It was supposed to be simple, and in the end, it was. Defeated finalists in 2021, Mayo were utterly dominant throughout the group stages of the 2022 Tesco All-Ireland U-16 “D” Camogie championship, winning all of their games by an average margin of over 30 points – including a 5-18 to 0-3 win in Castlebar against last Saturday’s final opponents from Cavan.
Consequently, Brendan Tunney’s side were expected to cruise to victory in Kinnegad at the weekend, and a cursory glance at the scoreboard would suggest that this was exactly what happened – but for 30 minutes, this was a much more competitive contest than it might have appeared, and by the interval, Cavan were just five points in arrears and not without hope whatsoever.
“We were favourites coming in on the back of the scores and the results that we’ve had up to this point, but we knew that it was going to be tough and that Cavan were going to be a different side coming in today” said manager Brendan Tunney after the game.
“It got sticky there for a while in the first half, but our girls held their nerve and just weathered the storm, battled out that period, and took their scores to keep us in the game at that stage, allowing us to push on as the game progressed”.
In particular, it was two goals from corner forward Ciara Kennedy, one immediately after half-time, and one midway through the second half, that allowed Mayo to cruise through the final quarter of the contest. Kate Tener added a late 1-1 and Cathy Greally popped over her second point of the game in the closing stages to add gloss to the scoreboard, but right up until the final whistle there was a resolve and focus to this Cavan defence that Mayo simply hadn’t seen from any team prior to this final.
A substantial Cavan support travelled to the venue as well, creating an excellent atmosphere in the venue, and when the Breffni girls got the scoreboard moving with two of the first three points of the game, they looked a transformed side from the team that had been so comprehensively outplayed in the earlier meeting of the two sides.
At 0-2 each with 15 minutes gone, this was uncharted territory. But gradually Mayo got into the game, particularly when they succeeded in getting midfielder Méabh Tunney and Laura Flanagan on the ball.
Cavan succeeded in jamming up the centre quite well, no doubt conscious of the challenge posed by the Mayo playmakers in that sector, and so Mayo had to use the width of the pitch that bit more. In this respect, two outstanding scores from Christina McEvilly, both struck from the left flank, were crucial. They forced Cavan to stretch their defence a little bit wider, which in turn helped create the space for Laura Flanagan to run over the top and collect a long ball, which she duly smaches to the net after 22 minutes.
A similar goal for Cavan however, whipped to the corner of the net by Amelia Bannon in the 30th minute, made it 1-7 to 1-2 and shut down any thoughts of yet another procession. If anything, Mayo were grateful to hear the half-time whistle, as they were very much on the back foot at the time, with Cavan pressing for additional scores.
It was a new and different test for this group – which as it turned out, they passed in style.
“A lot of those girls did play in the Wicklow game last year, so they knew the disappointment and hurt that comes with losing a final” said Tunney.
“They used that as motivation for themselves and we used it to go out and make sure that it wasn’t the same result this year. You could see last year’s experience told and showed today, the girls performed really well and they finished the job, they kept their focus throughout, so it was great for them to get rewarded for that” he concluded.
Mayo: S Dee; E Fallon, K McGreal, R Monaghan; É Delaney, M O’Malley, A Dooley; L Greally, M Tunney (0-3, 2f ); S Tuohy, L Flanagan (1-2 ), C McEvilly (0-2 ); C Kennedy (2-1 ), C Greally (0-2 ), K Tener (1-2 ). Subs: C Quinn for McEvilly (60 ), A Greally for Monaghan (60 ), M Farrell for Dooley (60 ).
Cavan: C O’Rourke; L Foran, G Barry, D Kerr; A O’Sullivan, É Slowey, C Lynch; B Tully, K Tierney; G Ruxton (0-1 ), F Finnegan (0-1, 45 ), A Sexton; R Geoghegan (0-1 ), A Bannon (1-0 ), A McIntyre. Subs: S Moloney for Tully (25 ), E Tierney for McIntyre (38 ), G Devine for Bannon (57 ), K McIntyre for Sexton (57 ), E O’Reilly for Geoghegan (60 ).
Referee: Eoin Morrissey (Waterford )