Ballingarry break through

Mon, Nov 23, 1998, 00:00

Camogie is in the process of reinventing itself. The association is to weld itself to the GAA, increase the number of players on a team and the size of pitch used and maybe trade in the old skirts for nylon shorts. Yet if yesterday's All Ireland club final is any measure of the game's health camogie is doing just fine.

A crowd of about 3,500 made the journey to the tiny village of Ballingarry to see two sides with formidable CVs yesterday.

Granagh-Ballingarry are the product of a merger in the late '70s but Ballingarry's record of success stretches back to the late 1920s and early '30s. St Vincent's are another amalgamation job, the Dublin giants Marino having thrown in their lot with the local GAA club a few years ago.

Ballingarry have been knocking on the door for an All-Ireland for several years. For St Vincent's the Leinster championship was the Holy Grail. An All-Ireland would have been a bonus.

That's not to imply that the Dublin team weren't in earnest, merely that there was recognition that they travelled yesterday as underdogs and when they arrived found little to shorten their odds.

St Vincent's escaped Leinster after years of trying this year and the method used was quick ground hurling. Pulling on the ball before it had time to nestle in the turf. They got to Limerick yesterday to find that the elements had conspired against them.

The pitch was so heavy and sodden that it was a wonder the game was played at all. With the ball steadfastly refusing to move along the grass the home team produced the style of play designed to maximise home advantage.

The quick picking off the ground and skilful running of the Limerick side made them difficult opponents. They kept the ball moving sweetly and when the game was running their way some of the points they picked off were magnificent. The second half was more one way traffic than the first and the winners finished the day with two points which perfectly explained their superiority. Jean Cullinane and Eileen O'Brien launched scores on the run from 30 and 40 yards out respectively. The confident execution put an end to all arguments.

Ballyingarry have been close to this achievement for some years now. Munster champions for three years running and beaten in last year's championship by the eventual champions they brought pedigree and experience to the show and it quickly became obvious that they had the gameplan to press Vincent's onto the backfoot.

For St Vincent's several reliable elements of the blueprint came unstuck early on. Patsey Murphy at full back struggled to contain the ebullient Ida Quaid and it was only when Germaine Noonan moved in to chaperone Quaid in the second half that her influence waned. By then it was too late.

The Limerick side had heroines throughout. Jean Cullinane and Eileen O' Brien tormented Vincent's down the right side while Bernie O'Brien kept the door closed at the back for most of the game. Their best work was done in the first half when their opponents were still finding their feet.

Granagh-Ballingarry went into the half-time break with the game already finished. A blizzard of first-half scores had drained the Dublin team's confidence. Eileen O'Brien's remarkable accuracy from placed balls had yielded her six points plus another from play while Quaid threatened goal every time she gained possession.

Her goal late in the half copperfastened the game before the half time talks had begun. latching onto a high ball from Cullinane she bundled her way past two Vincent's defenders before smuggling the ball to the net.

After the break Vincent's found a little of their character and stood up for themselves. Denise O'Leary found some of the majestic form that has marked her season but Denise Smith was having to forage too far for the ball to pose a threat around the goal.

The clear-cut chances were too few and far between however.

Eimear Branagan broke through once but missed the obvious pass outside her. Denise O'Leary found her range from frees and her goal with 10 minutes left briefly raised hopes that a couple of others like it would produce a rousing finish. It was typical of Vincent's luck and their rivals tenacity however that Mary O'Connor stole the next point for Ballingarry, a fine effort from play, and then Jean Cullinane tacked on a free. The momentum was duly stymied.

Granagh-Ballingarry: Breda O'Brien: Bernie O'Brien: P McKenna, B Chawke, L Lesley: J Cullinane (0-1), D Sheehan (0-2, frees), K Burke: E O Brien (0-11, nine frees) M O Connor (0-2), V Sheehan (0-2): I Quaid (1-1).

St Vincent's: M Regan: P Murphy: N Cregan, P Clinton, G Noonan: U Hannon, D O'Leary (1-6, one point from play), R Brady: L Lynch (L Lynch), A McGovern, D Smith: E Branagan. Subs: A O' Brien for P Murphy (27 mins), E Buckley (0-1) for U Hannon (42 mins), S Byrne for R Brady (52 mins).

Referee: B Phillips (Tipperary)