Reaction: Tipperary, Dublin & Armagh triumph in the Very Camogie League finals

Reaction: Tipperary, Dublin & Armagh triumph in the Very Camogie League finals
HerSport Editor
HerSport Editor

By Daragh Ó Conchúir 

Tipperary v Galway Very Camogie League Division 1A Final - Famine is over but Tipp dream that the best is yet to come

Tipperary 1-13
Galway 0-15

When you haven’t done it in so long and had blow after devastating blow delivered, this is the way to win, to end a hoodoo.
Starting nervously, slowly. Falling six points down and hanging on, with Galway threatening a goal that could finish it early and perhaps open the floodgates.

Clawing back, moving ahead, looking like posting the famous victory and then being dragged back as the Galway version of the bomb squad comes in.


Hurler of the Year Niamh Kilkenny. One of the best forwards in the land, Niamh Mallon. Athletic powerhouse, Niamh Hanniffy.
Mallon, the former Down star scores with her first touch and hits three points. Another glorious defeat is on the horizon.

But no, they hit the front again via Karin Blair’s 59th minute point. Then defend like far more than their lives are at stake.
Tipperary win.

Karen Kennedy is a little more circumspect when it comes to speechifying than Richie Stakelum. So as she collected the trophy for captaining Tipperary to victory in the Very Camogie League Division 1A final, the county’s first national success since the 2004 All-Ireland, there was nothing like the fireworks that her compatriot delivered was presented with the Munster senior hurling silverware in 1987.

But the famine is over, indeed.


Mary Ryan joined the Tipperary panel in 2005, the season after they won the League and Championship double. She must have thought she was in for a garlanded career in blue and gold.

This is her first national medal and as the last person to go up the Hogan Stand and raise the cup aloft, the Moneygall maestro received the loudest cheer.
She helped see things out after coming on for the last 15 minutes or so. And the hugs with her parents Eugene and Mary, were meaningful, and emotional.

“It’s important to celebrate days like today,” said Ryan. “We know that there’s a big Championship to come and that’s ultimately what we want. But to have these moments with our supporters… My mam and dad there. For 20 years they’re travelling to every game. Never miss a game. This squad has had its ups and downs and it’s just lovely to have moments like this and hopefully we can build on it and take it into Championship.”

It could have gone very wrong as Galway moved six clear with 21 minutes gone And then, in that period down the stretch where the Tribeswomen recovered from losing their own skipper Róisín Black to injury and the Karen Kennedy goal soon after to peg back a four-point deficit. But Tipp weren’t having it.

“That’s the strength in the squad now. We have been through those tough games. We’ve fallen short and had to dig deep. To come back like that, and then with such a close game, the resilience is in the team now. This is a strong, experienced squad now. It’s a massive boost. We’ve a huge Championship to go.

“To even reach today was a great end to the League but to come out of it with silverware, after a tough game; getting over Galway in Croke Park – a huge battle – we’ll take it into Championship. We have to have full belief in ourselves now.

“We’ll celebrate today but we’ll be straight back in during the week because we know ultimately, what does it mean if we don’t produce in the summer.”

They always said they had the belief but you have to do it.

“Yeah, it’s another thing. We’ve always believed but then we fall short. The semi-final last year (against Waterford) really hurt. But it’s coming back now, you hear the girls saying it. We’ve it drilled into us. Sticking to our routines, keeping to our process, believing in our process, not dropping the heads. We stuck to that today. You could see it late on. The belief. The communication on the field.”
Manager, Denis Kelly felt the circumstances of the win made it all the sweeter.

“It went down to the wire but we knew with Galway, they don’t give anything soft. They’re a huge team. They’ll be back in the Championship even stronger again. It was just about getting that rub of the green. WE’re here a long time, we’re not getting over that line and eventually it just came for us today.

“The girls worked their absolutely socks off. We needed all our subs. We needed ot make changes early. Some girls disappointed they had to come (off) early but that’s the way it goes. You have good days, you’ll have bad days. They’ll bounce back and go again. The main thing was we got the win today.

“We’ll go back and look at the start but it is a huge final and we have to take that into consideration. We have that one done now. Box ticked and we’ll move onto Championship in a few weeks’ time.

“We didn’t want the heroic defeat anymore. We’re sick of that. Too long that’s been said to us. We had huge performances all over the field and we needed them. The girls are a great bunch. As one of the lads said at the moment, it’s like a family there at the moment and with families come results and we got the result today.”

Final word to Ryan, who notably spoke so eloquently about the squad and would hate any added fuss about her getting over the line – not least because it was a first for everyone else involved too. But she has soldiered through the very, very thin. Did she ever doubt it would happen on the national stage for her?

“Sure I’ve always believed we could get there. I’ve always believed in the squad but there is something about this squad in recent years. The commitment to be part of a high performance environment, what everyone goes through as a collective and to bring it out in the field. No. I’ve very much full faith in this squad to be successful and this is a very positive stepping stone for Tipp camogie now.”

