History on the line for Cross camogs

By Shaun Casey

IT’S 20 years since a camogie team from Crossmaglen lined out on All-Ireland final day, but this Saturday in Abbostown, the Rangers will once again compete for All-Ireland glory.

Back in 2003, the black and amber camogs overcame Drumcullen of Offaly to claim the Phil McBride Cup in the inaugural year of the All-Ireland Junior Camogie Championship.

This time around, the Cross girls are in the Junior B final against St Munna’s from Wicklow and their hoping to repeat the feat two decades on, although as captain Ríona McConville explains, there’s few links between now and then.

“It’s new territory for us, we’ve never been here before,” said McConville. “The last time Cross camogie was in an All-Ireland final was 20 years ago and they won it so it’s very exciting to be here.

“The nerves are kicking in a wee bit as the week goes on because you’re getting to the end of the year. You know this is the final stop before the biggest victory you can receive. We go on that it’s just another game but it’s very exciting.

“There’s actually only one set of daughters on the team, their mum played, the Lenaghans. We have two young 16-year-olds and a 19-year-old on the team but apart from that there’s very little links.

“But a lot of that team would still be around the club and are always at are games and are always supporting us in some way so it’s a completely new team.”

There’s no added responsibility placed on the shoulders of McConville, although she wears the captain’s armband, she’ll just try to keep the girls grounded going into the game. That could prove difficult as Cross breezed through their Ulster final and recent semi-final.

“I’m just trying to treat it as a normal game,” added McConville. “The scorelines over the last couple of games have been in favour of us so it’s going into this game knowing that you’re going to have a bit more of a tricky competition.

“Everyone is on the same wavelength, that we know it’s going to be tricky, and I don’t think I have any added responsibility as captain. I’m just trying to keep the nerves off the girls and settle them and tell them it’s just another day and we’ll get through it alright.

“In the last game, the scoreline didn’t reflect the intensity of the match. It was a hard-hitting game and I think for us, we were just more clinical, and we knew what to do when we got the ball into our forward line.

“I think for us, since the Armagh Championship, we haven’t been complacent. We know how quickly a game can change so even though we’re coming through these games and winning by a lot, we know that no game at this level is easy, we’ve just been more clinical.”

Goals have been crucial, with seven coming the last day out, and Armagh ladies defender Lauren McConville has been key in that department. She lines out at full-forward and McConville, a second cousin of the Cross captain, bagged four three-pointers.

“I would have said that during the league this year that we would have struggled with scoring goals, but we’ve worked on that throughout the year.

“We know when we get the ball into our forward line, they know what to do with it. We’ll hopefully be using that to our advantage again this weekend.

“Having Lauren now that the football is over for the season is great. She has been really dedicated to camogie and her improvement and everything has been good. You can see she has that experience of playing in high intensity games.

“She’s so determined when she gets the ball, it’s one option, she has tunnel vision to the net. She’s great to have in the changing room. I wouldn’t be the biggest talker before games, any talking that needs to be done is done on the field.

“But it’s great to have Lauren there for her insight and her motivational speeches and you really learn a lot from her, off and on the pitch. It’s great to have her and she does push everyone on in every way.”

McConville admits they don’t know too much about Saturday’s opponents, but that won’t worry them. “We know nothing at all about them really. They’ve had very good wins in their last two games and their scorelines reflects them being a good team obviously.

“But again, like usual, we don’t like to focus to much on the opposition. I think if you do that it can become a bit upsetting inside the group when you don’t really know what to expect.

“We’ll just go out there and we’ll focus on ourselves and we’ll play like we have done the last couple of times, it’s worked for us, so fingers crossed it’ll get us over the line on Saturday.”

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