By Tom Clancy
Tyrone continue their rise across the camogie landscape, taking the Very National Camogie League Division 4 crown with a three-point triumph over Mayo, by 0-18 to 2-9 at the Tang GAA grounds on Saturday.
Key to that success was corner-forward Lara Devlin. The Edendork sharpshooter landed a superb seven points, with six of those coming in a rip-roaring opening half, where the sides couldn’t be separated. Her player-of-the-match performance saw her assisted by Roisín McErlean on the scoresheet, but it was perhaps the defensive unit which will take the most satisfaction.
Playing against the strong breeze, Mayo could only muster a trio of Lisa Scahill frees against a particularly watertight Tyrone rearguard.
Following a one-score success in last season’s Nancy Murray Cup, against Wicklow, the Ulster side have quickly followed up with more national success. This silverware fits neatly, as the game continues to grow in Tyrone as they celebrate 90 years of camogie in the county.
While goals were crucial last August, it was the points that paved the way for Declan Sherlock’s youthful side. He explained how the raising of levels was the winning of this clash after half-time.
“There was nothing in it at half-time,” said Sherlock. “We told the girls they really didn’t put in a performance in the first half. I have to say, the change in the second half of intensity and desire to get the ball is what won it for us. Against a strong wind like that, you can’t allow clean ball, and that is what they did.
“We played them during the year, we won narrowly. We played them two years ago, we lost by a point, we lost by two points before that. What was it today? Three points. It’s unbelievable.
“We’ve conceded too many goals this year, for some reason. It is our Achilles heel. We did come out with the target of conceding none, which didn’t work! But when you are scoring so many points, we have a lot of finishers, we are trying to score from distance.
“Lara Devlin has made some difference for us. She’s taking scores from distance, she is so fast, she’s nearly unmarkable with her speed and her skill levels. She can strike on the run, that is an exception, not the rule. If I was back playing, I wouldn’t like to mark her, she’d leave you for dead.
“It means a lot in the 90th year (of Tyrone Camogie), that is two trophies in eight months or so. It means a lot, but we’ll be judged by the end of the year. It we are competing and getting better, that is where we measure our success – that we are improving all the time.”
Devlin was particularly modest about her contribution, insisting her side’s defensive unit put in colossal work. “A lot of the forwards get a lot of the credit, but there is much more to it than putting it over the bar. We’ve been working so hard this last week, mainly on defence, and they’ve done so much, in this match and in the past weeks, they don’t get enough credit, I don’t think.”
Playing with a strong breeze, Tyrone were only level at half-time.
“It was a wee bit disappointing going in at half-time, with the breeze you’d have expected a bit more,” Devlin conceded. “In terms of possession, we probably had most of it, we didn’t do enough with it. We weren’t a real threat of goal, but that is something we are working on. We managed (the wind) very well in the second half.
“I’d say the wind helped out most of my scores, they weren’t all me! The wind put about ten metres on them, so I’m not taking all the credit”, joked the pacy attacker.
“Especially (important to win) in the 90th year of Tyrone camogie. It’s an honour to be part of the panel. I was out with an injury last year with me knee. I was so happy for them winning but I was so jealous. The girls grew so much over the past few years. With the minors, I think we’ve six from the last year and the year before, who’ve really made the impact on the team”.
It looks certain that Devlin has put her injury woes firmly in the rear-view mirror, as Tyrone continue to build something long-lasting and special on the national stage.