SCORERS FOR TIPPERARY: E McGrath 0-8(fs); K Kennedy 1-3; C McCarthy, K Blaire 0-1 each

SCORERS FOR GALWAY: C Dolan 0-5(fs); A O’Reilly, N Mallon 0-3 each; A Donohue, S McGrath, O McGrath, N Niland 0-1 each

TIPPERARY: N Walsh, M Eviston, E Loughman, C McCarthy, C McIntyre, K Blair, E Cunneen, C Hennessy, T Ryan, C Maher, K Kennedy, G O’Brien, E Heffernan, E McGrath, R Howard. Subs: C Quirke for McIntyre, J Bourke for Cunneen (both 26); M Burke for O’Brien (43); M Ryan for T Ryan (51)

GALWAY: F Ryan, R Hanniffy, R Black, A Crowe, D Higgins, Á Keane, C Hickey, A Hesnan, A Starr, N McPeake, A O’Reilly, C Dolan, A Donohue, S McGrath, O McGrath. Subs: N Hanniffy for Black inj (36); N Kilkenny for Hesnan (42); N Mallon for Donohue (46); O Rabbitte for O’Reilly, N Niland for McPeake (both 53); S Rabbitte for O McGrath (60)

Dublin v Wexford Very Camogie League Division 1B Final - Maher soaks it in as Dubs’ mettle brings League rewards

Dublin 2-10
Wexford 2-8

Aisling Maher praised the mettle of the Dublin dressing room, after the Sky Blues won the Very Camogie League Division 1B title thanks to a dramatic injury time goal by Grace O’Shea.

Bill McCormack’s charges looked to be falling to a narrow defeat as Wexford’s outstanding full-forward Ciara O’Connor, who was responsible for all bar one point of her side’s total, grabbed her second goal with just over six minutes of normal time left.

But O’Shea billowed the Yellowbellies’ net in the 62nd minute for Maher to be presented with the coveted silverware as a result of a 2-10 to 2-8 scoreline at SETU Carlow.

The Dublin skipper is a former All-Star that has played in an All-Ireland semi-final but witnessed a lot of upheaval in the meantime, watching disillusioned colleagues drift away while the manager’s seat was filled and vacated at a head-spinning rate.

Bill McCormack is another new boss this year, though Gerry McQuaid, who stepped into the fray at very late notice last year remains a key part of the set-up.

Certainly, the alchemy looks a positive one and the vibe is a positive one in Dublin camogie now, with the county’s second string having claimed Division 3B honours.

“It’s an absolute honour and privilege to be able to play on the field alongside that group of girls,” said Maher.

“I’m so proud of the effort that’s been put in. There’s been a lot of challenges thrown against us this year, never mind over the last ten years and no better group of girls to pick up the pieces and push each other through.

“The likes of Jody Couch, standing injured on the sideline the whole year and still the biggest motivator of everyone says it all.

“Two League wins for two Dublin teams. I’d say that’s the first time in a long time that was done.”

Throughout all the turmoil, the one great constant has been county chairman, Karl O’Brien and Maher placed heavy emphasis on his support. And the backing of a loyal core of family and friends through the tough times was hailed also.

“I cannot speak highly enough of that man. As is no secret to anybody who plays women’s sports, the barriers are often higher, and if there is one man who has never said no to me, to anything I’ve asked for the girls or for the team... It’s always, ‘We’ll make it happen.’ Nothing we do would be possible without Karl and we really appreciate everything he does for us.

“To see the supporters, all the young girls who come down to support us, it makes such a difference to have that noise on the sideline. Looking around and seeing the crowd of blue today makes us know that the future of Dublin Camogie is bright.

“But it’s friends and family, the same group of parents that are on the sideline for every match we play up and down the country, probably watching us come out the wrong side of games more often than the right side. For sticking with us the whole way through, for driving us around and for everything else they do, picking up the pieces, we really appreciate that.”

Wexford have had their own travails too and contributed handsomely to a wonderful final. They had started well with O’Connor’s first goal after 95 seconds and then fought back from falling behind in the second half as Nolan goaled and Maher slotted five points, to place themselves in a winning position. But they just couldn’t see it out.

The Dublin captain acknowledged the progress made in the Model County and predicted more chapters to their healthy rivalry.

“Ourselves and Wexford have faced many similar challenges over the last few years and they’ve shown their character and strength in depth by getting back to the level that they were at today.

“That was never going to be an easy game, probably one we’ve been looking forward to, getting another cut off them after they beat us in the first round. We look forward to meeting them again.”

