The Presentation Secondary School know all about the chilling wind of disappointment, but it is all sweetness and warmth this week.
The Loughboy, Kilkenny school condemned to the past tough defeats of recent times when they bridged a 19-year gap by winning the Post Primary Schools All-Ireland senior ‘A’ camogie title.
In the salubrious Parnells GAA grounds, Dublin, on Saturday the Presentation produced a performance full of pride and passion and laced with terrific skill to annex their fourth title - 1969, 1970 and 1995 - when putting brave St Mary’s, Magherafelt, to the sword.
“We have been waiting for this for so, so long it is hard to know exactly how you feel,” said full-forward and captain, Aisling Nolan, who was powerful when the team needed strong leaders during a testing closing quarter. “We are delighted. It was a great team effort.”
Team official, Mary McGrath concurred: “It was a super win. The girls never gave up. They fought every inch of the way. They really stepped up to the mark when they most needed to from about 10 minutes into the second half. That was a vital time in the match.
“The girls knew what they had to do; to dig deep, to keep digging, and they did it. They were exhausted nearing the finish, but they kept up the supreme effort. We have been knocking on the door for so long. We have been neck-and-neck with the Loreto Kilkenny for so long, but the girls picked themselves up and showed the real characters they are.
“The winning or losing of a match can be a couple of the girls standing up and taking charge of things. I can honestly say we had 15 players who did that. They were super. We are all so proud of all of them.”
The winners opened backed by the strong wind blowing right down the field. St Mary’s strategy was to withdraw an attacker and pack their defence. Consequently the early concessions came as a trickle....a fourth minute point to Orlaith Conlon after good work in the build up by Claire Nolan and Ailish Butler; a 7th minute point from a free by the sure striking Mary O’Connell; another free from O’Connell in the 12th minute.
The big moment in the half arrived in the 17th minute. The St Mary defence was prised open. A ball drilled in from the right wing by Eimear Donnelly broke in front of goal for Aisling Nolan. The captain pulled first time on the ground ball. The net danced.
The Presentation advantage soared to 1-5 to no score. St Mary’s opened their account moments later with a point from a free from the talented Kirsty McLeod. The losers were confined to scant pickings up front, in part because of their game plan, but also because they were suffocated on the opposing ‘40’ by a supreme Presentation line of Eimear Corr, Ailish Butler and Rachel Phelan.
By half-time the lovely striking Mary O’Connell had six points in the bag. The Presentation had an advantage of 1-7 to 0-3.
St Mary’s burst from the traps after the restart. Eimear McGuigan picked off an early point. McLeod fuelled the charge with a very good strike to add a second one. By the time Aine McAllister added a third in the 37th minute they were moving really well, threatening seriously (1-7 to 0-6).
The Presentation girls needed a lift. Skipper Nolan boosted spirits when she crashed a shot from the left against the near upright. O’Connell then tested ’keeper Una McKeown, who blocked out a long range free.
The thing was, these ‘near misses’ helped the Pres regain a good momentum, which turned out to be a winning momentum. And as with any good team, it became a mighty one when a few became inspiring figures. Centre-back Ailish Butler became a dominant force; Ciara Farrell hurled up the proverbial storm; Michaela Kenneally did as she had done from the start, she cleaned up in front of goal; Mary O’Connell and Nolan drove way beyond the ordinary too.
As the force of the Presentation effort hit storm level, St Mary’s, for all their good, determined play, made little or no headway. A 40th minute foul on Aoife T. Farrell was turned into a pressure relieving point by Mary O’Connell.
Two minutes later St Mary’s were dealt a near fatal blow. A ball blocked out by the goalie from a Claire Nolan shot was flashed to the net from the edge of the square by Aoife T. Farrell. The score: 2-8 to 0-6.
It was all but celebration time for the Presentation. There was a lot of hard work - chasing, blocking, hooking, tackling - to be done. These hungry Cats had the appetite for it. They laboured to their final breath and locked the door shut on good opponents.
The five players mentioned above were the top end performers; Rachel Phelan and Eimear Corr would have led the next batch of high achievers, but it was a day when the sun shone for all in the black and amber (the Pres had to change from their sky blue strip because of a colours clash).
Scorers: Presentation Kilkenny - Mary O’Connell (0-7, five frees); Aisling Nolan, Aoife T. Farrell (1-0 each); Orlaith Conlon, Claire Nolan (0-1 each). St Mary’s - Kirsty McLeod (0-6, three frees, one 45); Eimear McGuigan (0-2, one free); Ciara Scullion, (0-1).
Presentation Kilkenny - Roisin Walsh, Sarah Walsh, Michaela Kenneally, Maeve O’Connor, Eimear Corr, Ailish Butler, Rachel Phelan, Ciara Farrell, Alice Talbot, Eimear Donnelly, Mary O’Connell, Claire Nolan, Aoife T. Farrell, Aisling Nolan (capt), Orlaith Conlon. Subs - Aoife Walsh, Aoife Brasil, Grainne Walsh, Ciara Tracey, Jenny O’Neill, Ciara Phelan, Jackie Rainey, Ciara Murphy, Aoife B. Farrell, Margaret O’Connell, Blathnaid Galway, Eadaoin Murphy, Ronelle Henderson, Tamsin English.
Management - Mary McGrath, Jenny Reddy, John Dooley, Pat Ryan.
St Mary’s - U. McKeown, A. Mulholland, M. Diamond, M. Kearns, F. Burke, R. Bradley, N. Conway, K. McLeod, U. McEvoy, J. Donnelly, N. Clerkin, C. McAuley, C. Scullion, E. McGuigan, A. McAlister. Subs - C. Mulholland for McAuley; O. Brown for Mulholland.