Fairytale finish by Bunclody
Bunclody 4-7 - St. Martin's 3-9
Sometimes sport is murky, agenda-driven, nonsense. Smattered with its ego-driven coaches so desperate to be noticed, gagging for the next hollow pat on the back, ready to stamp on whoever gets in their way. We've all come across these people.
But then something truly pure, something wrapped in an almost inconceivable beauty, happens out of nowhere. The unbridled joy is so natural, the pain of losing so obviously raw. It's why we all love sport, as the supreme highs are so, so close to the desperate lows.
Sunday in St. Patrick's Park was one of those memorably magic moments for Bunclody. All looked lost as this Under-16 camogie Premier championship final ticked well into added-time. Eight points down and pretty much beaten, there seemed to be only one winner.
Step up Deirbhile Ní Cheallaigh. The Bunclody attacker had looked really dangerous after moving into full-forward. She scored a couple of nice points but that seemed to be the sum of her afternoon's work as time ticked away.
Then bang, Aoife Mahon's ball broked her way in the 63rd minute and she rifled it past Hannah Quirke, not really game on, more of a consolation strike. Not only did Ní Cheallaigh have other ideas, but so did her team-mates.
Kate Kirwan won the ball after the next puck-out, drove forward and picked out Ní Cheallaigh. She had so much to do when she gained possession but it didn't faze her. Bang, an unstoppable shot across goal to the top corner.
Suddenly the crowd were in the game, St. Martin's were nervous and Aiden O'Brien looked at his watch in the fourth minute of four he was going to add. Just get the ball to Ní Cheallaigh must have been the Bunclody thought.
And then they did. Maeve Sinnott and Muireann Doyle were involved in finding the diminutive starlet. Just a yard of space she needed, just a few feet even, and she found them running to her right on the '20. Bang, low to the net, three goals, less than 120 seconds.
Disbelieving, stunned celebrations followed the full-time whistle after the next puck-out. It's hard to know which side was more shocked, St. Martin's after getting pipped or Bunclody who came from nowhere to become champions.
It was also a timely reminder that there are plenty of selfless volunteers left around the place and sometimes good things happen to them. Seamie Kelly and his team have worked tirelessly with these girls and this must have been a particularly special moment for them too.
There was no sense of what was to follow when Aoife Dempsey plucked Ciara Bridges' ball out of the air and rattled it past Michaela Murphy. Niamh Cullen made it 1-2 to nil but Muireann Doyle diverted Mahon's long ball to the St. Martin's net to give her side hope.
A couple of Mahon points aside, the Piercestown-based club dominated the rest of the half. Aoibhinn Mernagh picked off a pair, as did Cullen, while Aisling Alouf and Amy O'Leary raised white flags to send their side in 1-8 to 1-2 ahead.
Bunclody, with the breeze, dominated the early stages of the second-half but only had Ní Cheallaigh and Mahon points to show for their efforts. Hopes looked forlorn when O'Leary pulled to the net after Murphy saved Dempsey's initial shot.
With seven minutes left Muireann Doyle's shot just crossed the line and it gave St. Martin's a 3-9 to 1-6 lead. When Ní Cheallaigh popped over a 58th-minute point there was still eight between the sides and very little time left.
However, sport respects no script and Ní Cheallaigh's sheer brilliance won the day for the new county champions. In the cold light of day, someone in Bunclody will sit down with the video and work out exactly how many seconds passed between the first and last of her treble. This final will live long in club lore.
Finally, for St. Martin's, the runners-up, nothing can change what happened and nothing gives the girls a county title that they were so close to taking. If there is any consolation at all, it's that they were involved in one of the most dramatic finishes this county has ever seen on a G.A.A. pitch.
HWH-Bunclody: Michaela Murphy; Tracey Furling, Yvonne Kelly, Naomi Kavanagh; Kayla Nolan, Kate Kirwan (capt.), Aisling Cowman; Maeve Sinnott, Lisa Kelly; Aoife Mahon (0-4, 2 frees, 1 '45), Deirbhile Ní Cheallaigh (3-3), Róisín O'Sullivan; Kate Doyle, Rachel Murphy, Muireann Doyle (1-0). Subs. - Rebecca Murphy for K. Doyle (38), Megan O'Neill for O'Sullivan (55), Aoife Murphy for Kavanagh (57), also Laoise Kearney, Orla Bialko, Jacqui Kehoe, Rachel Kehoe, Jasmine Dundon.
St. Martin's: Hannah Quirke; Chloe Doyle, Ciara Banville, Aoife Bridges; Fiona Esmonde (joint capt.), Clodagh Walsh, Clare Barrett; Ciara Bridges (0-1), Ciara O'Connor; Amy O'Leary (1-1), Aisling Alouf (joint capt., 0-2), Aoife O'Connor; Aoibhinn Mernagh (1-2), Aoife Dempsey (1-0), Niamh Cullen (0-3). Subs.- Eileen Rowe for Cullen (60), Ellen Ormonde for Mernagh (60+2), also Jane Sinnott, Sarah Hobbert.
Referee: Aiden O'Brien (Cloughbawn).
New Ross Standard