A game for the ages

Feis Cup Under 16 Camogie

Ballycastle 3-15 Loughgiel 5-15

When I spoke to Joe Brogan at the end of the game he waxed lyrical about the standard of play and the great skills and athleticism that was on show. The former Dunloy hurler and Carey Faughs coach was like the rest of us who witnessed it, enthralled by what we had just witnessed “ I remember underage camogie games thirty years ago which would have ended 3 point to 2, or some scoreline like that, but 5-15 to 3-15 that is just crazy”

What we had just witnessed was something very special and each and every one of the players on the pitch at Pairc MacUilin in this Under 16 Feis Cup semi-final deserve the highest of praise for their magnificent efforts. There are times in this proffesion when you hit low points. Driving home from Dublin on Saturday night after witnessing Antrim’s defeat to Carlow in the Christy Ring Cup final was one such time when your love of the game is seriously questioned. But waiting around the corner there is always something to re ingnite the fire. This was one of these occassions. An under 16 Feis Cup camogie match with a handful of supporters looking on would not have been high on the list of what would lift those flagging spirits, but it did….and then some.

Loughgiel won through in the end, and for most of the game it looked like they would, with consummate ease, but when they went in at half time with a nine point cushion they must have felt it was going to be a much easier passage to the Feis final than it actually turned out to be.  With Roisin McCormick at her brilliant best at midfield the Shamrocks had bossed play in that opening half and with Orla Laverty, Catherine Kelly and Annie Lynn all finding the net they appeared to be on easy street when they entered first half injury time leading by 3-9 to 0-6. Ballycastle were in deep trouble and even though Alicia Butler grabbed a goal with practically the last puck of the first half to cut Ballycastle’s deficit from twelve point to nine most pundits would have declared the second half an irrelevance.

When the Shamrocks extended that lead to thirteen, three minutes into the new half, thanks to a goal by Orla Laverty and a point from Roisin McCormick, it seemed all bets were off. However Ballycastle refused to bow the knee and slowly they began to claw their way back into the game. Three goals and two points in a brilliant twelve minute spell from centre forward Alicia Butler were added to with points from Rhiana McBride and Maeve Kelly in reply to just a single point from the visitors. Suddenly the yawning thirteen point gap was down to just three with still ten minutes left to play.

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Loughgiel were rocking on the ropes but when they needed her most Roisin McCormick found that bit extra and points from her and Cathy Kelly steadied the ship. They were rocked again soon afterwards when the brilliant Maeve Kelly and Enya McShane pointed to leave just a goal in it once again going into injury time. Ballycastle came close to tying the scores but Loughgiel got the ball scrambled off the line and as the ball was cleared down the field McCormick sealed the win, and the final place, for the Shamrocks when she pounced on a poor clearance and fired in her team’s fifth goal.

What made it even greater in my opinion was the fact that when the two teams left the field after such a bruising contest there didn’t appear to be a hint of animosity between them as they congratulated, commiserated and laughed together. Of course the majority of the protagonists played all year on the same Cross & Passion teams, and having won hard battles side by side they remain firm friends…. and deadly rivals.

 

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