Wednesday 23 January 2019

Champions prevail

Knockananna 2-12 Donard-The Glen 3-8

Knockananna captain Sinead Byrne is presented with the league cup by Chairperson of Wicklow Camogie Breda Byrne
Knockananna captain Sinead Byrne is presented with the league cup by Chairperson of Wicklow Camogie Breda Byrne

Brendan Lawrence at Joule Park, Aughrim

Knockananna survived a stern test from Donard-The Glen to capture the Senior camogie league crown after a tough battle in sweltering heat in Joule Park Aughrim last Tuesday evening.

On a dry, crisp sod, both teams were slow to get to the pitch of what a Senior league final would be expected to be but the lack of game time for both sides was evident with the standard of play improving dramatically as the game wore on.

The tight game and the dramatic finish where Donard-The Glen just couldn't catch Knockananna thanks to two late wonderful points from full-forward Sarah Byrne could be just the shot in the arm that the camogie scene in Wicklow needs and it also suggests that the inevitable championship meeting between these two sides will be packed full of drama and excitement from the word go.

A really positive start from Donard-The Glen looked to have been quashed when Knockananna had opened a 0-6 to 0-3 lead close to the end of the opening half.

Both sides were guilty of some wayward passing, poor striking and general lacklustre play but Hannah O'Neill's wicked goal right at the death of the first half injected new life into the Donard-The Glen challenge and left Knockananna in no doubt that they were in a game.

Kelly O'Neill opened the scoring with a beautiful point after Clair Whelan had fired an early wide and Macayla Murphy in the Knockananna goal had been called into action early on to make a save.

Sinead Byrne levelled matters a few moments later and she also gave Knockananna the lead shortly afterwards from a 45 and the outstanding Sarah Byrne made it 0-3 to 0-1 after 13 minutes for the reigning county champions.

This period of dominance for Knockananna had a lot to do with the work rate of Ciara Byrne, Shannagh Goetelen, Claire Byrne and Emily O'Reilly around the middle third while Aine O'Keeffe was proving very strong at full-back.

Eireann Moules increased that lead after good work from Emily O'Reilly and Sinead Byrne but then Donard-The Glen grabbed a foothold in the game.

Sophie Mills swung over an outstanding score after 23 minutes of the first half and this was followed by a swift reply from Knockananna midfielder Shannagh Goetelen to make it 0-5 to 0-2.

Donard-The Glen were growing more and more into the game as the first half matured and Knockananna goalkeeper Macayla Murphy was called into action again after 25 when she saved from Hannah O'Neill only for Clair Whelan to fire over and reduce the lead to two points.

A quality score from Sarah Byrne who was alternating between full-forward and centre half made it double scores but then Hannah O'Neill showed her class when she fired a rocket to the back of the Knockananna net to level the game as the half-time whistle sounded.

Things were looking sweet for Tom Byrne's side when Sinead Byrne blasted home past the excellent Lindsey Walsh in the Donard-The Glen goal to make it 1-9 to 1-4 after eight minutes of the second half but Donard-The Glen came roaring back into this game with points from Clair Whelan from a 45 and then Hannah O'Neill's second goal which Macayla Murphy was unable to keep out.

Then, in what was a fair reflection of the play at this stage, Donard-The Glen surged ahead thanks to a two Clair Whelan points (one free, one 45).

But Knockananna possess a steel and a reserve that is hard to dismiss or conquer. A stunning goal from the impressive Ciara Byrne annihilated the Donard-The Glen lead and propelled Knockananna two points in front before a lovely Dervla Byrne point extended that lead to three.

But more drama was to follow. Kellie O'Neill's goal after 56 minutes levelled matters again and the game was anybody's at this stage. What was needed was for someone to stand up and grab the game by the scrufff of the neck and across both teams there was no shortage of such players but Knockananna possessed the jewel in the crown in the shape of Sarah Byrne.

The devilish full-forwardswept over two excellent scores to give Knockananna some breathing space and although Sive Byrne would grab one back it would be too late as a Cathy Forde sounded the final whistle shortly afterwards to signal a Knockananna victory after a humdinger of a second half.

Wicklow Camogie Chairperson Breda Byrne presented the league cup to Knockananna camogie captain Sinead Byrne following the game.

Plenty to work on for both sides over the coming weeks prior to championship. Lots of positives to take from the game as well. Knockananna were well served by Aine Byrne at full-back while Sarah Tallon was excellent. Ciara Byrne and Sinead Byrne impressed at times and Sarah Byrne looks set to have the championship of her life.

Their wides tally of 11 for the game will be something to work on in the coming weeks while they will be pleased with winning 13 of Donard-The Glen's puck-outs and turning them over 12 times.

Donard-The Glen will reflect positively on fine performances from Hannah O'Neill, Clair Whelan, Sive Byrne and Sophie Mills while Lindsey Walsh was superb in the goals.

Work will need to be done in the context of the puck-outs. They only won four of Knockananna's restarts and eight of their own while they only registered five wides.

Most pleasing for the west side will be their work rate as they turn over Knockananna possession 14 times in this game showing that there is a hunger present and that sets us up for a very interesting championship ahead.

Scorers - Knockananna: Sarah Byrne 0-6 (1f), Sinead Byrne 1-2 (1f), Ciara Byrne 1-1, Shannagh Goetelen 0-1, Dervla Byrne 0-1, Eireann Moules.

Donard-The Glen: Hannah O'Neill 2-0, Clair Whelan 0-4 (2 45, 1f), Kelly O'Neill 1-1, Sive Byrne 0-2, Sophie Mills 0-1

Knockananna: Macayla Murphy; Niamh Byrne, Aine O'Keeffe, Sarah Tallon; Emily Hadden, Claire Byrne, Orla Kealy; Shannagh Goetelen, Ciara Byrne; Dervla Byrne, Sinead Byrne, Emily O'Reilly; Niamh Mutton, Sarah Byrne, Eireann Moules. Subs: Heather Tallon, Loretta Mutton.

Donard-The Glen: Lindsey Walsh; Carmel Whelan, Katie Daynes, Lizzie Brophy; Casey Kelly, Mollie McCormack, Sive Byrne; Sophie Mills, Amy Switzer, Kelly O'Neill; Clair Whelan, Hannah O'Neill, Lillie May Cullen Dunne. Katie Ann O'Neill, Emer KellyIzzy Keenaghan.

Referee: Cathy Forde

Bray People