Young Orchard Camogs claim crown

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Young Orchard Camogs claim crown thumbnailWINNERS: the Armagh U16 camogie team with the All Ireland C trophy after beating Carlow last weekend at Kinnegad

A MAGNIFICENT comeback saw Armagh's Under 16 camogs crowned All Ireland C champions as an Aimee Keenan free in injury-time of an unforgettable final at Kinnegad clinched a dramatic 2-9 to 2-8 victory over Carlow.

It was Carlow who had denied the county's senior side the All Ireland third tier at Croke Park last September but Armagh's emerging generation avenged that Orchard defeat by winning at age group level, emulating the achievement of the Minors last season.

The Armagh girls showed fantastic character and much credit must also go to Ciara Hayes, their outstanding young manager who will surely be at the Orchard helm sooner rather than later, for masterminding that second half fightback.With her team eight points down at the break, Armagh's hopes of claiming the silverware were hanging by a thread but the former Orchard dual player's inspirational half-time teamtalk supplemented by key tactical changes had a transformative effect.

Orchard captain Ellie McKee, a team-mate of Hayes at club level for Ballymacnab, was a highly influential figure, especially after being switched to full forward where she caused havoc and scored both Armagh goals to ensure she picked up the Player of the Match award as well as the trophy.

However this was an afternoon when Armagh had heroes all over the field, starting with goalkeeper Aine Doyle from Tullysaran whose superb saves in that difficult first half prevented her team from being dead and buried by the interval.

Carlow were three up after five minutes thanks to two frees and a point from play before Granemore's Corrina Doyle opened the Orchard's account and captain McKee put over a free to narrow the gap to the minimum.Neither team troubled the umpires for the next 11 minutes but then Carlow went on an ominous scoring spree of 1-2 in a two-minute purple patch as they pointed from play, converted a 45 and then hit the Armagh net from a free.

A free from Keady's Keenan, who had taken over those duties from McKee, broke the sequence and her second successful effort cancelled out another opposition point late in the half but Carlow struck a big blow in injury-time when they raised their second green flag of the game.That made it 2-6 to 0-4 at the interval and for the second half Hayes sent on two players originally listed to start, Caoimhinn O'Neill and Aislinn McMahon, for the duo who had taken their places and worked hard in that opening half hour, Ellen Lavery of St Brigid's and Granemore's Laura Carr.

Both subs from Crossmaglen had a significant impact, McMahon making life most uncomfortable for Carlow's previously dominant centre half back and O'Neill winning numerous puck-outs and driving the ball long with good effect.The promising pair have won Armagh Junior Championship camog medals with Cross recently, Aislinn McMahon getting Player of the Match in the 3-9 to 1-6 victory over Port Mor in the final, and they will line out for the club in ladies football's Armagh Intermediate decider this Sunday.

The Orchard had missed five frees in that first half while Carlow converted all their chances and punished every Armagh mistake but, in spite of the scoreboard, the typically positive Hayes still had belief for she justifiably felt her team had much more to bring to the party than they had shown so far.However with that big gap of eight it was vital Armagh got some scoreboard reward quite quickly after the resumption and captain McKee gave them the perfect start with a game-changing goal just 30 seconds in.

The Orchard crew won the throw-in and highly-rated Tullysaran midfielder Katie Convie, Armagh U16s Player of the Year last season, sent a long pass in to McKee who turned her marker and drilled low to the net. It was game on now and that Armagh major was to prove an important turning point as the Orchard dominated most of the match thereafter on their way to outscoring Carlow 2-5 to 0-2 in the last half hour.

Carlow responded to that first Armagh goal with a free but Keenan replied in kind and also landed a score from a 45 before McKee netted again on 42 minutes to reduce the arrears to a single point. Wing forward Caoimhe Donnelly from St Brigid's brought Armagh level for the first time midway through the half with a superb strike from 35 yards but Carlow edged ahead again three minutes later by converting a 45.

Hayes replaced Madden's Shannon Morgan with Casey Mullen of St Brigid's up front and defender Aislinn Harvey of Keady picked up a yellow card before sub McMahon again levelled the scores with five minutes remaining.

