Gutsy Cloughbawn crowned
Camogie, Premier Minor Final: Cloughbawn 0-12 St Martin's 2-3
Gutsy, gritty Cloughbawn claimed a memorable Wexford Camogie Premier Minor title by defeating St Martin's in a heavy Bellefield on Sunday morning.
Chances like this don't come around too often for clubs like Cloughbawn. They might pick up crowns in lower grades but the chance to call themselves the best in the county is rare for the Castleboro club. They were more than keen to take the opportunity when it arose.
The new champions had lost just once in the seven-game group stages and finished top of the table. They got tonked by their final opponents in that loss but one could argue that it was the best thing that happened to them in those initial stages of the competition.
Cloughbawn could come into the game as underdogs, without the weight of expectations and play hungry. They knew themselves that the group game didn't do their talent justice and they proved it for sixty-plus minutes of this tough contest.
As Tiger Woods might say, conditions were 'really, really tough out there'. It was heavy, understandably there wasn't much grass in the middle of the field and it made tasks that are usually simple a lot trickier.
It also slowed down the pace of the game with physical power and strength paramount to win individual battles, much more that skill and fancy stickwork. Cloughbawn displayed all the qualities needed to win that type of battle.
It all started with Elizabeth Dempsey in goal, there was nothing the 'stopper could do about either of the St Martin's goals and her ability under the highball was significant in spreading confidence throughout the full-back line.
And what a performance that line, plus the trio in front, were able display. Caoimhe Kehoe was the immovable object at full-back that laid the foundations for those around to prosper. But her aggressive but clean style was replicated around her, Ella English and Lisa Murphy didn't put a foot wrong while Sarah Flynn and Elaine Quigley did as much defending as they did creating.
The triangle in the middle was hugely important for the champions. Starting with the clean, crisp work of Faye Codd at half-back, Leah Furlong and Tara Doyle were able to pick their moments to inject quality in midfield while Ellie Kehoe's running and creative play was crucial.
If Cloughbawn had a little something their opponents struggled to match it was their quality in wide attacking areas. The Ogilvies and Wickhams all had their moments, three of them registered while Niamh Ogilvie was just as impressive without getting the score her play deserved.
One might argue that Caoimhe Larkin was the most important of the six forwards. Often at this level the full-forward has the job of goalscoring and if you get anything else out of the '14' then that's great. Larkin was about more than that, her create play was vital and her link-up passing was second to none.
After Ciara O'Connor put St Martin's ahead, Larkin created the opening Cloughbawn score for Rebecca Ogilvie in the 6th minute. O'Connor and the crisp striking Meadbh Wickham exchanged frees before the latter put her side ahead for the first time.
It was 0-4 to 0-3 when Demi Byrne made a fine low stop from Niamh Ogilvie and that save seemed even more critical when St Martin's marched up the other end and netted through Aoife O'Connor.
It was a fantastic individual goal from the talented youngster and St Martin's clearly missed her hugely when she was forced off at the interval. Claoughawn did score the last two points of the half through Wickham and Larkin to leave them tied at the break (0-6 to 1-3).
On the balance of play the Enniscorthy district club might have felt a little aggrieved at not being ahead at half-time but they knuckled down again after the restart and owned the third quarter. Meadbh Wickham scored three dead-ball points before May Wickham made it 0-10 to 1-3.
Having struggled to impose themselves so far in the half, St Martin's showed a glimpse of their ability when Aoife Dempsey crashed a shot off the crossbar. Ciara Bridges was fouled in the aftermath and Ciara O'Connor stepped up to cooly dispatch the penalty.
Now only a point up (0-10 to 2-3), Cloughbawn didn't panic for a second. Six minutes from time Meadbh Wickham knocked over her eighth score to put two between the sides again.
St Martin's kept battling but they weren't able to penetrate the Cloughawn rearguard. May Wickham tapped over the clincher in the 59th minute and her side survived the two minutes of added time to take a memorable Premier Minor Camogie title.
CLOUGHBAWN: Elizabeth Dempsey; Ella English, Caoimhe Kehoe, Lisa Murphy; Sarah Flynn, Faye Codd, Elaine Quigley (capt.); Leah Furlong, Tara Doyle; Rebecca Ogilvie (0-1), Ellie Kehoe, Meadbh Wickham (0-8, 7 frees, 1 '45); May Wickham (0-2), Caoimhe Larkin (0-1), Niamh Ogilvie. Subs. (unused) - Katie Sweetman, Aoife Murphy, Katie Foley, Ellen Gill, Leona Buckley, Róisín Gill, Aisling Flood.
ST MARTIN'S: Demi Byrne; Jane Sinnott, Fiona Esmonde, Megan Murray Byrne; Aoife Bridges, Aoife Dempsey, Claire Barrett; Ciara Bridges, Amy O'Leary; Aoibhinn Mernagh, Ciara O'Connor (1-3, 0-3 frees, 1-0 pen), Sarah Hobbert; Niamh Cullen, Aoife O'Connor (1-0), Emma Carr. Subs. - Aoife Cullen for A. O'Connor, inj (31), Sinead Hegarty for Cullen (48), Clodagh Walsh for Carr (55), also, Sally Barrett, Dara Kelly, Orlagh Parle, Ciara Kavanagh.
REFEREE: Gearoid McGrath (St James')