Extra special effort to win for captain Ciara is rewarded
Published 10/11/2015 | 00:00
Few clubs personify the Wexford spirit better than the famed Oulart-The Ballagh Senior camogie team which successfully defended its Leinster title amidst scenes of real drama in Nowlan Park on Sunday.
The poignancy of the occasion wasn't lost on players, management and supporters, as they had to field without their captain, Ciara Storey. Ciara led the team on to the pitch, and stood in for the toss before taking her place amongst the substitutes.
This was a victory for the long-serving Ciara who was forced to sit out the full 60 minutes, deemed unfit to take her place, a factor that was not lost on her colleagues.
Any fair measurement of this game and the quality served up will be taken in the context of the dreadful conditions, with pools of water on areas of the pitch following the torrential overnight rain which continued up to half-time in the curtain-raiser, leading to the subsequent very heavy underfoot conditions.
Having been outplayed by a splendid St. Vincent's outfit who led by seven points at the interval, Oulart-The Ballagh stormed back with a rousing second-half performance with three late points, two coming in additional time.
It left them with a dramatic victory, with even their own supporters finding it difficult to accept the reality of what had just unfolded before their very eyes, as on 60 minutes they were staring defeat in the face.
County, provincial and All-Ireland champions will not just collapse and allow their titles to slip away. While Oulart-The Ballagh had greater purpose about them in the second-half, it had looked as if they had left themselves with too much to do.
But they grabbed the game in sensational circumstances in those dramatic closing minutes, showing the courage, spirit and skill levels to turn their territory and possession into match-winning scores.
Given the conditions no one expected a vintage display but that is what was served up, firstly by a splendidly skilful St. Vincent's in the opening 30 minutes, while the second-half showed why Oulart-The Ballagh are reigning All-Ireland champions as they defied the odds, bringing a huge sigh of relief from their supporters on the final whistle.
In the end it was Leanne Nolan and Aideen Brennan who accepted the plaudits. Nolan was introduced as a substitute to try to add a bit of juice to the attack, and this she did with a dramatic levelling point in additional time.
And Brennan threw up her arms in relief when her late effort found its way over the bar, just inside the right post, knowing that it had handed her side a dramatic victory.
What Oulart-The Ballagh have shown in 2015 is that they retain the champion boxer's instinct to hang in there when the punches are coming thick and fast, and they retain the ability to make their own blows count.
Given their precarious position at the interval, seven points adrift, they would have taken a draw with that late Leanne Nolan leveller, but no, they once again counter-punched on the puck-out to produce that explosive winning point.
Oulart-The Ballagh may have mismanaged their game through the opening half but the win was the perfect end, having malfunctioned early on, when even defensive stars Mary Leacy and Karen Atkinson were outwitted. However, they atoned with quality defensive play on the resumption as they continuously drove their side forward.
St. Vincent's obviously had their homework done but it was Oulart-The Ballagh who fought to the end, and they can be proud of that.
Now that the club championship is all but complete there is already much speculation on the hurling managerial front.
It's well known that Oulart-The Ballagh will be seeking a new man to steer them in 2016 as Frank Flannery is joining the Cork Senior hurling backroom team as coach, while it's expected that selector Kevin Kennedy will journey towards the Garden county, accompanying Martin Storey who has taken over as Wicklow manager.
This will leave a further vacancy in J.J. Doyle's Wexford backroom team as Larry Murphy is not seeking a fourth term as selector.
Rapparees-Starlights who, despite their under-age talent, have failed to deliver at Senior level, will not have Jason Ryan at the helm, as was speculated last week. Apparently a meeting of the club on Saturday night declined to bring in Ryan as manager. Earlier in the afternoon Ryan had guided Taghmon-Camross to the Junior hurling title.