By Kevin Egan, at Grant Heating St Brendan’s Park
An incredible season of transition for Wicklow camogie was crowned with an emphatic 1-15 to 1-5 win over Mayo in the Nancy Murray Cup final on Saturday afternoon in Birr, and manager Brendan Tobin feels that the sky is the limit for his panel.
“We had just seven players that were on the panel last year, and we said standing here this time last year, when we lost by a point to Tyrone, that we weren’t going to let that happen again” said the Craanford clubman after their ten-point victory over Mayo.
“Back in March we had just six players below in Craanford, that was all that signed up. Today we had a panel of 30 and they’re All-Ireland champions.
“They’ll give everyone a rattle over the next couple of years, the age goes from minor to 24 or 25, so for a senior panel, that’s unbelievable” he said.
Mayo prevailed when these two counties met in a league semi-final earlier this year, but right from the start it was apparent that the Garden County had trained on, while conversely, Mayo were a shadow of themselves. The absence of top scorer Maebh Delaney was a huge blow to the Westerners, and their lack of punch up front was apparent as they registered just three points in the first half, all from Lisa Scahill frees.
Wicklow had the aid of a strong breeze as they built up an 0-10 to 0-3 lead, but in every sector, their hurling was sharper and more purposeful. Team captain Jade Byrne at centre back, Aoife Keddy and Sarah Lambe at midfield, and player of the natch Katie Tyrrell at centre-forward controlled their individual battles, and as a result the bulk of the play happened in front of the Mayo goal.
Tyrrell landed some excellent scores while Daisie Summer Cullen Dunne was a real threat on the edge of the Mayo square, hand-passing one point and whipping over another from a very tight angle.
“We said in the dressing room that it was a ten-point game with the wind” said Tobin afterwards.
“But whoever got the first score in the second half had the upper hand, and the girls, they’re so young but they emptied themselves making sure that we got that score.”
Sophie Birmingham slotted that point though a fine catch and close-range finish from Emily Kelly appeared to give Mayo some cause for hope in the 46th minute as her route-one goal reduced the gap to five points.
Wicklow’s response was notable, however and Cullen Dunne’s goal removed all doubt about the result.
“It was an extremely flat performance for whatever reason, it just didn’t happen for us” said Mayo boss Jimmy Lyons.
“You could see early on, even though they weren’t opening us up, they were winning that hard ball and picking off scores. The gap was widening, and no matter whatever we tried, it just didn’t come off and our touch wasn’t there. You’ll have days like that sometimes.”
Wicklow captain Jade Byrne was one of just five players that started last year’s final against Tyrone and Saturday’s game in Birr, and she spoke of how those experienced players tried to make sure that there was no repeat of last year’s dramatic finale, when the Ulster side struck three fourth-quarter goals to snatch a one-point win.
“What was different this year compared to last year was that as soon as they got a score, particularly the goal, we knew to just not drop the heads, keep going. I think we kept our cool after the goal and did the right things, keeping the ball and playing the game in their half, making sure we got the next few scores, and those scores won it for us” said the Kilcoole player.
“It’s nice to know you’ve made history. These girls have done all the work, and they’re a great group to stand beside and to play with, and I’m looking forward to see where we can take it from here.”