Pres show heart in abundance
Presentation (Wexford) 1-9 Abbey C.C. (Ferrybank) 0-7
'A savage team with savage heart,' were the words overheard by those eavesdropping on Presentation Wexford's pre-match pep talk as they took on Abbey Community College from Ferrybank in the Leinster Schools Senior 'B camogie championship final in Hollymount on Saturday.
Indeed, they proved to be just that.
After racing ahead to a seven-point lead early in the first-half, they survived the siege that was thrown at them by Abbey C.C. in commendable fashion, showing a steely determination and workmanlike performance that is typical of all worthy provincial champions.
While the winners were made work for their win and it took everything they had to hold the Abbey rally, to their credit they were the better team throughout and showcased some wonderful patches of play in extremely difficult conditions.
Sharpshooting Ailis Neville got the home side off the mark after seven minutes with a well-taken free on her home pitch.
From the resultant puck-out, the ball found its way back to Emma Sinnott who gathered possession with a glorious first touch before finding Emma Sweeney in front of goal with a pinpoint pass, and the lively corner-forward made no mistake as she found the net with a cool finish.
This really settled the Wexford side and they added the next three scores through Aisling Byrne, Emma Sweeney and Lauren Murphy, and with Diúrí McDonald, Kaitlyn Whelan-Kinsella and Fiona Kinsella in excellent form in defence, they looked to be cruising.
The visitors were always going to have their moment, however, and after threatening to find the posts on a number of occasions they eventually got off the mark thanks to Afton Grace who fired over two quick scores without reply, before Alannah Dolan made it a four-point game with five minutes remaining in the half.
Ailis Neville put five between the sides once more as she calmly slotted over another free, but Afton Grace was continuing to cause problems at the other end, running at goal and winning frees, two of which she hit over to leave only a goal in it at the break.
After such an unnerving ending to the opening period, the Pres. girls needed to get a good start to the second-half to allow themselves to settle back into the game, and get that they did as Aisling Byrne struck over a fine effort almost immediately.
The good work could have been undone moments later, however, only for a brilliant save by Niamh Cogley to keep out a certain goal, and with Diúrí McDonald on hand to clear the danger with authority, the home side were inspired and took over proceedings for the next 15 minutes.
Aisling Byrne and Lauren Murphy were a thorn in the Abbey side's defence as they created panic at every opportunity, leading to frees which Ailis Neville accounted for on three occasions to leave seven points between the sides going into the final quarter.
This is where the victors really showed their true worth, as the Abbey girls threw everything they had at them, with Afton Grace pointing a '45 moments before her effort on goal whizzed inches over the crossbar, leading to an anxious ending.
But the heart of the Presentation girls prevailed, exemplified in the final minutes of the game as they gave an exhibition of chasing, tackling, hooking and blocking that showed not only how much they wanted this Leinster title win, but also how deserving they were of taking it.
Presentation (Wexford): Niamh Cogley; Aoife Whelan, Alannah Davis, Kaitlyn Whelan-Kinsella; Ciara Bridges, Diúrí McDonald, Fiona Kinsella; Eleanor Hammel, Sinéad Furlong; Aisling Byrne (capt., 0-2), Lauren Murphy (0-1), Ailis Neville (0-5 frees); Emma Sweeney (1-1), Emma Dempsey, Emma Sinnott. Subs. - Cora Rowe for Sinnott, also Hannah Hearne, Áine Fitzgerald, Saoirse O'Connor, Alibeth Moran-Curran, Catríona Kinsella, Keeley O'Brien, Andrea Fielding, Jess Howlin, Jessica Sludds-Byrne, Anna Kearney.
Abbey C.C. (Ferrybank): Aoife Slattery; Kathlyn Roche, Áine Phelan, Ciara Atkins; Kate Sheridan, Laura Mulcair, Alanna Gallagher; Eve Lacey, Una Kinsella; Caroline Kennedy, Jane Rochford, Afton Grace (0-5, 4 frees, 1 '45); Gráinne Heffernan, Orla Phelan (capt.), Alannah Dolan.