DUBLIN: A Gorman, A Ryan, E O’Byrne, E Jameson-Murphy, C Gannon, A Maher, K Finnegan, N Gannon, G Couch, A McKearney, O Gray, A Heffernan, A O’Neill, E Flanagan, G O’Shea. Subs: Á Rafter for Gray (18), A Gannon for Flanagan (34), S Nolan for McKearney (44), H O’Dea for Rafter (58), S Power for Jameson Murphy (60+3)

WEXFORD: L Brennan, R Cooney, M Sinnott, L Dempsey, A Brennan, C Storey, A Cardiff, Shelley Kehoe, S O’Connor, A Curran, C Foxe, K Kirwan, O Sinnott, C O’Connor, E Tomkins. Subs: J Dillon for Tomkins (44), K Roche for Dempsey (58), A Neville for Kirwan (60+1)

SCORERS FOR DUBLIN: G O’Shea 1-3; A Maher 0-5(3fs); S Nolan 1-1; A Heffernan 0-1

SCORERS FOR WEXFORD: C O’Connor 2-7(0-6fs); L Dempsey 0-1

REFEREE: Barry Nea (Westmeath)

Armagh v Laois Very Camogie League Division 3A Final - Armagh lay finals bogey in dramatic decider

Laois 2-7
Armagh 0-14

Rachael Merry lifted the lid on the mentality that enabled her to remain composed enough to strike a winning point from a free in the sixth minute of injury time of a dramatic Very Camogie League Division 3A final at Abbotstown.

The 0-14 to 2-7 verdict over a gallant Laois ended Armagh’s dreadful recent record in finals, which includes defeat in the last two League deciders as well as the All-Ireland premier junior finals of 2021 and 2022.

They would have gone through the full gamut of emotions in a sensational closing quarter, as they led by four points with 58 minutes gone and then fell behind thanks to a 65th minute goal by Ava Coss.

But Merry set up Sinéad Quinn for an equalising point from the very next play and then the Granemore sharpshooter stood up to the plate to split the posts from 40m out after a foul on Hannah Duffy.

“It’s unreal,” said Merry. “I feel like it’s been a long time coming. We keep getting to finals and today we finally got over the line.

“We knew they were gonna come out strong. And after the League (phase) against them (when Laois won), we knew they were unreal team, we had to give it our all and get a good start from them.

“I don’t think anybody wanted to leave here without that cup. We’ve been pipped on the line time after time and I don’t think anyone was going to lie down. We were going to do whatever it takes to get over the line.

“At the end of the day, you just have to think it’s another free. If you start thinking, ‘If I score this, we’re gonna win,’ then it’ll go haywire. It’s just another free at the end of the day.”

Victorious manager, Seán Hughes hailed the character of his players.

“The wind played a bit of a factor and we decided to go agin’ it,” Hughes explained. “So we had to stay in touch. The girls showed great character during the game. Possibly in the first half, we thought we should have had a few more scores but the wind held up a few balls.

We were quite happy going in at half-time with that one-point gap.

“Although there’s a lot of new players on the panel, there’s a lot of experience on the squad. The girls had been disappointed a number of times so we just said at half-time, more of the same. They drove it on themselves.

“When the free was given, we knew Rachael was gonna hit it. She’s a renowned freetaker so we’d every confidence in her that she was gonna score. If it hadn’t went over, it wasn’t the end of the world, we were still in the game but we had every confidence in her.

“It’s a great win for the girls. They’ve had lots of setbacks. Today was about them and getting over the line.”
Playing at a higher level has been the target for a number of seasons and Merry promises that Armagh are not finished yet.

“This is just a stepping stone for us,” the match winner stated. “I think the last time we won this League was 2016. We just needed to get up into Division 2(A). If you’re playing in higher leagues, that will push you on. We wanted to get out of Division 3 and get out of junior and that’s our aim for this year.”

SCORERS FOR ARMAGH: C Geoghegan, R Merry (3fs) 0-5 each; S Quinn 0-3, T Maxwell 0-1

SCORERS FOR LAOIS: A Collier 1-6(1-0pen, 0-3fs, 0-1 45); A Coss 1-0; G Delaney 0-1

ARMAGH: C Devlin, M McCone, G McCann, Á Doyle, T Maxwell, N Forker, E Hayes, L Donnelly, C O’Kane, E O’Kane, S Quinn, M McGuigan, R Merry, C Geoghegan, J Curry. Subs: N Woods for O’Kane, K Convie for Doyle (both 42), C Crilly for Maxwell (49), H Duffy for McGuigan (55)

LAOIS: A Lowry, A Finley, L Daly, F Scully, J Quinlan, C Tynan, K Whelan, E Conroy, J Bergin, L C Fennell, A Collier, A Coss, E Hassett, L O’Connor, A Scully. Subs: A Walsh for Conroy (23), G Delaney for Fennell (27), S Delaney for Hassett (ht), S Creagh for Quinlan (37), R Deegan for Scully (47)

REFEREE: C Goff (Wicklow)

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