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“Now, young girls watching this on television today might look for hurls off Santy this week”

Mon 18th Dec

Daragh Ó Conchúir


By Daragh Ó Conchúir, at Croke Park
Managing two nights training after eight months on the sidelines would not appear in any modern manual for what is deemed sufficient preparation to appear in an AIB All-Ireland intermediate club camogie final, but with a panel of just 17 players, John Madden, Eddie Coffey and the Clanmaurice brains trust were hardly in a position to be dogmatic.

When the player in question is as supremely talented as Amy O’Sullivan, a finisher who had exhibited her talents at underage level with Cill Ard for a number of years before making her adult bow with Clanmaurice and Kerry last year, there was never a second thought.

The 20-year-old has been out of action since the spring with a hip injury but her 41st minute goal, from the first passage of play after her introduction, ultimately decided this keenly contested affair against a courageous Na Fianna unit.

She would provide the final thrust too, neatly pointing off her left before Philip McDonald called a halt to proceedings and amazingly, a Kerry side was celebrating All-Ireland glory in the second tier of club camogie, on a 1-7 to 0-7 scoreline.

“It’s been a long time coming for these girls,” said O’Sullivan of her many more experienced colleagues who had soldiered through difficult times over the years and lifted the fortunes of camogie in the Kingdom along the way with All-Ireland and League titles for club and county.

“I’m new to the panel, it’s my second year in the squad after coming through with Cill Ard, but they’ve gone through it all and kept going. It’s a small panel of players. The girls grew up with each other really. They were the first club in Kerry camogie and there’s a few clubs going around now. Now, young girls watching this on television today might look for hurls off Santy this week.

“I was injured the last eight months, so I trained Tuesday and Thursday and that was it. And thankfully, things seem to be looking up (for me). I’ve a few more weeks of rehab to go but hopefully 2024 now, I’ll be right.

“There’s a serious motivation when you’re training by yourself, trying to do the runs two or three weeks ago knowing you’re going to be coming to Croke Park and hopefully lift the trophy.

“I’d be more nervous watching than I would ever be playing. You’re sitting in the dugout and you can’t do nothing about it. When you’re playing yourself, you can change something. So coming on, I suppose it was a fairytale to stick in a little goal. It was serious ferocious work in there. There wasn’t a second to blink really because it was up there for a second and then it was gone down. Two points is a dangerous lead, especially in an All-Ireland final in Croke Park.

“You’re gonna try everything. You’re only on for 15 minutes so lucky it worked out. The point in the end was the cherry on the top but I got blocked for one before that so I had to come away with something.

“It’s a nice Christmas present.”

The emotion was notable, in the post-match interview of player of the match Sara Murphy and the speech of joint-captain Niamh Leen. They have been defying odds a long time but they, more than anyone, that it doesn’t just happen. Last year, they were moved up to intermediate level, even though they had failed to win the junior title a second time. Despite not having a domestic championship, they continued their provincial ascendancy at a higher grade and then only gave best to subsequent champions Clonduff after extra time in the All-Ireland semi-final.

But it takes so much to keep the show on the road. Hence the depth of feeling.

“Crazy,” was the summation of Jackie Horgan (pictured above left with O’Sullivan). “Clanmaurice, when we started, losing junior matches… To be up here in Croke Park, the week of Christmas with 17 players after winning the club All-Ireland intermediate. I know everyone says it, it’s a dream to play here. It’s a dream to play here but it’s a dream to win here. It’s just…”


Ironically, Clan’s success is beginning to hurt them because while there isn’t a senior championship yet in Kerry, last year was the first year that there were other adult clubs. And that will eventually draw from their pick. And yet, they seem to be doing just fine.

“We’re struggling (for numbers) but we’re happy to struggle and drive it on. I started playing camogie nine years ago and where I started and where it’s came to, it’s just incredible. And that’s down to – I know the players – but it’s the people that put in time. People in the background, doing training, hotels, food, everything sorted. The amount of people doing work in Kerry – they get thanks but they hide behind the scenes. It’s for them and it’s for everyone in Kerry.

“September last year, when we heard we were after being put up intermediate, we were thinking, ‘That might be the end of the run for Clanmaurice.’ I know we’ve only 17 girls but they’re just incredible. The hooking, the blocking. Patrice (Diggin) is going off one leg, she’s hitting frees over from the sideline, 65 yards (out). The belief in that group is unbelievable and it showed out there today.

“We knew it would be a battle. The first half, we’d only a point on the board after 27 minutes. At half-time, we knew we hadn’t played. We seemed to be getting sucked back a lot. There was no structure to our game. We had to get our half-forward line back up the field. The backs were under so much pressure because we were nearly inviting them on us. We got that right and look, thankfully it worked.”

Crucially for Clanmaurice, two late pointed frees from Diggin meant they went in at the break level at 0-3 each. Na Fianna, with Kerrie Cole causing mayhem, failed to cash in on a number of good opportunities in that first half and with Clanmaurice finding a couple of more gears after the resumption, that was significant.

Defeated manager, Niall Burke was very proud of his players’ efforts though and paid tribute to the victors.

“I told my girls we have to be able to walk off the pitch with our heads held high, irregardless,” Burke reasoned. “If you put in a performance that is good enough to win the game, it’s going to take a good team to beat you and in fairness to Clanmaurice, they are a fantastic team and we knew that. I’m a proud Na Fianna man walking off the field today. We played as well as we could, I think.

“I was really happy with how we settled into the game, really, really well and in fairness to Clanmaurice, they came at us. they scored heavy very quickly and that was very hard for us to recover from but hopefully we’ll learn from it.

“We’ll keep bringing on new players and having that support network that’s behind them of senior players. Keep everything together and pushing on. When I go to training, I’ve 32, 33 girls out. I can’t ask more than that. We just have to continue that momentum and when we sit back after today, hopefully learn the lessons from that.”


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