By Daragh Ó Conchúir
YOU never forget the first but second time around was even better as far as Eimear Hurley was concerned.
Official player of the match in the AIB All-Ireland Junior Club Championship Final at St Brendan’s Park in Birr on Sunday, the full-back was in resolute form as Johnstownbridge made it two-in-a-row in a dramatic decider.
They were made to sweat by a valiant Scariff/Ogonnelloe outfit however, with the Bannerwomen desperate to get over the line having fallen short in 2013.
Being forced to dig so deep gave this success even more value according to the beaming Hurley.
“This one’s even better” said Hurley.
“We really, really had to work so hard. We were always a little bit ahead last year, we had a little bit of a cushion but there was never any rest there. There was never any sense that we had it in the bag.
“They just played so well and obviously were trying to get back from three years ago so it took everything we had to win that.”
Hurley faced a stiff task in attempting to deny the towering Rachel Minogue possession and as the bombs landed around the danger zone, she was resolute throughout.
She was quick to point to the work done by others to ensure that perhaps the quality of delivery was not as Minogue and her fellow inside forwards might have desired.
“The girl I was marking was quite tall. I’m tall and she was a head taller than me so I suppose that was their tactic there. The girls out the field were cutting off any good supply coming in so they weren’t able to hit it exactly as they wanted and that helped hugely.”
Johnstownbridge went in a goal to the good at the interval despite being second best for much of proceedings. They were more clinical than their opponents throughout however, with Róisín O’Connell’s 22nd minute goal the ultimate difference-maker in a 1-10 to 1-9 result.
Hurley gives an insight into the importance of experience when considering those first-half efforts. Understanding beforehand that it was unlikely to be a free-flowing affair, and that they certainly weren’t going to have things all their own way, they never panicked.
“In games like this you rarely do. The pressure, the other team – everything gets to you. You don’t ever get to be as free as you’d like. It’s just about digging deep and winning dirty.
“We never got the breathing space. We knew it was gonna be tight. The clock was stuck on 30 minutes there forever. It was nerve-wracking.”
Mairéad Scanlan’s goal with 30 seconds of normal time remaining caused many frayed nerves but the defence held firm and Johnstownbridge continued their remarkable success story of recent years.
And there was one man that has driven them forward more than any other, as they rose through the ranks in Kildare to get to the point where they have won the last two All-Irelands, after losing to the eventual champions in the three campaigns prior to that (Myshall 2012 & 13, Kilmessan 2014).
“I’m playing 22 years! That gang of girls a couple of years younger than me won Féile and we managed to keep that core bunch together. There’s serious community spirit. Everyone wants to do it for each other and for (manager) Dick Flanagan. He’s the main man. He’s been there through every single victory. He’s just inspirational.”