Glorious Naas are County Senior Camogie Champions   03/10/2018

Senior Camogie county final


Glorious Naas are county senior champions


Naas 4-6 Johnstownbridge 0-14


You’d want to go to war with warriors. We saw warriors on Sunday. Names that now go down in history. The word on the street before the game was that this Naas squad represented the future. The future arrived on Sunday. 


As Harry Potter said “It’s old magic”. Naas came through this inferno mostly due to the old magic - grit and heart and sheer bloody-mindedness. And their skills held up under the most intense pressure imaginable. Previous heart-stopping episodes pale when set against Sunday’s titantic struggle and towering performance from the young Naas squad.


Before an inspiring – and inspired – Naas throng (the match had to be delayed due to traffic congestion) on a beautiful Clane sod, Naas eventually emerged with a merited four point win over the all-Ireland champions. Naas now drive on to play St Rynaghs in Banagher on Sunday week 14th October at 2pm in the Leinster intermediate quarter final. 


This Naas squad have travelled some distance over 45 matches in 2018. From Leinster league victory over Celbridge in late January when Emily Quinn was brilliant at full-back, to Lorna Kearns’ tour de force against Nurney in April, to Siofra Mernagh’s famous goal against Palmerstown, to Emer Hegarty’s display against Laurence’s in the league and Kate Doorey’s brilliance against St Olafs, to Zarah McGeever’s heroics against Cuala, Kerrie Lewis’ points against Kilcock, Niamh Hegarty on the first day against Johnstownbridge, Ciara Brown over in Dunlavin against Donard, Gráinne Dowling against Kilrush in Maynooth, Ellen O’Boyle in the drawn semi-final, Anna Kennedy against Kilmacud, Roisin Tobin in the semi-final replay, Ciara Perkins against St Brigids, Ciara Friel versus Lough Lene, the outstanding Hannah Cusack against Laurence’s and particularly Tara Breen and Molly Ryan in the championship quarter-final in Maynooth, without whom Naas would not be county champions today.


Even the greatest die-hard Hoops supporters must have feared the worst when the reigning champions Johnstownbridge drew to within a point of Naas after 51 minutes (3-4 to 0-12). Unbelievably, Naas went on to outscore the westerners by 1-2 to 0-2 over the remaining 19 minutes of play into the teeth of the fresh breeze. The Naas defensive block of Caoimhe Maher, Niamh Tuohy, Kelly Perkins, Maria Doyle, Joelenne Hoary, Anna Blake, Ailbhe Ryan, Amanda Davitt and Aoife Fitzgerald refused to buckle and will be forever remembered around Naas for what they achieved in those final minutes. Leaders. Not a backward step.


Lucky were those who were privileged to have been there. The scenes of un-confined joy at the final whistle were a testament to the heroic deeds that had unfolded before their eyes.


A first county title in two generations. It took every ounce and every sinew. Beyond epic.


For the statisticians, the resilient Naas back-four conceded 0-2 from open play in the 70 minutes, while the Naas full-forward smash-and-grab operators took the Johnstownbridge defence for 4-0. Therein lies the essential tale of the day. Naas were completely on top around the two goalmouths while Johnstownbridge had huge strength and experience in the middle eight. In the final analysis, Naas hung in out the field and did enough hurling to break even in that sector over the hour. It took some guts and effort against the outstanding champions.


By this stage, everybody knows that Naas, having importantly won the toss and elected to play with the strong breeze, pickpocketed three first half goals from Sarah Cullen, Hannah Goodfellow and Tara Bedford. These goals, along with points from deadly sharpshooter Áine Conway meant that Naas went in at the break 3-4 to 0-7 ahead. Still in the balance however.


Naas, crucially, had the first score after half-time when Áine Conway – whose gran-aunt Kathleen Kelly was on the last Naas winning team in 1959 - converted a free to put Naas seven up (3-5 to 0-7). Then the screw was turned and things got a lot more complicated as Johnstownbridge finally realised that all their titles were on the line and slipping away. Johnstownbridge got six points on the trot (while Naas went scoreless for 20 minutes) but could not find the goal they needed. Naas bent but did not break. In the face of impending doom, Joelenne Hoary made an outstanding save to deflect a bullet onto the post and into Anne Blake’s grateful hand and away down the field. It was probably the game’s defining moment. The smallest of margins make the greatest of differences. The Naas defence stayed in the moment and gradually got to grips with the massive challenge. The defensive block held.


Conway had two more laser-like frees from long range before Johnstownbridge whittled it down to a single point again deep into injury time (3-6 to 0-14). But this Naas team never surrender and, astoundingly, began to re-assert their superiority all over the pitch in the final moments. Johnstownbridge had thrown everything at the magnificent Naas rearguard but ultimately couldn’t scale the castle walls. Hoary’s goal remained intact as Naas players stood up to be counted all over the pitch roared on by their faithful following.


In the final legendary seconds, with the amateur whistlers giving it their all, Naas worked a ball into the box, where Sarah Cullen’s catch and swivel set her up for the goal of a lifetime and one that won a senior county title for the first time in two generations. She roofed it amid delirium and pandemonium all over Clane.


There wasn’t time to puck it out.


Champions.


Unbelievable.


A blizzard of blue-and-white.


Naas had won it – against all the odds - with their enthusiasm, love of the jersey, courage, pace and skill.


Fiona Trant was everywhere in the last quarter as she came back to shore up the half-back line. Aoife Fitzgerald was outstanding at left half back in the last twenty minutes.


Laoise Dunne had a great first half on the left wing while Aoife Stynes was fantastic at centre-forward in the second half and kept the ball up the field long enough to give the backs a well-earned breather.


It’s worth remembering that Naas were staring down the barrel of championship exit when level with Maynooth in injury time in early August. A late Sarah Cullen goal that day saved the Hoops. Similar season-saving goals by Hannah Goodfellow and Tara Bedford both days against Clane in September were also vital to survival.


Naas had to dig deep in every battle along the way. This did them no harm and they improved with every outing and were fully deserving champions by Sunday evening.


Everybody carried a load. They are young and fit and strong and they hunt in packs.


Naas march on Leinster now. Getting stronger.


Hon the Hoops forever.


Naas : Joelenne Hoary, Kelly Perkins, Niamh Tuohy, Amanda Davitt, Anna Blake, Maria Doyle, Laoise Dunne, Aoife Fitzgerald, Caoimhe Maher, Fiona Trant, Ailbhe Ryan, Áine Conway (0-6), Hannah Goodfellow (1-0), Sarah Cullen (2-0), Tara Bedford (1-0), Aoife Stynes, Tara Breen, Ellen O’Boyle, Lorna Kearns, Gráinne Dowling, Síofra Mernagh, Ciara Friel, Emily Quinn, Kerrie Lewis, Anna Kennedy, Molly Ryan, Ciara Brown, Emer Hegarty, Kate Doorey, Roisín Tobin, Ciara Perkins, Hannah Cusack, Zarah McGeever, Niamh Hegarty.


SOTS : Sarah Cullen.








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