By Michael McMullan
AFTER years of near misses, Brídíní Óga emerged from the Antrim Intermediate Championship and step into the Ulster scene against Down’s An Riocht this weekend.
With 13 players from their football winning squad on board, the Glenravel side made it a double with victory over Portglenone and captain Kirsty Laverty puts their success down to getting their preparation right when it mattered.
At just 23 years of age, Laverty is one of the oldest players in a new youthful crop built around local girls after years of players drifting in from the outskirts to join their camogie team.
“At my age there were four or five girls who went to the county development squads and the ones below it,” she said of the team’s development.
Full of praise for the efforts of mentors inside the club, Laverty feels the extra coaching at county underage level lifted the bar with the players coming into the senior ranks
“We have been very lucky as our mentoring has been very good – in the club and county,” she added.
A win over Loughgiel seconds in the quarter-final began their championship run, with Aimee Traynor’s 2-4 tally helping to down Cargin in the semi-final.
Before that, Laverty admits their season was a rocky one with the pressure to deliver looming over after throwing the kitchen sink at the 2021 season and coming unstuck against Cargin.
At the start of this season, their performances weren’t yielding results. Long periods without games in the county window left them in the unknown. An early season defeat to Rossa rang the alarm bells and doubts crept in.
Players were away on school and county duty, but it all began to click in April. Aidan McKeown built a management team including Rodney Kerr, Martin Coulter and Malachy McToal, with all four bringing different pieces to the table.
“Six or eight weeks before the championship was a turning point when girls started to knuckle down,” Laverty said.
“Once we got the management sorted out in April or May time, then the hard slog was put in…it all fell into place and the girls started to enjoy it a bit more,” Laverty said of the turning point.
As the pressure began to dissolve the team began to gel, with championship success the long-term reward for years of knocking at the door.
With Ulster now on the horizon, Laverty casts her mind back to the club’s last crusade into Ulster in the Bridie McMenamin Shield. Now, the grade is different, but the experience will be invaluable.
“Some of the girls went down to watch them (An Riocht) in the Down final,” Laverty revealed.
“They have the same style of play as us. It is Ulster, so it is the luck of the draw. You are playing on heavy pitches and it is a hard slog. It is the team that adapts to the day that comes out on top.”