All-Ireland Schools’ Senior A Camogie semi-final
Saturday 1pm in Kilnadeema, Co. Galway
St Brigid’s Loughrea v Cross and Passion Ballycastle
WHEN you get to All-Ireland level there are few easy matches and, while Cross and Passion Ballycastle retain around half of the team that came so close to a national title last year in Louth, they have to face a major player in St Brigid’s Loughrea who won the title outright three years ago, taking out St Patrick’s Maghera in a semi-final in south Derry.
For a long time St Brigid’s lived in the shadow of the other school in the town, St Raphael’s who won eight successive senior All-Irelands from 1985-1992 under the stewardship of Cyril Farrell who was also Head Teacher for a number of those years.
St Brigid’s have established their own tradition in recent times and taken a number of Connacht titles in both senior and junior.
They were taken to a replay this year by Gort Community School; the pair finished on 1-10 each 24 hours before Cross and Passion emerged with a 3-8 to 0-3 win in the Ulster decider against neighbours St Louis Ballymena.
The Connacht replay was held last Saturday and St Brigid’s had a comfortable enough 4-9 to 2-3 victory in Ballinderreen, although Gort gave away too many frees, particularly during the first half, and Galway minor goalie Sarah Healy punished them with some impressive free-taking.
There were also a couple of handy goals from turnover balls – and Loughrea looked pretty sharp in turning those into scores.
Ballycastle’s key players in this age-group have already appeared in the Ulster and All-Ireland championships for Antrim seniors. Roisin McCormick and Maeve Kelly have also guided the Saffrons to the last two minor A titles and will be key players in their first tilt in over two decades at a Minor A title this spring.
Yet their contribution was overshadowed in the Corn Uan Uladh decider by the excellence of Katie Laverty dropping into half back and forwards Riana McBride and Ciara Laverty.
Laverty was a huge presence throughout and Ballymena rarely broke through the CPC half-backs over the hour. The other two were in and out of the play, but delivered when they got their chances.
St Louis contained Ballycastle for 26 minutes of the opening half and the score stood at 0-2 each. Over the final four minutes of play, McBride hit four points from play, one of which was brilliantly turned over for a point by Aine Graham in goals.
At the start of the second half, Laverty ghosted into the spaces and created 3-1, scoring one of the goals herself.
Last year’s All-Ireland final appearance and a Junior All-Ireland final appearance two years ago will have given this CPC squad a lot of experience. Loreto Kilkenny won both those finals and the fact that they have been beaten in the recent Leinster final will convince the Ulster champions that there is a huge opportunity this year.
This game will be tough. It may come down to fine margins. But if CPC can draw on the experience gained in the past couple of years, and if players like Roisin McCormick, Katie Laverty, Maeve Kelly, Anna Connolly and Charley McCarry can mix it up with the new stars like Aine Magill, Rianna McBride they they can come through and book another All Ireland final spot.