Manager Padraic Connaughton embraces Raharney defender Mary Geraghty after Sunday’s final. Photo: INPHO/Ben Brady

Raharney’s win a huge boost for camogie in Lake County

It may have been a long way to Tipperary for the dedicated hordes of Raharney supporters last Sunday afternoon, but the lengthy journey was certainly worth it, and it was an understandably joyous cavalcade of cars adorned with blue and white flags and bunting which returned via the Premier and Faithful counties back to Deelside that evening.

This was sport at its rawest and most exciting – two totally committed sides representing their parishes where hurling and camogie are the be-all and end-all in tightknit communities, writes Gerry Buckley.

Clanmaurice came into the game as reigning All-Ireland champions and despite Covid (will we ever be rid of it?) and other administrative matters restricting the Kerry ladies to the bare minimum 15 players (remarkably, they had won the All-Ireland semi-final with just 14), they were always going to be difficult to dethrone.

And so it proved. A titanic struggle entertained the large crowd at what was a very well-appointed venue in Templetuohy, with volunteers from the local Moyne/Templetuohy GAA club playing a blinder in ensuring that car parking and other issues were smoothly organised.

Indeed, this columnist almost had a debut at a rare sport (albeit not everybody feels that term correctly applies) which I never previously witnessed, my journey from Dublin (from where it seems a short way to Tipperary until you hit the R693, R639, R435, and especially the R502!) meaning that I arrived at a venue where I was about to enter until a steward asked, “Are you here for the coursing?”

The course of events a mile down the road provided top-class fare, and Hannah Core in full flight would give any hare a run for its money. The wonderfully skilful corner forward terrorised the holders’ defence any time the ball came her way. Her typically opportunist early goal put the girls in all-blue into a lead which they only relinquished once, and that for just two minutes early in the second moiety until Hannah pounced for a crucial brace of points.

However, this was a million miles from being a one-person show, with all 18 players (Aisling Keogh started the game, was replaced, but also reappeared when the unfortunate Andreanna ‘Tiny’ Doyle was injured in the second half of a hard-hitting contest) contributing handsomely to a famous victory.

Anna Weir’s astonishing save when the ever-dangerous Jackie Horgan, a fierce competitor whose (harsh?) booking after a mere 90 seconds failed to stop her from getting from getting ‘stuck in’ for the remaining hour-plus, looked absolutely certain to find the net in the 25th minute after fielding a superb long-range delivery by Sara Murphy (whose crisp striking from the ground and in open play was one of the features of the match). However, the winners’ net-minder was up to the task and somehow deflected the sliotar out for a ‘45’.

The cúlbáire also showed immense bravery late in the game by taking the full force of the ball from Patrice Diggin’s 25-metre free, the loser’s midfielder clearly oblivious in the noisy atmosphere to her manager Mike Enright roaring at her to take a point (those of us nearby heard him loud and clear). Understandably, winning bainisteoir Padraic Connaughton (see page 57) was proud of the guts – a trait always to the fore in any Raharney side, male or female – shown by his entire defence as the ‘kitchen sink’, and every other type of sink in Clanmaurice, were thrown at the Deelsider’s rearguard in a pulsating finale.

In this regard, I opined to him when the tape recorders were closed down: “There are Premier League players on 500k a week who duck and dive when a ball is aimed at them from a free kick”.

The bravery of my fellow-Lake County folk was a joy to behold.

There were heroines all over the pitch in all-blue, the newly-wed Fiona Leavy marshalling the defence in trademark fashion, while other often-unsung players – the likes of Mary Geraghty – also raised their game considerably when the chips were down. Indeed, a feature of the campaign for this observer has been the ability of every individual in a large panel of players to come good when most required in hard-fought matches (i.e., every game bar the Leinster final). There is no ‘I’ in team and there are no cowards in Raharney.

Of course, Connaughton had the class to end his post-match chat by expressing his sympathy to the heartbroken families of the late young couple from North Westmeath, Shane Gilchrist and Saoirse Corrigan. It is a sentiment with which we all concur with absolute sincerity.

And while it was still a long way back from Tipperary, even in ecstatic form, one suspects that it was a long night in Raharney. Nobody would ever contemplate saying ‘f-it to NPHET’, but whatever celebrations took place on Deelside last Sunday night were deserved. The show starts all over again – this time in the 2021 championship – at the end of the month, with a Leinster opener against Kilcock (Kildare) or Muine Bheag (Carlow).

A village holds its breath.