Milford became only the third team since the turn of the century to retain the AIB All-Ireland senior club camogie title, after a thunderous battle at Croke Park writes Daragh Ó Conchúir.
Pearses (Galway) and St Lachtain’s (Kilkenny) went on to complete a three-in-a-row but that won’t be on Milford minds tonight or for the next few weeks as they celebrate a remarkable achievement.
They were made to dig very deep by a gritty Ardrahan outfit though, in a game that accentuated bravery and determination rather than silky skill due to the very difficult ground conditions as a result of the pre-match rain.
And we were almost left with a second draw of the day as Rebecca Hennelly had an opportunity to bring Ardrahan level with the last puck of the game from a 45.
The Galway sharpshooter had supplied all bar one of her side’s scores but her shot drifted just wide of the upright and the Milford celebrations could begin.
Aisling Thompson was deserving winner of the player-of-the-match award with another stellar midfield performance but ultimately, it was the five-point contribution from Emer Watson that proved the match-winning contribution.
Amazingly, Watson only had her first runout earlier in the morning since suffering medial ligament damage in a challenge match 10 days ago but she wasn’t found wanting when the occasion demanded.
“I can’t believe we actually did two-in-a-row” said a jubilant Watson afterwards. “We knew how hard it was going to be, we knew the battle Ardrahan were going to give us.
“It’s just brilliant. I can’t put into words to explain what we’ve done today. The commitment and dedication every single one of these girls have put in over the last two years. Look, we’ve put our lives on hold. It means so, so much to us and we’re delighted.”
Milford took the lead in the seventh minute from a Watson free and held it until the very end.
She knocked over the first four scores and it took the Galwegians until the 21st minute to score, via Hennelly. Ardrahan finished the half strongly and another Hennelly free left it 0-4 to 0-2 at the break.
Watson made it five points by converting a 45 early in the second half but Keelin O’Shaughnessy hit back with a very good point to give the game its first of only two scores from play soon after. Marie O’Neill replied with the second entering the final quarter and margin was three in Milford’s favour.
Hennelly drove over from a 50m free in the 52nd minute as Ardrahan lifted the tempo. With Elaine O’Riordan, Maria Walsh, Thompson and Anna Geary outstanding for Milford, it took another 10 minutes to bring Ardrahan within the minimum, as Hennelly converted another free.
That set it up for the late drama but in the end, but the champions held on.
SCORERS – MILFORD: E Watson 0-5(4fs, 1 45), M O’Neill 0-1
ARDRAHAN: R Hennelly 0-4(fs), K O’Shaughnessy 0-1
MILFORD: R Finn, K Galvin, E O’Riordan, L Healy, M Walsh, A Geary, Á Watson, O O’Mahony, A Thompson, E Watson, D O’Reilly, A O’Flynn, M O’Neill, M Flanagan, M Watson. Subs: L O’Flynn for E Watson blood (21-22); O’Flynn for O’Mahony (50)
ARDRAHAN: R Gardiner, S Keehan, S Healy, A Brennan-Dillon, S Gardiner, A Lynskey-Keane, S Forde, A Callanan, M Carr, R Hennelly, A Mullins, R O’Toole, D Diviney, C Walsh, K O’Shaughnessy. Subs: E Holland for Diviney (48), B Kerins for Walsh (55), K Quinn-McMahon for Forde (59), S O’Flynn for A O’Flynn (60+2)
REFEREE: A Lagrue (Kildare)