Tipperary Minors Camogie All Ireland Champions 2011

by David Kelly

TIPPERARY broke Kilkenny hearts with a resilient second half masterstroke of titanic proportions.

Stomachs churned and hearts wrenched as the home support prayed and willed Nicole Walsh’s 59th minute free over the bar-agony gradually replaced by ecstasy as the ball drifted ever nearer the black spot.

Tipperary Camogie Minors All Ireland 2011

The Premier County staged a sensational fightback to overturn a nine point deficit, outscoring the Cats by 3-4 to 0-3. Tipperary started superbly with Sarah Fryday’s long range effort sneaking past a luckless Aine Kinsella. However, the home side failed to register another score for the remainder of the half, as Brendan Williams and Vincent Sheil’s combined charges asserted control in virtually all areas of the field.

The Kilkenny half-forward line soon found their running game, aided by impeccable delivery from the outstanding Grace Walsh and Kelly Hamilton. Points from Claire Phelan, Orla Hanrick, and Aisling Curtis drew Kilkenny level, but crucially they were finding and exploiting gaps. Claire Phelan dispatched a low drive to the corner of the net to seize the initiative. Points from Miriam Walsh and Curtis had Tipperary further adrift, before Orla Hanrick pounced to raise another green flag on the stroke of half-time. Tipperary trailed by 2-6 to 1-0 at the interval.

Tipperary were in complete disarray. They looked a mere shadow of the side that took the game so valiantly to Clare (in the semi-final) when serious questions were asked. Heads dropped with every concession, their first touch was simply not good enough. You’d be forgiven for thinking this game had gone beyond their reach, nothing more than a lost cause, damage limitation some might say. But ultimately you’d be proven wrong on all fronts-and in some style.

Tim Maher and Andy Ryan rang the changes at half-time. Anne Eviston, Teresa Ryan, Tara Kennedy, Alice Fogarty, and Mairead Teehan all entered the fray at various stages. Tipperary needed a leader, someone to stand up and be counted-and they found it in Sarah Fryday. Fryday burst forward with intent, and despite taking several blows, she had the awareness and confidence to drill the ball home from the edge of the 21. The crowd responded with chants and urgency, and when Brid Quinn (captain) pointed from close range, they knew the lead was manageable. A Nicole Walsh free was cleared into the path of Michaela Graham. Her effort whisked beyond the desperate reach of Kinsella, the lead was now down to two. Substitute Tara Kennedy cut it to a solitary point minutes later.

It looked as if Tipperary would kick on from here. However, Kilkenny refused to wilt and points from Lydia Fitzpatrick (2) and substitute Emma Kavanagh saw them re-establish a healthy four point advantage with 10 minutes remaining. Nicole Walsh netted for the home side after a surging dart forward. The narrowest of margins again separated the sides. Caoimhe Maher popped a hand-pass to Alice Fogarty, and when she levelled the tie, the crowd rallied the troops for one final assault. Nicole Walsh stood over a 45m free with one minute remaining. The crowd hushed as all the weight fell on Walsh’s shoulders. As the saying goes: “score and you will always be remembered, miss and you will never be forgotten”. It’s a savage burden that no sportswoman should have to deal with. Would it enter her mind, is she nervous?

Calmness personified-she nailed it.

Tipperary had a number of key performers on the day. The full-back line (Julie Ann Bourke, Sheila Ryan, and Louise McLoughlin) repealed and broke up numerous Kilkenny attacks in the second half, despite a shaky opening. Sarah Fryday impressed with her composure and speed, her second half goal being a major turning point. Substitutes Anne Eviston, Teresa Ryan, Tara Kennedy, Alice Fogarty, and Mairead Teehan worked a treat when introduced. Teresa Ryan worked tirelessly to keep the Kilkenny forward line at bay. Alice Fogarty changed the game in Tipp’s favour with her pace and strength causing countless problems for the Kilkenny defence. Congratulations to Tim Maher (Manager), Andy Ryan (Coach), Maureen Connolly, and Clodagh Loughnane (Selectors). Huge plaudits must also go to the home support that travelled in such vast numbers. It was immensely appreciated by players and management alike. Hopefully you can share in this terrific victory.

It was a day where Tipperary entered the game as girls, but left as women.

Tipperary: O. McEniry, J-A. Bourke, S. Ryan, L. McLoughlin, C. Quirke, A. Cremin, M. Barry, B. Quinn (Cpt. (0-1)), C. Maher, A. Loughnane, E. Fryday, N. Walsh (1-1, 1 free), S. Fryday (2-0), M. Graham (1-0), C. McGrath. Subs used: T. Kennedy (0-1), M. Teehan, T. Ryan, A. Eviston, A. Fogarty (0-1).

Tipperary Star Player of the Match: Louise McLoughlin (Silvermines)

Referee: Mike O’ Kelly (Cork)

Andy Ryan (Coach) on the turning point: “The subs were a vital part; they were always going to be. Sarah’s goal set down the marker in the second half and we rallied well. I felt we were settled in the dressing room, but it was a different ball game in the first half.”

Home support: “The support we had was inspirational. The crowd roaring after Sarah’s goal got us motoring again; it was worth two goals in its own right. The Tipp support has been excellent all along, be it U16 or minor. I can’t praise them enough.”

Camogie photos by Mike Ryan available on Irishmediastore.com

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