BY KIERAN McCARTHY
HANNAH Sexton’s rise through the bowling ranks – and her growing collection of honours – is sensational. But even more remarkable is that she snaffled up All-Ireland U18 and Munster intermediate titles within five weeks despite having a cruciate tear in her left knee.
On May 29th last, the Timoleague teenager partly tore her ACL in action for the Cork intermediate camogie team during a Division 2 league game against Galway.
‘It was inside the first 15 minutes, I just landed down on my leg and my cruciate tore,’ Hannah explains.
That injury ended her camogie season – but it didn’t shut the door on her road-bowling ambitions.
‘I saw a specialist and was told that I could bowl away once the leg was strapped,’ she explains.
‘I didn’t need to get an operation, thank God, but as long as the leg was strapped and it was straight-line running, I could bowl on.’
Hannah didn’t need to be asked twice. It took time to get used to bowling with the heavy strapping, but soon the game’s most dominant underage star was back into the swing of things. In late August, in the delayed 2020 championships, she defended her Munster U18 title that kept the defence of her All-Ireland crown on track. Again, she swept to glory. Her All-Ireland triumph in Newtownhamilton, Armagh was never in doubt as she signed off her underage bowling career with back-to-back U18 All-Irelands. That follows on from Hannah’s back-to-back U16 All-Irelands, too. It’s a staggering record. She has done what has never been done before.
From U12 to U18 Hannah has dominated. She won all nine Munster underage finals she played in. Her record is phenomenal, as is her roll of honour: U18 (3), U16 (3), U14 (2) and U12 (1).
A few weeks after her latest All-Ireland success came Hannah’s big highlight of the past year – she won the Munster intermediate title (again, the delayed 2020 competition) with a two-bowl final victory over Ciara Buckley at Templemartin. The rewards are huge, as Hannah now advances to the senior ranks for 2020. She’s in with the big guns. There was a rare All-Ireland final defeat when she lost the intermediate decider to the experienced Sinead Kiernan in October, but that’s a blip in the grand scheme.
‘Winning the intermediate Munster is the stand-out from this year, says Hannah, who has added a Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star monthly award to her collection, in recognition of her achievements this year.
‘I started at intermediate in 2019 and wanted to get up to the senior grade as fast as possible, but I didn’t think it would happen this year and so fast. To win Munster and go up to senior, that was a dream,’ she says.
Hannah also enjoyed success, alongside Wayne Parkes, at the King and Queen of the Roads Festival in September. They defended their Youths’ International Triple Crown title against German and Dutch opponents. Yet more silverware.
With the bowling season now over, Hannah is focussed on rehabbing her left knee.
‘I am not getting an operation and they were waiting for me to finish up bowling so I could start my rehab properly. I finished up after the All-Ireland in late October so I have been in rehab the last two months. Obviously I hope to be back at the start of next year’s bowling, and to get back playing camogie too,’ she explains.
Having won All-Ireland and Munster titles while not 100 percent fit, and with a cruciate tear, just imagine what a fully-fit Hannah is capable of in 2022.