Scenes to savour as Pres. clinch crown
Presentation Wexford 2-10 Castlecomer C.S. 1-11 (AET)
Glorious relief, sprinkled with no shortage of impossible-to-contain joy, was a pretty sight in Carriganore on Thursday. This was the Presentation Secondary School claiming a stunning All-Ireland Post-Primary Schools Junior 'B' camogie championship title, this was the day dreams were realised.
Waves of substitutes, mentors, teachers and supporters invaded the field on Cathal Egan's final whistle. Shrill cries of excitement disappeared into the grey sky but the hugs, the tears, the scarcely believing looks weren't quite so fleeting.
Not for one second did these Pres girls take a step back. It was never even a passing thought; quitting simply was never an option.
Determination is what won this for the Wexford school and, while there were opportunities to relax in the knowledge that a Leinster crown is a fine achievement, they weren't considered.
Presentation conceded nine points in the second-half, and they were under pressure continuously in the third quarter. Castlecomer pressed, drove forward in numbers, took chances and gained a lead through the exceptional Grace Mulhall as the game ticked into added-time.
It was the first time that Presentation had trailed at a critical moment in this run to the final.
Here they were, after giving everything to keep themselves in the contest, and they were staring down the barrel of the most heartbreaking of defeats.
Earlier, the Castlecomer crowd were getting annoyed with all the little stoppages, and evidently they added up. The minutes ticked on, and on, and on, and the Pres still trailed.
Yet, if there's one thing people know about Cathal Egan after Wexford/Galway 2015, it's his love for additional time.
Five minutes in Aoibheann Mernagh emerged from a little scrum with the ball and showed ferocious determination to break free, but her hurl was being held. Free in, 30 metres from goal, just to the left.
For some reason Carlise Comerford thought she could make a break for it and run at Ailis Neville when she lifted the ball. The defender blocked the free, in mid-air about seven metres away, and Egan didn't hesitate, issuing a yellow card and moving in the free for a re-take.
Now in the sixth minute of added-time - how beautifully apt - Neville stood over the ball. Banging on the metal stand, roaring abuse, the Castlecomer supporters, quite apart from when the Pres were taking frees, did everything they could to put off the St. Ibar's/Shelmalier player.
It didn't work, as Neville split the posts, the final whistle went immediately and the game was in to extra-time.
Presentation finally won that toss they hoped to win at the start of the game, played into the breeze and were able to trade frees to put them in the driving seat at the break (1-11 to 2-8).
Just a few moments into the second-half of extra-time, Andrea Fielding took a pass from Emma Dempsey and tapped over from the left of the posts to give Presentation the lead.
Castlecomer pressed but got no closer than a couple of Mulhall frees that dropped short.
With the clock ticking to 80, Mernagh and debutante Grace Harding-Kenny put pressure on the Castlecomer defence and won a '45. Fittingly, Neville stepped up and nailed the dead-ball to increase the lead to two.
There were a few more nervous seconds to endure but Presentation were never going to give away the lead. The full-time whistle was followed by the scenes as players engulfed, smothered with hugs, celebrating the fairytale ending.
Earlier, it started pretty well, with three points in the first seven minutes. Eleanor Hammel opened the scoring following a nice Niamh Rowe handpass. Neville soon popped over a couple of frees to make it 0-3 to nil.
Against the run of play, Colleen Booth followed in to net after Sarah Brennan's initial effort was batted away.
However, the influential Niamh Cogley dumped a long ball into the mix that Dempsey scooped up and flashed high to the net to make it 1-3 to 1-0 after 16 minutes.
Mulhall responded with her first point but just before the break Cora Rowe worked the ball clear to Fielding who drove at the 'Comer defence before off-loading to Neville who rattled the net for a vital second Presentation goal.
The 2-3 to 1-1 lead disappeared by the 45th minute as four Mulhall points and a Laura McDowell score looked to send the Kilkenny school on the way to glory. Yet their opponents responded and Neville nailed two dead-balls to open up a two-point lead again.
The advantage remained two with six minutes left after Ellen Gunner and Neville exchanced scores. However, three points in a row, all from play, all from the best player on the pitch, Grace Mulhall, put Castlecomer 1-10 to 2-6 up after 60 minutes.
They were never going to give up, it just wasn't going to happen. Neville tied the game with the final stroke and the guts and their determination won the day in overtime.
For the first time since St. Mary's (New Ross) won it it 2012, the All-Ireland Junior 'B' camogie title is back in Wexford.
And mentioning the Barrowside school, they still have their Junior 'A' final replay to look forward to against St. Angela's of Waterford.
That game didn't go ahead last week as their opponents were involved in a Senior game.
Presentation: Fiona Cousins (Buffers Alley); Nicole Harding-Kenny (St. Ibar's/Shelmalier), Alibeth Moran-Curran (Glynn-Barntown), Catríona Kinsella (St. Ibar's/Shelmalier); Niamh Cogley (Glynn-Barntown), Aoife Whelan (Buffers Alley), Cora Rowe (Glynn-Barntown); Eleanor Hammel (Buffers Alley, 0-1), Sinéad Furlong (Buffers Alley, capt.); Ailis Neville (St. Ibar's/Shelmalier, 1-8, 0-6 frees, 0-2 '45s), Emma Dempsey (Glynn-Barntown, 1-0), Niamh Rowe (Glynn-Barntown); Aoibheann Mernagh (St. Martin's), Tara Murphy (Glynn-Barntown), Andrea Fielding (St. Ibar's/Shelmalier, 0-1). Subs. - Grace Harding-Kenny (St. Ibar's/Shelmalier) for Murphy (31), also Lily Stout (St. Ibar's/Shelmalier), Rachel Murphy (Glynn-Barntown), Orna Corrigan (Buffers Alley), Clodagh Whelan (Blackwater), Kennedy Cullen (Kilmore), Sarah O'Donoghue (St. Mary's, Rosslare), Hannah Hearne (St. Ibar's/Shelmalier), Rebecca Fanning (Glynn-Barntown).
Castlecomer C.S.: Therese Kelly (capt.); Megan Brennan, Shannon Conry, Sofia Kerr; Amanda Molloy, Carlise Comerford, Caoimhe Hennessy; Ava O'Shea, Shannon Feehan; Sarah Smyth, Ellen Gunner (0-1), Sarah Brennan; Laura McDowell (0-1), Grace Mulhall (0-9, 4 frees, 1 '45), Colleen Booth (1-0). Subs. - Chloe Ryan for Smyth (28), Smyth for Ryan (61).
Referee: Cathal Egan (Cork).