CLUB AND county colleagues came face to face in Cork last weekend as W.I.T. emerged from the cold to win the Ashbourne Cup third level colleges camogie title for the first time since 2001.
And they certainly did it the hard way, showing great spirit to beat the hosts, U.C.C., in Saturday's semi-final in the Mardyke before denying U.C.D. the three-in-a-row in the decider in Páirc Uí Rinn 24 hours later.
Wexford, and the Oulart-The Ballagh club in particular, figured prominently in the success, as the W.I.T. side was powered by Karen Atkinson at full-back, Stacey Redmond at midfield, and Ursula Jacob at full-forward.
Indeed, Redmond's performances were so good over the weekend that she was honoured with the prestigious player of the tournament accolade. Effective midfield play is clearly something of a family trait, as Stacey's older brother, David, currently occupies the same position with the Wexford Senior hurling team.
Redmond, Jacob and Atkinson, three All-Ireland Senior medal winners from 2007, were joined on the successful squad by Oulart-The Ballagh twins, Shelley and Stacey Kehoe, with the former making an appearance during Saturday's success.
Just for good measure, Helena Jacob was a mentor with the winning team, while the sixth Wexford panel member was Emer O'Leary from Buffers Alley.
U.C.D's Wexford trio of the Leacy sisters from Oulart-The Ballagh, centre-back Mary and full-forward Una, plus goalkeeper Mags D'Arcy (St. Martin's), were all seeking their third successive Ashbourne medals, but they were disappointed on this occasion as W.I.T. reversed the outcome of last year's decider in Casement Park, Belfast.
The eventual winners were first into action on Saturday, and Stacey Redmond fired over an early point before her clever delivery was brilliantly buried in the net by Ursula Jacob.
However, U.C.C. gradually gained a foothold, with Cork's All-Ireland winning duo, Cathríona Foley and Orla Cotter, leading the way along with free-taker Aoife McLoughney from Tipperary.
The hosts led by 1-5 to 1-4 at half-time, but W.I.T. were seething after a perfect goal was disallowed for a dubious square ball offence. However, they channelled their anger in the best possible way, scoring a tremendous 2-4 without reply in the third quarter including a peach of a goal from Ursula Jacob who calmly picked her spot in the far top corner of the net.
She finished with a personal tally of 2-5, with four of the points from frees, and although U.C.C. scored the last 1-2 in the game, W.I.T. deservedly held on to win by 3-9 to 2-9.
U.C.D. were the warmest of favourites for their semi-final with C.I.T. but, in hindsight, their average performance was an indicator of things to come. They relied on the classy Susie O'Carroll from Kildare, last year's player of the tournament, to give them a 0-5 to 0-2 interval lead, with Tipperary's Julie McGrath excelling at centreback for C.I.T.
However, the expected U.C.D. victory did materialise after Una Leacy notched a fine individual goal in the 33rd minute, and she added a point in a 1-14 to 1-5 victory.
The Belfield crew, managed by Willie Cleary of Clonard, still had high hopes of completing the three-timer, but there could be no arguments or complaints regarding the outcome of Sunday's final.
In short, the best team won after thundering into the holders from the off, with an early goal which was 'made in Wexford' giving them a lead they never relinquished.
Stacey Redmond picked out Ursula Jacob with a lovely delivery, and she in turn found Kilkenny's Michelle Quilty who handpassed the sliothar over the head of the advancing Mags D'Arcy.
Jacob, who was also chosen as an Ashbourne All Star, added three pointed frees as W.I.T. extended their lead to 1-6 to 0-1 by the break, and her fourth score widened the gap to seven points on the re-start.
Amazingly, it took until the 53rd minute for U.C.D. to score from play, with Una Leacy plucking a long delivery from the air and crashing the sliothar to the net to reduce arrears to 19 to 1-4.
W.I.T. packed their defence in the last ten minutes and came under heavy pressure as a result as their clearances were regularly returned with interest, but they defended with diligence and went wild with delight when referee Eamonn Browne sounded the final whistle.
Incidentally, there was also some Wexford involvement in the Shield semi-finals held in The Farm on Saturday, as the Garda College squad which lost to eventual winners N.U.I.G. included the third Kehoe sister from Oulart-The Ballagh in Ashbourne action, Sharon, as well as Áine Mullins from Bunclody and Laura Murphy of St. James' who now plays her club camogie with Ardkeen in Waterford.
W.I.T.: Kay Ryall (Kilkenny); Keeva Fennelly (Kilkenny, capt.), Karen Atkinson (Wexford), Therése Shortt (Tipperary); Pauline Cunningham (Waterford), Áine Fahy (Kilkenny), Kelly-Anne Cottrell (Kilkenny); Stacey Redmond (Wexford), Ann Dalton (Kilkenny, 0-1); Fiona Morrissey (Limerick), Collette Dormer (Kilkenny), Jenny Simpson (Waterford, 0-2); Susan Keane (Galway, 01), Ursula Jacob (Wexford, 0-4 frees), Michelle Quilty (Kilkenny, 11). Subs. - Marie-Therése O'Neill (Kilkenny), Ailish Dunphy ( Waterford), Shelley Kehoe (Wexford), Lorraine Keena (Offaly), Stacey Kehoe (Wexford), Emer O'Leary (Wexford), Charlene Norris (Kilkenny), Stacie Power (Kilkenny), Maeve O'Keeffe (Cork), Chloe Corraway (Kilkeny), Ciara Kehoe (Waterford), Áine Doran (Kilkenny), Ann-Marie Roche (Tipperary), Sheena Ryan (Tipperary).
U.C.D.: Mags D'Arcy (Wexford); Emma Dunne (Cork), Mairéad Luttrell (Tipperary), Therése Manton (Galway); Leann Fennelly (Kilkenny), Mary Leacy (Wexford), Elaine O'Neill (Kilkenny); Rena Buckley (Cork, capt.), Julianne Woodcock (Kilkenny); Charlotte Raher (Waterford), Alison Maguire (Dublin, 0-1), Fiona Phelan (Kilkenny); Susie O'Carroll (Kildare, 0-5, 4 frees, 1 '45), Una Leacy ( Wexford, 1-0), Emilie Darmody (Kilkenny). Subs. - Lena Monaghan (Galway) for Buckley (temp., twice), Denise McGrath (Westmeath) for Darmody, Lisa Abbey (Carlow) for Phelan, also Ash Byrne (Offaly), Iris Kaiser (Clare), Siobhán Magner (Kilkeny), Gráinne Desmond (Cork), Niamh Ní Chinnéide (Dublin), Maedhbh Bolger (Dublin), Gemma Reynolds (Dublin).
Referee: Eamonn Browne (Tipperary).