All good things, as all sporting streaks, eventually come to an end. After a medal haul that begs belief, The Harps were finally dethroned as Laois’ top camogie side last Saturday evening by a very determined Camross team.
Laois Camogie Final
The Harps 0-7
The gap between The Harps and the rest of the county’s teams could do nothing else but narrow over the last couple of years, such were the heights they have reached in accumulating six county championships, six Leinster championships and three All-Ireland titles in six years. It’s a record that looks impossible to ever be emulated by a Laois team in any code of any sport again, but after losing a couple of players that were pivotal to that success, they finally came unstuck.
The Harps only managed to score a single point in the second half, a close range free at that which is never going to be enough to win a county final. Despite such a poor showing in the second half, only two points separated the sides at the finish and that was thanks to the gap created by a confident and composed opening half an hour of camogie from the Harps. They were winning all of the key battles on the pitch, and looking comfortably able to string a seventh successive county championship onto their honours list. A massive second half performance however from the women in black and amber turned the game on its head and Camross ended up deserved winners of their first title since 2005.
In the second half they played like a completely different outfit, inspired throughout the field by the improved performance of their backs. Both teams went an entire half without scoring from play, Harps in the second and Camross in the first. But the free-taking abilities of Sarah Anne Fitzgerald tuned out to be a huge contributor for the game’s outcome, as her first half points kept Camross in touch during a spell where they were outplayed.
When Camross relied on placed balls, The Harps first five scores all came from open play. The work rate of corner forward Angela Hanlon Cuddy played a central part in all but one of the Harps’ first half scores. Intelligent use of the ball by midfielder Joanne Prior as well as good defensive work from Catriona Phelan and Claire Walsh made for a balanced team effort as Harps controlled the opening stages. Denise Quigley got both of the Harps first two scores, the second of which was presented to her after Laura Mahony’s haring run through the middle and shot on goal was blocked and cleared only as far as the waiting half forward.
Another goal chance then presented itself, but this time it was at the other end against the run of play. Rachel Boyhan saw her effort on the turn flash wide of the right post on 11 minutes, after some good work to create enough space for the shot.
Sisters Elaine and Louise Mahony then benefitted from Hanlon Cuddy assists to put give The Harps a three point lead after 15 minutes of play, the latter score pointed from a tricky angle. Sarah Ann Fitzgerald made the difference two, before Karen Rice thought she had given Camross the lead on 19 minutes. Rice put the ball beyond Grace Murphy in the Harps goal with what appeared to be a hand-pass, but after consultation with his umpires the referee decided the ball was thrown into the net and a free out was awarded.
Camross corner forward Rachel Boyhan’s pace caused problems for the Harps in both halves, and it clead to a penalty decision in the 23rd minute that Sarah Anne Fitzgerald decided to knock over the bar. Scores from Louise Mahony and Angela Hanlon Cuddy gave the Harps a 3 point lead at the break.
Camross emerged from the dressing room a completely different side, their first score of an impressive comeback was started by brilliant skill from Niamh Dollard to control and deliver a ball to Rachel Boyhan who then pointed. It took just six minutes for Camross to then draw level, points from Olga Parkinson and a long range free from Fitzgerald handed Camross the momentum with a long time still left to play. Louise Mahony knocked over the Harps only score of the second half on 40 minutes while two more Fitzgerald frees and a Karen Rice point gave Camross the lead.
The Harps couldn’t regain their first half composure and rarely breached the half back line with Dawn Mortimer standing out in particular, clearing ball after ball, ensuring The Harps wouldn’t get a last gasp chance to deny Deirdre Moore lifting the trophy for Camross.
SCORERS - Camross: Sarah Ann Fitzgerald 0-6 (all frees), Olga Parkinson, Karen Rice and Rachel Boyhan 0-1 each; The Harps: Louise Mahoney 0-3 (two frees), Denise Quigley 0-2, Elaine Mahony and Angela Hanlon Cuddy 0-1 each.
CAMROSS: Jennifer Moore; Fidelma Conroy, Deirdre Moore (Cpt), Sinead Collier, Dawn Mortimer, Sarah Ann Fitzgerald, Mareid Burke; Olga Parkinson, Ciara Delaney; Síle Burke, Therése Keenan, Aisling Burke, Niamh Dollard, Karen Rice, Rachel Boyhan.
THE HARPS: Grace Murphy; Elaine Cuddy O’Connor, Joan Dollard, Bronagh Dunne; Shauna Monahen, Caitriona Phelan (Capt), Claire Walsh; Joanne Prior, Rosemary Phelan; Denise Quigley, Laura Mahoney, Elaine Mahony; Angela Hanlon Cuddy, Louise Mahony, Teresa Bennett. Subs: Laura Saunders for Bennett (56 mins)