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Famine is over but Tipp dream that the best is yet to come

Tue 16th Apr

Daragh Ó Conchúir


By Daragh Ó Conchúir
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: 1-13 to 0-15.

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 when 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 to 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.”

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