In a classic game of two halves, the Laois minor camogie girls snatched the Leinster title out of the jaws of defeat when they met Carlow in Rosenallis last Sunday under the guidance of manager Johnny Campion and his selectors and coaching staff of Mark Gorman, Helen Collier and Kayne (Duxie) Kavanagh.
Laois were out to prove their critics wrong after losing the All-Ireland semi-final to Down earlier this year. Referee Aidan O’Brien of Wexford got the game underway at 2pm sharp and almost immediately Laois won a free, from which Síle Burke scored a point.
However, this would turn out to be the only score for the home team in the first half, as Carlow’s tactic of pulling full forward Ciara Quirke out as a third midfielder put Loais under pressure all over the field. In fact, if it wasn’t for the brilliant and brave goalkeeping skills of Aoife Donovan, the game would have been over at half time.
At the break Laois had it all to do and were down by nine points. However, with two substitutions, the Laois management team completely reshuffled the Laois team. The ever dependable Síle Burke was moved from attack to centre back and a new look half forward line was introduced, led by Laura Marie Maher who was returning from a serious shoulder injury in the centre forward position, flanked by Grace O’Neill and the clever Niamh Coss, both of whom were also returning from injury.
Laois suddenly found their stride at the restart as Wexford seemed to sit back to defend their lead. That was a fateful mistake for Carlow. Laois Captain Yvonne O’Neill scored an impressive point to kickstart the revival of the home sides game, and Laura Marie Maher was now playing like she was never injured and scored the next two points for Laois.
Rebecca Treacy and Lizzy Ryan replaced Sarah Broderick and Emma Phelan with 15 minutes left. Almost immediately Laois stepped up another gear and were controlling the game in every position, so much so that Carlow only scored one point from play in the second half. Lizzy Ryan, now playing at left corner forward hit a purple patch. She scored two points before taking on the Carlow defence and blasting the sloitar to the back of the net and narrowing the gap to just three points.
Carlow seemed to be getting back into the game, when Yvonne O’Neill scored a point with about five minutes left to play. Laois were again on top and won a 45 meter free. Síle Burke took on the responsability and blasted the ball past the Wexford defence and into the top of the net for what would prove to be the winning score of the match. The Laois panel and supporters celebrated with rapture as the final whistle sounded.
Leinster Vice-President Matt Pearson payed tribute to both team on a great game of camogie and congratulated Laois as he presented the winner’s cup to Laois captain Yvonne O’Neill.
LAOIS: Aoife Donovan; Marie Delaney, Courtney Lally, Hannah O’Neill; Shauna Cuddy, Casey Conroy, Lizzy Ryan; Yvonne O’Neill(capt), Maeve Collier; Lorna Campion, Síle Burke, Sarah Broderick; Emma Phelan, Kelly O’Neill, Niamh Gleeson. Subs: Laura Marie Maher, Niamh Coss, Grace O’Neill, Rebecca Treacy, Emer Guidera, Mary Ryan, Rachel Cass, Niamh Dunne, Rachel Bergin, Alison Harvey, Leah Dunphy, Rachel Delahunty and Súin Lennon. Manager: Johnny Campion; Selectors and Coaches: Mark Gorman, Helen Collier and Kayne Kavanagh; Physios: Catherine Mansfield and Aoife Shaughnessy.
Carlow: N Curran; E Doyle, K O’Brien, E Kelly; B O’Dwyer, K Nolan, B Nolan; L Bible, O McDonald; A Ruschitzko, E Treacy, S Barcoe; C Tobin, C Quirke, S Lawlor. Subs: R Byrne, M Doyle, E Byrne and M Nolan.
Referee: Aidan O’Brien (Wexford)