Lagan Cup Final 2010
GMIT Castlebar 3-21 0-4 Carlow I.F.E.
Some days everything just goes right!
Footballers are sticklers for routines rituals & superstitions and on all Ireland final day you can wake up with the light tingling of butterflies and the buzz of expectancy, go through the voodoo, the sports psychology and the visual imaging, you can get the hydration and nutrition spot on, put on your lucky socks win the toss and play with the wind but when the whistle blows it can all go horribly inexplicably wrong; and your left with a runners up medal and a niggling voice at the back of your head saying " what if" or " if only"
The women's Gaelic football team from GMIT Castlebar has had its fair share of "what ifs" over the last few years, The current team missing out on league play offs twice on score difference while Sandra Blong and Sinead Mulkerrin provided a link back to an group of players that between league and championship came second best in All Ireland finals on no less than three occasions. The desire & determination from Sandra, Sinead and fellow final year student Lorraine O'Connor, that they would not graduate with a similar regret and "if only", seemed to cement itself within the group and a sense of destiny developed from early on in the year.
The t's were crossed the i's dotted and the backroom staff of Sonya Condon and Diarmuid McCaughey surpassed themselves with attention to detail, while the girls engaged in a whirlwind of fundraising, so that when All Ireland Final day, (march 19 2010), arrived all that was required was to turn up and take care of business.
And that they did in fine style: From the moment Laura Hanrahan, (the one girl who didn't have the luxury of an overnight stay as she had to complete an exam on the morning of the game before setting out for Dublin), gathered the ball from the throw in to feed her midfield partner Lorraine O'Connor the centre field dominance- that was to be the platform for victory, was established. When Lorraine launched the ball forward to Christine McCutcheon a recurring trend that would haunt the Carlow women for the afternoon was established, as the "Player of The game" fielded superbly brushed of several challenges before firing over the opening point.
The problem for the Carlow girls at this stage was that they couldn't clear their lines as Laura & Lorraine were imperious in midfield and any ball that slipped by was quickly swallowed up by the Sharon Kenny Sinead O'Hara and Aideen Fitzpatrick in a half back line that was ruthlessly efficient. They were quick to feed Anna Gallagher & Roisin Gavin on the wings and this supply line yielded points for first Ciara O Grady then Sinead Mulkeerin before Christine & Ciara both notched their second.
The perfect start had a ribbon put around it when Christine linked with Roisin on the right and instead of slotting her customary point put her head down and drove remorselessly for goal before hammering the ball to the net. Roisin got reward for her unselfish support play when she chipped in with a delightful point while Ciara was unperturbed when she found her progress blocked by a wall of Carlow jerseys as she coolly curled the ball over the bar with her back to goal.
At this stage the girls were coasting but despite remonstrations from the sidelines and pre match warnings, concentration was lost, the foot was let off the pedal and Carlow were offered a way back into the game. Inexplicably the wheels of the previously well oiled machine came off and for over 10 minutes Carlow dominated every area of the field.
But for outstanding interventions from Sandra Blong and Bernie Gavaghan in the full back line and superb saves from Katie Roughneen Carlow might have grasped the lifeline, as it was the storm was weathered, despite giving up two very bad scores, when needless fouling out the field was followed by lack of concentration and slack marking, and one excellent point from distance.
The Carlow girls would ultimately regret their inaccuracy in front of goal as when the GMIT women finally woke from their slumber they showed the class their collective complacency couldn't mask and Christine & Lorraine tapped over points before Ciara cruelly punished their profligacy with a well taken goal.
Coming in at halftime with a very comfortable lead one might expect a few self congratulatory words and exchange of smiles but such was the total extent of the blip that led to the Carlow revival, Diarmuid & Sonya needed to drive home potential consequences of a subsequent slip. So forces were gathered, spirits charged and the second half was assaulted with the same vigour & determination that marked the start of the first.
The management team's fears were quickly allayed when Ciara finished off an excellent move; which emanated from a fine intervention by Sharon Kenny with the ball passing through a variety of hands, before Ciara's finish raised the green flag, broke Carlow hearts and effectively ended the game as a contest. The rest was a celebratory stroll to Victory.
In fairness to Carlow they made a few spirited efforts at revivals but what attacks didn't fall on the impregnable half back line of Aideen, Sharon and Sinead was mopped up by Sandra & Bernie, indeed it's a testament to the backs that for all their efforts the Carlow girls only managed one more point in the second half. Captain Lorraine O Connor proved her left foot wasn't just for standing on when she landed a lovely long range effort with her much maligned left peg! Her midfield partner Laura wasn't going to be outdone in the scoring stakes either making sure she had her say on the scoreboard.
At this stage a quadruple substitution saw Rachel Fallon and Denise Ward come into defence and Megan Winters and Jacki Finn enter the forward line. Denise and Rachel didn't put a foot wrong as they were both called into action shortly following their introduction while both Jacki and Megan were extremely unlucky not to get on the score board, Megan in particular raising the hopes of her travelling army of support when Christine played her in on goal only for the keeper to pull off a fine save.
Aideen Fitzpatrick was spotted a long way from her halfback berth in search of a momento of the day in the shape of a score and Sinead O'Hara ventured forward to great effect also, she managed to enjoy a couple of lengthy conversations with the ref as well, perhaps she was letting him in on her post match phone call plans! By the time Sinead Mulkerrin and Roisin added on points the Carlow girls were just looking for the end and the Castlebar crew awaiting the celebrations that were indeed sparked moments later. The full time whistle confirmed that there would be no "What if's" no " If only's" , that all the upsets of previous defeat had been forgotten, that Lorraine O'Connor would lift the Lagan Cup that GMIT Castlebar were All Ireland Champions and that a well deserved celebration was well & truly underway - some days everything just goes right......