Louth found the going hard in the Leinster Junior Camogie Championship final against Wicklow in Aughrim last Sunday afternoon as the home side successfully defended their provincial title ahead of the Nancy Murray Cup.
It was the Wee County who Wicklow got the better of in O’Moore Park in Portlaoise in 2019 in a belter of a game last time out, but the arrival of Covid-19 put paid to the competition for two years. Thankfully, albeit a limited exercise in the sense that there is only one game, it returned this year and the Garden County proved to be a step too far for Pauric Dowdall’s brave side.
Had this game taken place a month or two ago things might have been different, but with the Wicklow camp being boosted by a number of key players from county champions Knockananna it made Louth’s job all the more difficult.
A tally of 24 points is very respectable and when you throw in 11 wides and five shots dropped short you get an indication of the dominance of this Wicklow side.
Ciara Byrne started like a train, firing over the opening two scores, the first after she cut inside her marker, the second following a pass from Manley who showed silky skill to control the ball.
Laura Hogan, the orchestrator of many of the positive elements of Wicklow’s play, bagged the third score, a fine effort from distance, before three from Laura Manley (one free) made it 0-6 to 0-0.
Three wides followed for the home side before excellent work from Aine Connell on Ciara Byrne prevented Wicklow from scoring the first major of the game.
Two Katie Tyrrell points followed, the second off a superb save from Louth’s Mairead McGahon, and then Ciara Byrne landed her third of the game just before Laura Hogan rifled over a bomb that probably landed several miles away given the force of the strike. 0-11 to 0-0 after 22 minutes.
Louth enjoyed a decent spell in the next five minutes. A Jane McKeon free dropped short and an Aideen Dunne effort was blocked by the excellent Jessie Byrne before McKeon fired over a 45 to get the Wee County up and running after 27 minutes.
Sarah Lifely produced a fine block in the next move to thwart the mini revival for the visitors and Wicklow struck back with two tasty scores of their own.
Jane McKeon added Louth’s second after 31 to send the sides into the half-time break with Wicklow leading 0-12 to 0-2, but with Louth having the benefit of the breeze in the second half.
But Wicklow weren’t going to allow any resurgence on their home patch, and they continued in the same vein as they had started by bringing huge energy to the exchanges and then using intelligent passing and movement to create space and attacks for the sharpshooters to benefit from.
Laura Hogan rifled over right from the throw in, then added another before Ciara Byrne delivered a wonderful strike to make it 0-15 to 0-2.
Credit to the visitors, they never once shrank from the battle, with Mairead McGahon brave on the line and the defence and midfield always willing and always doing their best to try to curtail the dominant Wicklow women.
The sides meet in the Nancy Murray Cup on July 23 in Louth.
Louth: Mairead McGahon; Daire Hoey, Clodagh Fennell, Aine Connell; Ellen McCarthy, Ann McCormack, Niamh Cunningham; Aideen Dunne, Jane McKeon (0-3, 1 45, 2f); Niamh Fennell, Sinead Boyle, Orla McGeeney; Niamh McComish, Antoinette Maher, Grainne Mackin. Subs: Nicole Vultur for A Dunne (H/T), Megan Malone for E McCarthy (51), Niamh Connor for A Connell (53), Daire Hoey for O Feeney (inj).