Community spirit behind Granemore’s success

By Shaun Casey

IT’S been a historic year for the Granemore camogie team, who finished out 2023 with their first ever Ulster and All-Ireland titles, and manager Connor Devlin says the community spirit was the driving force behind their success.

Granemore lost out in last year’s Ulster decider to Glenravel, who went on to win the All-Ireland, but came back bigger and better this year to get over the line in the province and ensure the Phil McBride Cup remained in Ulster.

“It’s quite surreal to be honest, I’m still taking it in and trying to savour every minute of it,” said the Granemore boss Devlin, older brother of team captain and goalkeeper Ciarraí.

“I think the club has been in existence for 47 years and even the Ulster title made history and then obviously the All-Ireland is the first in their history as well.

“It’s very, very special and I’m absolutely delighted, not only for the girls but also delighted for the community as well, because of the level of support we have had up and down the country from the first round of Ulster against Loughgiel to Kinnegad last week.

“It’s just been phenomenal and the level of noise they bring and the generosity and the goodwill of the community, it’s been amazing. What they’ve done for those girls has been amazing and I’m delighted for the community as much as anybody else.”

Granemore led their All-Ireland decider with Roscommon’s Athleague from start to finish, thanks to a fortuitous Rachael Merry goal inside the opening 90 seconds of the game. While it wasn’t entirely comfortable, Granemore always held their opponents at arm’s length.

“We’d done quite a bit of analysis on them before the game, and they’re very well set up defensively. At times they’ll only leave four up and play 11 behind the ball and we knew we had to get off the breaking line, getting off the shoulder.

“The pitch maybe would have suited them a wee bit better because it was a wee bit softer so it led to a lot of ruck ball and that, but we knew we had to execute any chances that we did get.

“We got a fortuitous start with the goal, but we ended up getting two more which were really well worked, switches of play and when you have a girl like Rachael Merry stepping up and hitting 2-7 in an All-Ireland final, you’re going to be difficult to talk to.”

Merry came in for particular praise from her manager after her Player of the Match display.

It was Merry who grabbed the goal right at the start of the game, and she rattled the net again near the end to guarantee victory for her side.

“In those clutch moments, there’s nobody else you’d want standing over a ball,” suggested Devlin.

“She has done that time and time again for Granemore over the years and on Saturday, it was a brilliant performance, but I’m not surprised.

“She works so hard at her game; she analyses her own game and if you were going to war tomorrow, you’d want her beside you.

“She’s just a superb player and to take into consideration that she had a near-career ending injury two years ago.

“Her hamstring came off the bone two years ago and this is only her second season back and she’s operating at such a high level, it’s unbelievable where she’s come from.

“But there’s no secret to it, she works so hard in the gym, outside of the gym, hitting frees after training.

“There’s no secret to it, she just works really hard,” the Granemore manager added.

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