By Daragh Ó Conchúir at UPMC Nowlan Park
Just twenty-four hours earlier, Stacey Kehoe was walking up the aisle. Now, she was thundering into challenges, having swapped a white dress for red and black jersey and shorts, high heels for football boots, and a bouquet of flowers for a hurley.
The midfielder covered every blade of grass as Oulart-The Ballagh won their third AIB All-Ireland senior club camogie title, Kehoe and many of her illustrious teammates among the survivors from the initial one in 2012.
Úna Leacy stole the headlines with a phenomenal hat-trick of goals, the two in the second half ensuring that Sarsfields would always be kept at bay as they attempted to turn around the 2-4 to 0-1 quarter-time deficit that was still 2-7 to 0-4 at the interval.
But it was Kehoe who had the player-of-the-match award to go with her medal and a sparkling ring from a memorable weekend indeed.
In truth, it was a stunning team performance, with so many of the match-ups going the winners’ way and some of the newer members of the squad standing up to be counted along with the more established operators such as Kehoe, her twin Shelley, Leacy and her sibling Mary, the victorious captain, Ursula Jacob and Anais Curran. Aideen Brennan and Aoife Dunne were outstanding too but this was all about the unit.
Leacy scored an absolutely sensational goal in the tenth minute after good work from Jacob and Shelley Kehoe followed up two minutes later, after Sarsfields goalkeeper, Lauren Glynn had made two brilliant saves.
Glynn would make another fantastic stop from Úna Leacy but the full-forward would respond with ideal timing to Sarsfields goals from Siobhán McGrath and Klara Donohue after the resumption to maintain a gap that was needed as the dethroned champions fought desperately to retain their grasp on the Bill and Agnes Carroll Cup, with four points in succession from Orlaith McGrath (two) and her sisters Siobhán and Clodagh bringing it to four before Shelley Kehoe had the final say after forcing a turnover.
“Whenever we needed the goal, the girls popped up the far end,” remarked Stacey Kehoe. “We kept at it, kept plucking away at the scores. One to fifteen, and whoever came on, the whole panel, everyone put their arms, their legs, everything on the line and it paid off.
“We break it down to each 15 minutes at a time. The biggest thing we concentrate on is the rucks. Whether it’s a hurl, an arm or a leg, as long as we get the numbers on the break and we come out with the ball, we don’t care who wins it, as long as we get possession.
“We gave Sarsfields the respect they deserve as All-Ireland champions but we know we’re a good team. Everyone believes in each other and that’s what got us over the line today.”
The Wexford representatives showed a voracious appetite for work.
“That came from the Thomastown game (Leinster final) when we were two points down and did dig deep and pulled it out of the bag. That belief and the momentum we gained brought us on each week. It’s easy to get over the line when the performances are coming each week.”
Remarkably, Oulart-The Ballagh will be defending their title early in the New Year, with the All-Ireland series for the 2021/2022 campaign getting under way.
“We’ll have a break at Christmas and we’ll regroup in January and go again. We know days like this don’t come around too often but when you get the taste of winning and have that hunger, it’s easy to continue going training.”
For now though, Stacey Kehoe more than anyone, is entitled to celebrate.
“What a 24 hours we’re having,” said the grinning No 8. “Days don’t get much better than this: get married yesterday and get over the line today in a club All-Ireland.
“We’re just delighted. Credit where credit is due. Everyone that was at the wedding yesterday, we stayed on the 7Ups, we stayed on the Mi-Wadis but by God we’ll lift the roof off Oulart tonight!”Tweet