By Daragh Ó Conchúir
LONG-SERVING captain Sabrina Larkin has played at Senior level for more than a decade for Tipperary without much tangible success and there was no hiding her joy as she delivered her speech after the Premiers bagged their first Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 2 title with a 0-14 to 0-8 win over Kilkenny at the St Rynagh's grounds in Banagher on Saturday.
Larkin was joined on the pitch in the second half by another stalwart Joanne Ryan, a former All-Star who holds three All-Ireland Senior medals and was captain when Tipp last claimed the O’Duffy Cup in 2004.
This was an important win for the county and manager Bill Mullaney, who is also Senior boss and believes in the benefits of having both camps training as one. Mullaney was ecstatic for his charges and hailed Larkin’s leadership.
“Absolutely thrilled for the girls” said Mullaney on Tipp FM. “I think on the day we deserved it overall over the 60 minutes. They’re an incredible bunch. They’ve put in some serious hard work. They’re very dedicated to their trade and the game and I’m delighted for them. They’re a group that deserved something.
“Kilkenny had a good 10-minute spell in the second half but I think if you look at the overall 60 minutes, we were better. I thought we were a quality side throughout and I think we outworked them as well.
“Sabrina is fantastic. I’m delighted for her. I won’t say she’s on the road a long time but she’s such an inspiration, even to management. Always at training, always professional, always ready to give 100 per cent every time and is a real true leader, on and off the field. You couldn’t wish for a better captain.”
Larkin was equally pleased.
“It’s a long time coming so we’ll enjoy it” said the skipper. “This League has been so tough, some serious games in it. Kilkenny were probably the cutest and cleverest team we played so it was gonna be a dogfight, so we’re absolutely delighted.
“It took a while to get to grips with them because they wanted to play the same way we wanted to play.
“The lead at half-time was a help. You weren’t going to sit back and relax but still you had that little bit of cushion. At half time we were saying, ‘Let’s go for it and see what happens.’ You can’t just sit and wonder.
“It was a good win. Six points didn’t reflect how tough it was. There were girls flat out on their feet there and delighted to be on the right side of it.
“We’ve a class panel there. We’ve Munster the 18th May. Cork will be another strong test. I’m looking forward to the (All-Ireland) Championship though. I think there’s silverware there to be got if we want it enough and things go right for us.”
An eight-point contribution earned Jenny Grace the player-of-the-match spoils, while Larkin led from the front and Andrea Loughnane was a constant threat at full-forward, providing four points from play.
Kilkenny lost freetaker Katie Nolan to an injury early on and the Cats struggled from placed balls thereafter, though in Kelly Hamilton, they possessed a real threat to the Tipp rearguard.
It was 0-8 to 0-4 at the break and though Kilkenny pushed hard after the resumption, Tipp always had a little bit more to offer and were able to see it out well.