The Sign of a Great Team

Posted on September 13, 2011

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Wexford captain Ursula Jacob gets to grips with the O'Duffy Cup on Sunday. Enda finds something very amusing in the background. (Image from GAA.ie)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a different Sunday to the previous week. Shifting from a crowd of 82,000 to just less than 15,000, Camogie All Ireland Final is an altogether different beast to its male counterpart. A largely family tuned day, the sounds of children filled every corner of the Hogan Stand.

Like last year, Wexford Camogie exhibited its strength in numbers by having not one, but two teams performing on the biggest GAA stage in the land, – the Intermediates , following on from a bitter disappointment last year, the Seniors seeking their third title in five years and impressive back to back honours.

This year, like last year, Wexford came into the senior final with a League Title – there was talk of another double this year – League and Championship. Wexford ran out a good Championship campaign after a slightly ropey start with a loss to Galway. The thought must have played on their minds and it was obvious all week that it had played on the media’s mind because all the talk was about Galway.

The Intermediates ran out convincing winners with only Jane Adams, Antrim’s full forward and captain keeping her team in the running with an exhibition of score and free taking. While there were many contenders for Player of the Match, Adams was a deserving winner after her tally of 15 points.

In a sense, this result showed Wexford’s dominance just as much as the senior result. This result showed that not only is there more than one quality camogie team in Wexford, there is now, effectively, two senior quality teams and a number of this Intermediate team will be knocking on the door for Senior game time next year so competition for those places will be tight.

The senior was an entirely different affair. Where the Intermediates were in control throughout, the seniors looked, at times, to be about to relinquish their crown. A lacklustre first half saw them leading by only two points at half time. It had been said during the week that we might be looking at a low scoring, dogged encounter and the first half did little to suggest otherwise.

A great run by Kate Kelly gave Wexford their first score, a goal, from Una Leacy’s well-struck penalty but scores were hard-fought for after that. The swirling wind that usually inhabits Croke Park was made even more difficult to navigate with the gusty wind that we were attributing to our September hurricane.

One has to feel for Galway after the game on Sunday. It was their fifth final since 1996 (the last and only year they won the All Ireland) and to have played so well but still come up short must be a bitter disappointment for them. For large parts of the game they were the better team. They were more clinical, they had more structure up front and only for the wind which played havoc with everyone’s day, they could have been leading at half time.

But the manner in which Wexford ground out their win has to be applauded. They never panicked and, sitting in the stand, I was always confident that when it came down to it, one moment would go their way and they would come out the other side relatively unscathed. It is the sign of a great team when, though having not played particularly well, they have the guts and composure to hold out and deliver a killer blow.

As it happened, Galway’s goal was the moment to rejuvenate the Wexford team. Driven perhaps by the ever looming final whistle, Wexford suddenly kicked into life, notching over a few points before captain Ursula Jacob popped up with the crucial score – a superbly taken goal out of a cross-field ball from Josie Dwyer. From there, Wexford never looked back.

As was said on The Sunday Game it was difficult to pinpoint specific performances, such was the dogged nature of the game. Had Galway been the winning side, there is no doubt that Therese Maher would have garnered the accolade after a superb performance in centre back. Equally her equivalent on the Wexford team, Mary Leacy turned in her usual, solid display, managing to get her clearances away but always managing to look like she had acres of space and unlimited time in which to do so.

Una Leacy and Ursula Jacob were excellent up front as was Player of the Match Kate Kelly who drew frees like an artist draws outlines.

For the second year in a row, Wexford folk lined the Quays with flags in hand and a smile on their faces. We are starting to enjoy these annual homecomings and no doubt the team themselves can think of nothing they would prefer to do on a windy September evening.

This time next year, perhaps we’ll be saluting the heroines of a great ‘Three in a Row’.

For now though, we’ll settle for the double-double.

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