By Daragh Ó Conchúir, at Croke Park
There was general agreement about what was the moment that altered the flow of the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland premier junior camogie final at Croke Park, in which Clare beat Tipperary by 3-7 to 1-9.
A wonderfully opportunistic goal from Rachel O’Dwyer had helped Tipperary established 1-3 to 0-0 lead by the end of the opening quarter and had Clodagh Horgan rattled the net in the 17th minute, it would have been hard to see Clare turning around a nine-point deficit after not having yet raised any sort of flag.
But Sinéad Hogg came from nowhere to get a block in. Goalkeeper Lauren Solan gathered possession and within seconds, Sarah Loughnane was slotting a shot into the far corner of the Tipp net from a tight angle. Instead of nine, the margin was now three.
“It’s fine margins,” admitted Clare manager, John Carmody. “Tipperary were a fine team and were unlucky to go down to 14 players. Then they showed great character to come back at us. They held us scoreless after going down to 14 players. That shows character.
“That was a six-point swing, a brilliant block from Sinéád, a great goal from Sarah at the other end. That settled us and I think from thereon, we were the better team over the hour but you don’t expect to get All-Ireland finals easy.”
It was Ciara Brennan who received her marching orders in the 42nd minute after being shown a second yellow card. By then, Clare led by seven, having been delighted to go in at the interval, level on 1-5 apiece.
“It took us a while to settle and get the nerves down but once we got going we gave it hell for leather,” said Caoimhe Cahill, who will be back at HQ with the ladies footballers next weekend. “At half-time, it was a draw game so it was go from the start again. It was just an unbelievable feeling to get over the line.
“The first goal definitely settled things. Especially with Croke Park, it’s all so built up to be playing there but it does fly, the first half just went so fast but once we got our feet grounded, we got that good goal and thank God got over the line.”
“We looked a bit nervous but in fairness to Tipperary they hit the ground running,” Carmody noted. “Their use of the ball, their turnovers – they scored 1-2 turning over ball in our half-back line. Sarah Loughnane popped up with the goal and that was it. We dominated the second and third quarters, played excellent camogie. Then it was about seeing it out. It probably wasn’t a great spectacle in the last quarter but it was work rate and honesty from the players and that’s what they’ve brought all year.
“It’s an amazing feeling to win an All-Ireland and a huge boost for camogie in County Clare.”
Cahill found the net within four minutes of the restart.
“I still don’t think I did it to be honest, I’m going to have to watch the replay,” the Kilmaley youngster joked. “It was unbelievable. Hearing the crowd behind us. I’d say I could hear my mother!”
Labhaoise O’Donnell raised a green flag in the 38th minute and that was enough to see them home.
“It’s unbelievable,” said 19-year-old vice-captain Caoimhe Lally. “I’m still emotional, I’m shaking. We worked so hard for this from the start of the year. To get over the line this year. Words can’t describe the feeling right now, it’s brilliant.
“We were behind in games a good few times before and I feel like having the experience of Laura McMahon, Sinéad O’Keeffe, and in the Armagh game, we were in the exact same position, to have that to look back on, we could push on.”
Tipp threw everything at them at the end.
“I’m so relieved. The last few minutes they were on the attack and were very, very unlucky not to get a goal. I’m so happy now at the minute,” said Niamh Mulqueen.
“To have an intermediate and senior team will be savage. The competition will be brilliant. Our Munster campaign was at intermediate level and that stood to us. We only lost by two points to Kerry and they’re an excellent team. We were ready for the big test and we’re looking forward to it.”