Despite having to field with just the bare 15 starting players in a resplendent Templetuohy last Sunday afternoon, Clanmaurice came within a puck of the ball of holding on to their hard-earned All-Ireland junior camogie silverware, but it was the 2019 runners-up, Raharney from Westmeath, who gained sweet revenge for their defeat in the last final of the competition, which was played a few months before Covid came to disrupt not only sport, but all aspects of life in general.
The midlanders are worthy champions, and Clanmaurice manager Mike Enright sportingly acknowledged this at the end of what was a titanic struggle, but it could so easily have been green and black ribbons again on the Fil Mhic Giolla Bhríde Cup at 3.30pm last Sunday in the Moyne/Templetuohy grounds.
Indeed, there may well have been no need for Patrice Diggin to try and blast a goal from a 25 metre-free in added-time, and unsuccessfully try a short pass for another three-pointer from a similar distance with time almost up, had a few gilt-edged opportunities been taken in the first half.
Overall, the girls in all-blue were more economical, finishing the game with a mere two wides (one in either half) compared with the deposed champions’ six, four of which came in the first moiety. Two missed chances in particular, both coming in the second quarter, will haunt Clanmaurice for a while – not that they will have long to dwell on the defeat with the delayed 2021 campaign starting in a matter of days.
In the 23rd minute, Aoife Behan missed the target from a very good position after fine approach work from Edel Slattery. Two minutes later, a superb long-range delivery by Sara Murphy (whose crisp striking from the ground and in open play was one of the features of the match) was fielded by the ever-threatening Jackie Horgan and when she bore down on goal, she seemed certain to raise a green flag. However, Anna Weir somehow got a leg to the sliotar and deflected it out for a ‘45’ (which Horgan converted). Had this extra 1-1 – at a minimum – been added to the losers’ tally at that crucial juncture of the contest, Raharney would have faced an uphill struggle.
However, as Enright magnanimously conceded, the Lake County representatives are a gutsy bunch and having let the drawn final in 2019 slip somewhat from their grasp, Padraic Connaughton’s charges were always going to fight tooth and nail to make it a case of ‘second time lucky’.
And so they did, with Weir’s brave goalkeeping rescuing them again from Diggin’s first well-struck late free. Up front, they had a real livewire in the diminutive but highly effective Hannah Core, whose 1-2 fittingly earned her the official ‘player of the match’ award.
For all the info trotted out by modern statisticians, sport is about taking chances when they present themselves. The scoreboard never lies. Raharney did this better than Clanmaurice last Sunday. Accordingly, they are worthy champions, while the tantalising prospect remains of another clash between two very well-drilled teams in the weeks ahead should they both successfully defend their provincial titles.