Tuesday 15 October 2019

Fear factor gone for O'Connor as Martin's target promised land


St Martin’s Katie O’Connor is looking forward to taking on Derry’s Slaughtneil
in theAll-Ireland senior camogie club championship final at Croke Park tomorrow. Photo: INPHO
St Martin’s Katie O’Connor is looking forward to taking on Derry’s Slaughtneil in theAll-Ireland senior camogie club championship final at Croke Park tomorrow. Photo: INPHO

Shane Stapleton

Katie O'Connor feels that St Martin's are no longer afraid of the big days.

Since JJ Doyle took over the side, the pace of the team's progress has been astounding. They've won the Wexford senior camogie title for the past two seasons and followed that up with a maiden Leinster crown in 2018.

They've since gone on to beat Inniscarra in the AIB All-Ireland club semi-final, and are just 60 minutes away from a first national club title. No team from the parish has ever been to this stage before, and O'Connor feels her side are now ready.

At the end of 2017, the Piercetown side qualified for the Leinster final against Thomastown, and came up short.

Twelve months on, they ended the Kilkenny outfit's three-in-a-row bid, and they will now try to do the same against treble-chasing Slaughtneil.

"We met Thomastown last year and there was probably a bit of a fear factor with them because we knew they had some big names, some strong players," O'Connor said at the AIB All-Ireland senior and intermediate camogie club championships media day.

"We were probably a bit afraid and maybe just happy to be in a Leinster final, and I don't think we fully believed that we could win.

"Whereas this year we realised that we are up there with them, and we're capable of beating them and thank God we did."

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In terms of kicking on this season, O'Connor feels that lessons were learned and that manager JJ has been a key component in their rise.

"We probably gained some confidence from last year, that bit of belief. JJ has always tried to instil belief into us. From the first day he came in, he said to us that we don't realise the potential that we have here.

"I think this year we started to realise we were well capable of competing with all these big teams.

"JJ has been everything," she adds of the three-time All-Ireland-winning camogie boss of Wexford, and the three-time Leinster winner with the men's U-21s.

"I think the potential was always there, but he brought it out of us, and probably sooner than most people thought we were capable of.

"He has been involved with great teams throughout the years, so he knows how to win, and I think he taught us how to win."

O'Connor captained the side to county and provincial glory at the end of 2018, in a team also boasting the talents of goalkeeper Mags D'Arcy, former county full-back Noeleen Lambert, rising star Ciara O'Connor, and attacking threats such as Chloe Foxe. It's a team with an exciting blend of youth and experience.

"We couldn't ask for any better leaders," O'Connor said of D'Arcy and Lambert. "

"We didn't have Noeleen last year, and we got her back this year, so that was a massive boost for the team.

"Noeleen is one of the hardest-working players I have come across.

"When we won the All-Ireland semi-final, I said to her 'I'd say you never thought you were going back to Croke Park after your county career ended, and she was delighted too.

"We like space, we like to run, we like to move the ball," says O'Connor of why Croke Park will suit St Martin's.

"We don't like very condensed pitches, ruck balls, and all of that. So yeah, I think Croke Park will suit us and all of the youth that we have."

The sides have never faced each other before, and O'Connor insists that they know very little about the two-time All-Ireland winners.

Martin's will be focusing on their own game, and hoping it's enough for a landmark win.

"To us and for the parish, it would mean a lot. We are the first team from St Martin's to ever be in a club All-Ireland, so we have a lot of backing behind us. It would mean everything, you always dream of winning All-Ireland titles, but you never really think of what's beyond that, but now we're here. We're delighted and excited."

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