reduced to three before a couple of late points from Clodagh McPeake and Eimhear McAleenan ensured that history was made.
Knockananna were chasing their own remarkable feat, having been crowned junior B champions last season, and Kerr praised the Wicklow crew’s efforts under Tom Byrne. But it was Brídíní Óga’s day.
“The conditions were extremely difficult,” Kerr noted. “The pitch was heavy, as it would be in January, and there was quite a gale and that was significant.
“I went in at half-time and I said to the girls, ‘We have this. If we go out and perform the same way in the second half, we have this.’ The supporters are obviously talking about the second half and getting the scores but to me, the first-half performance was fantastic. It was great to dig in the way they did, with no scoring reward. And that’s difficult to do, to keep at it, keep giving your all and not reaping the benefits.
“Obviously when it came to the second half, you realise the significance of that first-half performance.
“You can’t Knockananna’s performance all over the pitch. They made it very difficult for us. But we always knew that. That was the first time in two years they’d lost a championship game. We knew they had that in their locker but we knew we had what they had in terms of passion and determination and we felt our camogie would win the game.”
The goals were vital to reinforce that view.
“Again, at half-time, I said, ‘If we get a goal in the first ten minutes, we’re going to win this game,’ and we got the goal. Games are all psychology-based, I think. If you can get a goal and get on the front foot in a game like that, while that breeze is going against the opposition, it’s very difficult for them to think how they’re going to get back into it.
“So when we went six points up, in a game like that… if that’s in July, a six-point lead isn’t a big lead but in these championships at junior level in winter matches where scores are hard to come by, six points is a massive lead.”
As Kerr prepared for the celebrations, he thought of this victory meant.
“Our club is going 106 years and to see men of 80-odd years of age when you’re coming off the pitch, with tears in their eyes, that says it all. It’s very emotional.
“An All-Ireland club, it’s not like winning one for the county. It’s your club. It means more.
“Laoise McKenna is playing Division 1 camogie with the Antrim seniors. She’s a good player and been around the block with schools, universities and county. When we beat Adare (in the semi-final), she said it was the best game she’d ever played in.
“She said coming off after playing for the county was great and everyone is enjoying it, but with the club, everybody knows everybody and it meant so much to her. To hear that summed it up.
“So it meant a lot and it meant a lot to me as a manager. We’re over the moon.”
SCORERS FOR NA BRÍDÍNÍ ÓGA: M Woulahan 1-1; A Millar 1-0; E McAleenan 0-3(2fs); V Edgar, A Traynor, C McPeake 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR KNOCKANANNA: R Byrne 1-0(f); C Byrne 0-2; A Maher, E Hadden (f), Sarah Byrne 0-1 each
NA BRÍDÍNÍ ÓGA: O Donnelly, A Mulholland, M McKenna, J Woulahan, E Coulter, M Mulholland, B Laverty, L McKenna, K Laverty, E McAleenan, S Fyfe, V Edgar, A Millar, M Woulahan, A Traynor. Subs: C McPeake for Millar (38), S McDonnell for Traynor (60), N McKay for Edgar (60+2)
KNOCKANANNA: K Byrne, E Breslin, Á Byrne, E O’Sullivan, Róisín Byrne, E Hadden, A Harmon, S Goetelen, A Maher, C Byrne, Rachel Byrne, L McGrath, E Mulhall, Sinéad Byrne, Sarah Byrne. Subs: N Byrne for Sinéad Byrne (57), D Byrne for McGrath (60+2), A Mulhall for Breslin (60+2)
REFEREE: Brian Kearney (Kildare)