Time was almost up when sub Mullen's persistence forced the Carlow corner back over the end line and the ever-reliable Keenan nervelessly nailed the resulting 45 to put Armagh in front for the very first time in the entire game.It was the perfect time to hit the front and the final whistle soon afterwards sparked delirious scenes of celebration with the fact it had taken an almost miraculous comeback making the victory seem even sweeter.

"Even eight down at half-time I knew we were still in it, because although they hadn't shown it up to that point I know what these girls are capable of.

They were just superb in the second half and after that early goal went in I never had any doubt we would win," insists Hayes, well supported on the management side by trainer Micheal Murphy and liaison officer Jackie Donnelly.

"They did it the hard way and it took until the final few minutes but the players proved they have what it takes to win in adversity and that is very satisfying for everyone involved.

"It's a great group who have worked very hard since we first got together last autumn and I'm delighted they've got their reward. It's an honour to manage such talented, dedicated young girls who have the potential to be part of a very bright future for Armagh camogie." McKee top-scored with 2-1 and there were five set-piece points for Keenan, who always looked dangerous as did the speedy Doyle, while Donnelly and Morgan worked tirelessly to win possession, applying pressure to win several valuable tur novers.

The tenacious Convie, supported in midfield by Jessica Hamill of St Brigid's, got in endless blocks and hooks to help curtail the supply of ball to the Carlow attackers who were well contained for the most part by the industrious Orchard defence. Ballymacnab's Cara Crilly and Anita McKearney of Derrynoose did a solid job on Carlow's biggest threats and the excellent Eimear Traynor from Culloville was the pick of an effective half back line which also featured Harvey and Clan na Gael's Hannah French.

The bench had a vital impact too and in her speech at the evening's function in Armagh City Hotel to welcome home the young Orchard heroes, manager Hayes highlighted her's squad's depth and the beneficial competition for places which had kept everyone on their toes all year.

For a relatively small camogie county it is also extremely encouraging that no fewer than 10 clubs were represented in Armagh's selected side for this final, Keady leading the way with six players in the overall panel of 25 followed by five from St Brigid's.

Incidentally McKearney and Mullen both started for the Armagh Under 14 girls football team which reached this summer's All Ireland B final and O'Neill was in goals for the Minor footballers beaten by Tyrone in May's Ulster showpiece.

The Under 16 camogs lost what turned out to be their opening game of this campaign - Cavan didn't field for the scheduled first fixture - by beating beaten 5-11 to 5-6 away to Carlow when, unlike this time, they couldn't recover sufficiently from another slow start.

In between, the young Orchard crop have blossomed by winning 3-9 to 3-4 at Roscommon and then comfortably beating them 4-8 to 1-3 in the semi-final either side of hammering neighbours Tyrone 8-21 to 1-1.For good measure Armagh have also reached the main Ulster final courtesy of an impressive victory 5-17 to 2-6 over Down and have still to face Antrim in the showpiece with another prestigious piece of silverware at stake.

Antrim were beaten by Laois in an All Ireland B final replay while Galway were crowned All Ireland champions courtesy of a 2-16 to 2-5 victory over Wexford in the main match.

ARMAGH U16s: Aine Doyle (Tullysaran); Cara Crilly (Ballymacnab), Ellen Lavery (St Brigid's), Anita McKearney (Derrynoose); Eimear Traynor (Culloville), Aislinn Harvey (Keady), Hannah French (Clan na Gael); Jessica Hamill (St Brigid's), Katie Convie (Tullysaran); Caoimhe Donnelly (St Brigid's; 0-1), Ellie McKee (Ballymacnab, capt; 2-1), Laura Carr (Granemore); Corrina Doyle (Granemore; 0-1), Aimee Keenan (Keady; 0-5), Shannon Morgan (Madden). Subs used: Caoimhinn O'Neill (Crossmaglen) for Lavery (ht), Aislinn McMahon (Crossmaglen; 0-1) for Carr (ht), Casey Mullen (St Brigid's) for Morgan (49 mins).

Subs: Maeve Callaghan (Keady), Erin McKee (Keady), Lauren Duffy (Crossmaglen), Alanna McCreesh (St Brigid's), Riona McConville (Crossmaglen), Caitlin Leer (Keady), Maggie Callaghan (Keady).



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