By Daragh Ó Conchúir
PETER WILLIAMS had to cut his holidays short but it was all worthwhile as Kildare produced a strong second-half performance to seal their return to the second tier of the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues at the first time of asking as Division 3 champions, by virtue of a 2-9 to 0-11 defeat of Limerick at the St Rynagh's grounds in Banagher on Saturday.
They trailed by 0-10 to 1-5 at the interval, with Rebecca Noonan excelling for Limerick, scoring seven of her eight points in that opening period.
Kildare needed a sensational solo goal from Caoimhe Shiels to keep in touch, after Shauna Mulligan had won possession initially around the middle third.
Williams and his mentors shuffled the deck during the change of ends however and that made the difference.
Limerick only added one point to their tally, as the influence of Noonan, Leanne Browne and Grace Lee was nullified.
Kildare captain, Tanya Johnson made a number of top-class saves throughout and her 47th minute penalty stop from Noonan was critical with the teams level.
Hurley followed with a point from a 45 – her eighth in another crucial contribution – and then super sub, Holly Tynan provided the definitive thrust, her goal with time running out cementing the win.
“That was heartbreaking for a while but what a finish” said Williams on Kfm. “The girls have shown all year how good battlers they are, how dogged they are, but the last 20 minutes was outstanding.
“There were a few changes made at half-time and they worked a treat. Maria Doyle went back wing-back on their dangerwoman, Rebecca Noonan and she didn’t touch a ball for the second half. Maria was outstanding.
“Then we put Ellen (Morgan) back to her normal position as a third midfielder and she hurled her socks off as well, so the changes made a huge difference and produced that second-half performance.
“I expected them to save (the penalty), whether it was Tanya or the other two girls. We pushed on then, attacked them straight away but that was a huge turning point. Tanya’s amazing.”
While praising the experienced players in the squad, Williams was particularly pleased for the younger cohort, and in particular teenage wing-back Caoilfhionn Hallissy, who was named player of the match.
“Caoilfhionn’s only 19, she’s only come onto the panel. She’s one of the girls that put her hands up on the sixth of January when we met first and she’s just grown and grown, match by match. She wasn’t starting for the first match but because of injury she stood in and she hasn’t lost the position since. That says a lot about her mentality and growth as a player.”