22 September 2005 Edition
Camogie decibel count rivals Rio Carnival
Being surrounded by thousands of young ladies with whistles and assorted noise-making instruments may not be everyone's idea of how best to spend a Sunday afternoon. Especially when a chap has a mild headache brought on by a bottle of stout the night before.
The occasion for a decibel count to rival Carnival in Rio was the All-Ireland Camogie Finals. And what an occasion it was. The crowd may have been less than in previous years, at 14,350, but those who were there more than made up for the numbers in colour and passion and the action on the pitch was worthy of the enthusiasm of the audience.
There was a time when Dublin were the undisputed Queens of women's hurling. Between 1948 and 1966 they won all bar one Senior All-Ireland and they still hold the overall record of 26 titles. Those days are long gone and last Sunday was Dublin's first appearance in a Junior Final since 1983.
The girls in blue looked for most of the first half as though they would win comfortably. However, there were worrying signs, not the least being that the Finglas scoring machine that is Gillian McCluskey was not her normal prolific self. A goal from Louise O'Hara of the same parish put the Dubs in a commanding position before Deirdre Murphy goaled from a free to leave Clare within striking position at the break.
Clare looked sharper in the second half and gradually ate into Dublin's lead before going ahead late on. It fell to Níamh Taylor to rescue the game in extra time with a free. Cue rapturous celebrations from the Naomh Mearnóg girls in front of us. All to do again on 8 October, probably in Portlaoise. The arrival of the Dubs players in the stand earned them a warm round of applause and the mosquito-like attentions of diminutive autograph hunters. Ciara, Paddy and Eoin -- with the collaboration of full back Anne — came back with all the names; in programmes, on the backs of jerseys, arms, foreheads and any other surface that was available.
The Senior Final between Cork and Tipperary was just as exciting. Twice, Tipp looked as though they had built a lead sufficient to win their third title in succession, but each time Cork wore them down and finished with a flourish to win by four points. The clear difference between the two teams in the end was fitness as Cork came in waves at the Tipperary defence in the last ten minutes.
The funniest part of the day was when the pageant planned for the interval between the two games turned into Dancing at Lunasa. The plan was for Brush Shiels to sing while neatly arraigned ranks of young camogie players lined up in the letters of the four teams. Good idea you would think but I suspect that whoever planned it has little experience in the organising of little girls. The phrase "minding mice at a crossroads" sprung to mind. The Brush must have thought he was back in the 1960s as he had to flee from a band of amazons who had for the most part fortunately left their hurleys at home for the day.
The poor Fógra man had to appeal to their good angels (always a mistake I find) in an effort to get them to leave the sacred sod before the Senior match began. Indeed, while there was still a sacred sod to leave. They did eventually and Ciara returned rosy-cheeked and beaming. The Fógra man was back at the end of the match to make another appeal. "Will all stewards please stand back. All stewards stand back". Mind you I don't think they needed any more persuasion than a stray Pamplona pedestrian in early July.
Kerry and Tyrone will be pleased to know that at least there will be a pitch to play on next Sunday and that it is not adorning mantelpieces between Killanena and Ballyboden. The counties have only played each other once before in a final, in 1986 when Kerry won by eight points. That might have been a lot closer had Kevin McCabe not missed a penalty.
That final will also be remembered by RTÉ viewers who saw the Tyrone manager Art McRory being accosted by one of the commentators as he strode towards the dressing room. "Art, what did you tell Kevin to do when you got the penalty?" Art cast his interrogator a withering glance as if he was a man looking for the contemporary dance class in Gortin. "For jaysus sake, what d'ye think I told him." Or words to that effect.
I suspect that 1986 will have little bearing on Sunday, other than to potentially supply Tyrone with another notch on the bedpost of old ghosts laid. So who will be smiling next Monday? My humble opinion is that these are two teams that have improved vastly since 2003. Kerry were humiliated by their defeat at the hands of Tyrone and they will not want to go down to a third successive loss to one of the Ulster kingpins. They still remember Down you know!