Glenravel camogs out to land All-Ireland junior title
AIB All-Ireland Junior Camogie Club Championship final: Brídíní Óga Glenravel (Antrim) v Knockananna (Wicklow) (Saturday, Kinnegad, 2pm)
WHEN Brídíní Óga Glenravel faced Creggan in the opening round of the Antrim Intermediate championship on the last Saturday of August, there was no indication that they would still be playing camogie in the first weekend of January.
Although they won that first round game by 0-17 to 1-9, they were far from convincing. But there was improvement in the quarter-final particularly during the second half when they pulled away from Loughgiel, the team that had killed off their hopes of a first Intermediate title in finals in 2017, 18 and 19.
In the semi-final and final against Cargin and Portglenone, the Glenravel side got goals when they needed them, but at other times looked to be on the ropes waiting for the knock-out punch.
In Ulster they got over the line in Kilkeel but again were not impressive. However, since that they have upped their performances significantly, played on the front foot and were full value for a 1-13 to 0-9 win in the final against Granemore.
In their All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick champions Adare the defensive side of the team’s game came more into focus as they did their best to curtail the forays forward from Sophie O’Callaghan and the scoring talent of Caoimhe Costelloe.
They are now the first Antrim team to contest an All-Ireland junior final. Just one other Ulster team has managed that since the provincial and All-Ireland competitions were re-aligned more than a dozen years ago. The team showing the way was Eoghan Rua Coleraine in the early months of 2022 – and they also started slowly, but built up momentum as they went through to the final.
Antrim county defender Laoise McKenna featured in midfield during recent games, but in the semi-final the Galway-based pharmacist dropped back as a marking defender on Costelloe.
Captain Kirsty Laverty and Sarah Fyfe took up the slack, Laverty foraging and spraying passes to the wings, while Fyfe turned and drove through the centre to score four points from play.
Glenravel won that semi-final by a single point and the substitutes coming off the bench made a big contribution, particularly Shauna McDonnell with the winning point at the death.
In total 24 players have been used so far in the campaign, while different forwards have popped up in different games to bare their teeth; Aimee Traynor with 2-4 in the Antrim semi-final, Fyfe in the last game, Molly Woulahan’s goal-a-game in the last five matches and the accuracy and consistency of Eimhear McAleenan from the dead ball.
Adare were the favourites to win the competition. Now that mantle will fall on the shoulders of the north Antrim girls, probably the first time they have been favourites going into a head-to-head since the Creggan game.
Opponents Knockananna are Wicklow senior champions and beat Maynooth to take the Leinster title. Then they took out St Dominic’s of Roscommon in the All-Ireland semi-finals a week before the Adare v Glenravel semi.
Members of their team and management attended that second semi in Abbottstown and will have been impressed by what they have seen. There are eight Byrnes on the team and the two in the half-forward line, Ciara and captain Rachel, will present the biggest threat to the Agnes Purcell Cup returning to Ulster.
Momentum though is with Brídíní Óga, momentum is with Ulster club teams after wins for Clonduff and Lacken before Christmas. The Glenravel girls can finish the campaign with their biggest prize yet.