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Mon 01-Oct-2001 10:26
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‘Laois Ladies Never Say Die!’
Having had a late night topped off with a ‘curry’ chips, An Maor dug up the oul’ yellow bib and wandered into Croke Park for the final game of a long and marvellous Summer…
He wandered gingerly on in, could barely look at the chicken-and-stuffing sangwich, had a brief chat with the small number of Maoir there and headed on up to his perch. The Womens’ All Ireland Football Final is the last place a sore head would want to be. Each child seemed armed with a whistle and hooter and every girl screamed her head off at top pitch. It was piercing! Gangs of teenage girls roamed around, borrowing pens and chasing Gerry Lohans and anyone else that looked as if they may be important autographs.
After many complaints about Roscommon being Connacht champions and not getting to play in Croke Park this year, the county’s Junior Womens’ Footballers made up for it by getting all the way to HQ. Some support they brought too. Indeed, it was a record crowd for a Womens All Ireland, despite the hosting of the finals in Croke Park being in doubt earlier in the year. Makes you wonder what all the unnecessary hassle arose about getting rid of the final from Croker. Fair play to TG4 for stepping in and sponsoring the championship too. All credit to Cumann Peil Gaelach na mBan and to their spokesperson, Helen O’Rourke. They’ve have promoted the game well and it is being played in ever increasing numbers. They provide one of the most enjoyable (and as the years go by - increasingly so) days in the Irish sporting calendar. The atmosphere is unique.
Roscommon and Kildare came out for the Junior Final to an almighty scream. Kildare hit a wide, messed about a bit and then Roscommon found their way to goal. Point after point was piled on the board as Kildare pointed twice at the other end. Half time came and the Cumann na mBunscol children came out to play. The children reflected the increasing ethnic diversity of Irish primary schools. It’s great to see the GAA is playing a major role in integrating these kids into Irish society.
The second half began and Roscommon continued from where they left off and scored almost at will. Despite the one-sided nature of the game, the enthusiasm of the Roscommon supporters made it most enjoyable. The hooter sounded with Roscommon’s goal scorer Emer Casey injured on the ground. As the team celebrated the victory she was trying to get up off the stretcher to join them for the presentation of the West County Hotel Cup and was eventually carried to the celebrations. And celebrations there were too. Both Laois and Mayo seniors were well on the field when eventually Roscommon left the field.
The crowd was awash with colour as the teams arrived … the White, Blue and white, Green and Red, Blue and Yellow. Interestingly enough (if you’re interested in this type of GAA trivia) it was 1989 since no team wearing blue and white was in the Womens’ final. Laois were nearly left behind by the Artane Boys Band at the start of the pre-match parade and then bumped into each other at the end of the parade as the Band ground to a sudden halt.
It was nip and tuck for the first half with Laois in front by a couple of points only for a late Mayo surge to send the green-and-red a few points to the good at half time. Another great thing about the Womens’ final was despite the twenty-one thousand attendance, the ‘Gents’ was half empty at half time.
Mayo started the second half well, with Cora Staunton scoring some lovely points. The Mayo Womens’ three-in-a-row in a row looked on (they’d be the first Mayo women to get three in a row one wag remarked!). Laois started going for goals too early in the second half and they looked doomed but as the Croke Park banner said “Laois Ladies Never Say Die.” They didn’t, and a late penalty was converted to put the teams level. Laois went two ahead, Mayo drew level again through a wonderful Cora Staunton point. The standard of pointscoring on view was excellent, with very few wides by either team – something some mens’ teams might emulate to good effect.
With seconds on the clock, Mayo fouled one of their own kickouts and Laois had a free for the match. The ball was going over the bar as the hooter blew for the end of the game. Having lost seven finals, Laois had won their first and were the new holders of the Brendan Martin Cup.
The Croke Park pitch is being dug up on Monday for the construction work and it will be late June next before the re-laid pitch is playable. That is, of course, if everything goes according to plan. So if you want a bit of the hallowed turf, try looking in some skips on Jones road over the next week!
Afterwards AM and his colleagues had a yap and talked of the Dublin manager’s job. By all accounts Tommy Carr’s goose has been cooked, but Mullins won’t be getting the job either…. John Bailey has come out awfully bad from the episode too…. There was something about Sean Boylan the last day that led a few Maoir to think he may be stepping down from the Royal hot seat soon.
We shall see… And so AM and his pals said goodbye until the annual dinner dance. And the bib was put into hibernation for the Winter.
‘We talk just like lions, but we sacrifice like lambs…’.
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