Cashel Camogie Club Make History

Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 2008, pp 153-154


Cashel became All-Ireland Club champions on November 18, 2007 when they defeated Athenry in the final at Limerick. It was a case of 'long threatening coming at last' as they fulfilled the expectations of their supporters and admirers. For many years they have been seen as the most likely Tipperary club to win All-Ireland honours but always fell short, most agonisingly against Na Piarsaigh of Galway by a point at home in 2001.

They deserved the tag of likely All-Ireland champions having so many players on the panel, who had excelled for the county. In fact the team that eventually made the breakthrough counted among them no ferwer than thirty-two All-Ireland medals! With such talent as Una O'Dwyer, Paula Bulfin, Philly Fogarty, Emily Hayden, Claire Grogan. Linda Grogan, Cora Hennessy and Jill Horan, who had played senior with the county, it's no wonder there were such high expectations. Most of the remainder of the panel had played with the county at other grades.

Every year the expectation was high. In 2005 and 2006, after winning county and getting through Munster, expectations were strong that this would be the year. And each year ended in disappointment, by Davitts of Galway in 2005 and by Freshford in 2006. When would Cashel make the breakthrough?

The year 2007 started off on a good note with easy victories in the first three games. Silvermines were dismissed by 8-19 to 0-1, Moneygall by 4-14 to 3-1 and Drom Inch by 5-14 to 2-4. The final brought Cashel up against Duharra and it was a tough, dour game that ended in a Cashel victory by 0-14 to 0-6.

The victory was Cashel's fourteenth county senior final since 1986, when they made the breakthrough for the first time. An impressive record indeed but progress afterwards was not as great as it might have been. Four Munster championships were won, followed by one appearance in the All-Ireland in 2001. The other Munster championship successes came in 2002, 2005 and 2006

Having won the county this year Cashel progressed to the Munster championship. This was an unusual competition in 2007 with only two teams competiting. Cork should have been there but were disqualified because they hadn't their championship completed in time. The result was that Cashel played Limerick champions, Killedy, in the final at Cappawhite, on October 20.

The final score was 3-16 to 1-10 but the score in no way reflected the closeness of the encounter. Until less than five minutes from the end, the game was up for grabs with either side having an equal chance of victory. In the final minutes Cashel scored 3-1, which flattered their efforts and did little justice to the losers. Cashel had trailed by 1-6 to 0-5 at the interval.

In the aftermath of winning the All-Ireland, manager, T. J. Connolly, was inclined to look back to this game as a kind of catalyst for the team. They were lucky to survive and they realised it. They also learned that all the great effort they had put in during the year nearly came to naught on the day. They were determined to improve their effort and realised that further success demanded much greater performances.

And, their performances did improve, none as much as their victory over O'Donovan Rossa in the All-Ireland semi-final at faraway Newry on November 3. On this day the girls were asked questions and they answered them brilliantly. They hit the ground running, established a good lead at halftime and held out against a determined performance by their opponents in the second half to win by 2-13 to 2-3.

They were now set up for the final against Athenry, the Galway champions, who had deposed the All-Ireland holders, Freshford, in the second semi-final. This game was played at the Gaelic Grounds, Limerick on November 18 and Cashel showed their true class to take their first club title by the comprehensive score of 1-18 to 0-9, having led by 0-7 to 0-5 at the interval.

Cashel's halftime lead was soon increased. Within eight minutes of the restart they were 0-11 to 0-6 in front. The Galway girls, who would have been slight favourites before the game, were completely overwhelmed as a really hungry Cashel side scores 1-7 without reply. All they could muster were three points before the end of play to bring the final score to 1-18 to 0-9. The only thing that was left was for team captain, Sinead Millea, to collect the Bill O'Carroll Cup from Camogie Association President, Liz Howard, and to begin the celebrations.

The many losing experiences had stood them in good stead. As well the influence of T. J. Connolly, their dedicated coach/manager, was clear to see. He believed the girls needed to be physically stronger if they were to triumph in the top tier of club camogie.

'We wroked with the tackle bags. I felt the girls were missing that bit of steel needed to win an All-Ireland. I trained them they same as the men, If you can't take a hit you are in trouble,' he said.

And the girls responded brilliantly, doing everything in training their coach asked them to do. When he asked them to take the field at 7.45 am the Saturday morning after the All-Ireland semi-final, they answered his call without demur.

They also had the advantage of a wonderfully motivated captain in Sinead Millea. She came to Cashel in 2003 from St. Brigid's, Kilkenny, having won three All-Irelands and an All-Star with her native county, and she was a outstanding addition to the panel. The most focused of persons, she took the task of captaincy in a serious manner and encouraged and advised the members of the panel of the task in hand and the efforts required to achieve it.

The teams that played on this historic occasion were as follows:

Cashel: Helen Breen, Sarah Morrissey, Noelette O'Dwyer, Julie McGrath, Paula Bulfin, Una O'Dwyer, Sinead Millea (capt.), Philly Fogarty (0-3), Jill Horan, Linda Grogan (0-1), Mairead Morrissey (0-1), Cora Hennessy (0-2), Allison Lonergan (0-2), Emily Hayden (1-2), Claire Grogan (0-7). Subs: Libby Toomey for Lonergan, Deirdre Ryan for Sarah Morrissey, Kaiffe Moloney for Emily Hayden. Remainder of panel: Marie Horan, Karen Barry, Patreece Ryan, Sheila O'Donnell, Ciara O'Sullivan, Emma Williams, Tricia Bulfin. 

Coach/Manager T. J. Connolly. Selectors: Mickey Browne, Michael Lawrence, Anne Moloney.

Athenry: Stephanie Gannon, Katherine Glynn (01), Alice Poniard, Darelle Coen, Regina Glynn, Krystel Ruddy, Emma Costello, Sarah Donohue, Laura Linane (0-4), Jessica Gill (0-2), Therese Maher (capt.), Sharon Quirke, Mary Keogh, Nicola Lally, Noreen Coen. Subs; Deirdre Ward (0-2) for Nicola Lally, Katie O'Dwyer for Krystel Ruddy.

Referee: Frank McDonald (Armagh).

The victory was particularly sweet for Kaiffe Moloney, who won her first All-Ireland after twenty-one years of trying. She was on the first team from the club to win the senior county final in 1986 and she has been on all the fourteen county winning sides, an indication of her incredible dedication and commitment. It was only fitting that she was brought on as a substitute in the dying moments of the final and had the joy of winning the elusive All-Ireland on the field of play.

It was the first time since 1966 that a Tipperary club team won the All-Ireland championship. In that year a hugely talented bunch of girls from St. Patrick's, Glengoole won the competition for the second year in a row. They were captained by Ann Graham, one of a family of sisters, who were the backbone of the team. The previous year the team was captained by Ann Carroll, one of the star players of the period. Hailing from Ballintaggert, across the border in Kilkenny, Ann's father ran a joinery works and was a huge supporter of camogie. He donated the cup, named after him, which is still presented to the winner of the club championship. Ann's mother, Agnes, was the secretary of the Tipperary camogie board at the time. Coincidentally, Sinead Millea found herself sitting beside Anne Carroll at the All-Ireland hurling semi-final in Croke Park in August. Maybe it was an omen of things to come!