Goals Win the Day as Whitehall Claim Junior Championship

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Whitehall Colmcille’s 5-6 – 1-7 Kevin’s

Such was the strength of the wind that blew straight down the O’Toole Park pitch for Sunday’s Junior A Camogie Championship final, you’d have imagined that it would have been the proverbial game of two halves. Had it been so, at half time you might have expected Kevin’s to come out on top, but as it happened, Whitehall amassed a bigger margin in the second half, playing into the stiff breeze.

Broadly speaking, it was a battle of the vibrant youth and pace of Whitehall against the steel and experience of Dolphin’s Barn, not to mention, Tipperary and Kilkenny as well as the lesser renowned camogie regions of Wicklow, Meath……Slovakia and Poland!

We occasionally hear of a player marking an opponent half her age. When Liz Forde, at 48, came on, she was close to three times the age of some opponents!

It was looking ominous for the Kevin’s girls early on as Whitehall charged into an early lead, putting 1-2 on the board in the opening five minutes. The danger of full forward and goal scorer, Kate Mulvey, was apparent early on, but Jesse Byrne would begin to get to grips with her, followed by Jenny Kearns. When manager, Paul McManus pulled a shrewd move and dropped Roni Kubat  back behind the half back line, Kevin’s began to fight their way back into the game.

Whitehall were dominant early on

Whitehall were dominant early on

With Claire Graham and Louise Brennan managing the mammoth task of breaking even against a potentially dominant midfield of, Aoife Wade and Megan O’Reilly, a Dublin Junior Premier and Dublin minor players of last year, Kevin’s managed to break even for the rest of the half.

Kevin’s breaking even in a mammoth midfield duel as well as a superb “man marking” effort by Amy O’Halloran at wing back, stemmed Whitehall’s early dominance. This combined with a dominant half forward display from Emma Young who took the bull by the horns, bridging the gap from the half back line to full forward line on no less than five occasions, was key to Kevin’s asserting themselves on the following 25 odd minutes.

A long-range goal from Young to cap an excellent half pulled Kevin’s right back into it. However, the constant goal threat of a dangerous Whitehall forward line saw centre forward , Shaunagh Harte, net again before the break, leaving Kevin’s trailing by 2-5 to 1-4 going in at half time.

Harte nets Whitehall's second

Harte nets Whitehall’s second

Albeit that it had dropped significantly by the restart, set to play the wind in their backs for the second half, you’d maybe have made Kevin’s favourites from this point, having drawn even in the last 25 minutes of the first half, playing into the wind. This, however, would prove not to be the case.

After an initial period of Kevin’s pressure early in the first half, the difference between the two sides would strike three fatal blows in quick succession. An interesting statistic taken by GaaProstats was that from start to finish, Whitehall only had possession inside the opposition’s “45” a single time more than Kevin’s did. It was what happened with these attacks that was key.

While Kevin’s spent large periods of the second half camped inside the Whitehall “45”, they just couldn’t break down a formidable full back line of Aoife Tuohy, Orla Ryan and Áine Ellis.

Whitehall's resolute defence denies Roni Kubat

Whitehall’s resolute defence denies Roni Kubat, as Petra Halandova looks on

At the opposite end, however, Whitehall had that extra bit of stealth. After withstanding a barrage of Kevin’s pressure in the opening ten minutes of the second half, one ball into the full forward line and Amy Quinn had that decisive cutting edge about her. Catch, side-step, strike, goal! Simple as that.

Amy Quinn nets Whitehall's third goal

Amy Quinn nets Whitehall’s third goal

With the savvy of the likes of Rachel O’Rourke at wing back and Harte at centre forward, driving Whitehall on, enough ball arrived into the full forward line to cause the crucial damage. Within a few more minutes, the ever-threatening Mulvey, at full forward, had netted twice more to give Whitehall what appeared to be an unassailable lead.

Mulvey had the attention of four different markers throughout

Mulvey had the attention of four different markers throughout

In the final quarter, Kevin’s drove and drove but just couldn’t break down the sturdy Whitehall defence. Even Claire Graham, dominant as she was in possession stakes, could only have a limited impact.

It was noteworthy enough in its own right that Graham and Brennan had deprived the exceptionally able Whitehall midfield from dominating, but GaaProstats figures showed that, asides from Brennan pointing twice in the first half, in the second half, 35 year old Graham had been the stand-out midfielder with fifteen possessions from play and only one turn-over conceded.

The critical issue, however, was that with a youthful, hungry and hard-working Whitehall team constantly exerting pressure, the one-time U.C.D. starter, frequently found herself surrounded, and unable to deliver the type of ball from which Kevin’s can dominate. On only two occasions did she get to plant her feet and drive the ball long.

Claire Graham is surrounded again

Claire Graham is surrounded again

As Kevin’s drove and drove, practically camped in the Whitehall box for the final minutes, they just couldn’t break down a superb defence. Even a consolation goal was beyond them as a resolute Whitehall defence refused to be broken down and they ran out deserving winners, 5-6 to 1-7.

As Mulvey lifted the cup, there could hardly have been a more deserving player of the honour, having scored a hat-trick of goals on the day. Backed by the under 14 Division 2 Féile winning team of five years ago, it’s difficult to imagine that this young Whitehall team isn’t on the way up.

Captain and hat-trick scorer, Kate Mulvey

Captain and hat-trick scorer, Kate Mulvey

By  Stephen O’Meara