By Michael McMullan
WHEN St Patrick’s, Maghera junior camogie trials began in early September, the management knew they had a talented group who go in search of history this weekend.
After reaching several finals in their history, Maghera have never managed to cross that winning line and it’s Loreto, Kilkenny who stand in their way in a repeat of last month’s senior decider won by Loreto.
The season began with the tough task of selecting a squad from nearly 50 players to a squad that conquered Ulster.
“We are very lucky with the talent that comes into the school,” said joint manager Eimear Laverty.
“We knew at the first trial that we had the makings of a really good team and they all seemed to gel really well together.
“The girls have worked hard from that very first trial until now. We have been out training two or three times a week from September with no break.”
A 7-20 to 6-4 win over Cross and Passion, Ballycastle saw the Corn Eimhear return to Derry as Ulster champions back in November.
Since then, the junior and senior camogs combined forces to keep the show ticking over until the All-Ireland series after Christmas in the absence of competitive junior camogie.
“It helped us keep the momentum going and that really helped as there is a crossover with the teams,” Lavery explained
“It encouraged the girls that they could play at a higher level. It meant as managers, there were six of us, that we able to come together and bounce ideas off each other and share the trainings.”
A 4-12 to 3-9 win over Gort Community School in the semi-final was a gamble of sorts after the layoff since November.
“It was and it was only after the game that we reflected that we hadn’t played a match together in so long,” Lavery said.
“The gap and travelling to Galway and staying over also brought added pressure.
“We are so proud of them with how they came through on the day. It was very tough competition and they really stood up to it.”
It’s the first season since 2011 that both senior and junior camogie teams were through in the same year. The hurlers were in the O’Keefe Cup mix, with buses from the school heading south on what seemed like a weekly basis.
“It is great that this excitement has been created for the girls,” Lavery said. “We have been used to in our school with the MacRory and the hurlers, so it has been fantastic for the girls to get a bit of recognition.”
She is full of praise of the support the boys have given to the camogie scene and the fans who travelled to the All-Ireland semi-final.
”It has just been brilliant, making head bands and flags…the girls are thriving form it,” she added.
The history books show that St Mary’s, Magherafelt’s 1-10 to 0-4 win over FCJ Bunclody in the 1996 final is Ulster’s only title so far.
“The amount of times we have got to the final and have not got over the line. If we can get over that line it would help us for teams in the years to come,” Lavery concludes.
“The girls have worked really hard and I truly believe that if we put the work in it is possible but we are up against really tough opposition in Loreto who are used to winning All-Irelands.
“We just really have to knuckle down and go for it on the day. They are a lovely group of girls. Nothing has been too much; if you ask them to do it they do it. The commitment of all 27 of them has been fantastic.”