BY KIERAN McCARTHY
SACRED Heart’s never-say-die spirit is their secret weapon ahead of Saturday’s All-Ireland colleges’ senior C camogie final, according to their manager Brian Daly.
The Clonakilty secondary school will battle with St Dominic’s of Cabra this weekend – in Nenagh, at 3pm – for the title of All-Ireland champion, and Daly believes his young charges possess the steely determination, that stuff of champions, that will see them over the line.
‘They don’t know when they are beaten. It’s something that you can’t coach, it’s either in them or it’s not, but they just don’t want to lose and will do everything they can not to lose,’ Daly explained.
‘They say inside in the dressing room before every game that if they are beaten by the better team then they will be able to hold their heads high because they know that they will be after giving it absolutely everything.
‘They won’t be beaten for a lack of effort and other teams are afraid of that, they can’t handle the work rate that the girls put in.’
As well as that heart and battling spirit, Sacred Heart have raced out of the blocks in their last few games. They scored two early goals in the Munster final win against St Mary’s of Midleton and they repeated the trick with another quick-fire two-goal salvo in the All-Ireland semi-final win against Abbey Community College of Waterford. More of the same on Saturday is needed, explains Daly, a geography and history teacher in Sacred Heart.
‘You couldn’t script all the games we had,’ the Clon manager said.
‘Against Midleton in the Munster final, our biggest game in years, we scored two goals inside the opening ten minutes. Against Abbey Community College Claire Sexton had two goals scored after seven minutes. Against Cashel in the quarter-final, another phenomenal team, we scored two early goals that settled us down.’
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for this young Sacred Heart team that also won the Munster colleges’ senior league cup in January, and the transition this side has undergone this season is a testament to their hard work. Daly explains.
‘In the first league game of the season we took a pasting from Dromcollogher of Limerick. They came all the way down, got off the bus and taught us a lesson,’ he said.
‘I will say that it was a very different team to the one that we have now but you still would have had seven or eight players who will play in the final playing in that game. It was a chastening experience. We had a look at ourselves. We talked about what we need to do if we wanted to progress this year and we worked on that.
‘We moved onto Carrigtwohill, which was our first championship game of the year and we gave a superb performance that set the tone for the rest of the year.’
The Clonakilty native added: ‘It’s my eleventh year with the school and while we have won a few minor honours like a county title and a few leagues we haven’t reached the ultimate honour yet. We have some cracking teams and cracking players in the school over the years – too many to mention, to be honest – and we haven’t got this far so that is a testament to how well the girls have done this year.’
This week, a contingent from the school, including 11 of the Sacred Heart panel and Daly himself, set off for Belfast and Derry for a geography and history tour, so it’s a busy week that culminates in an All-Ireland final against their Cabra opponents.
‘Leinster this year was split in north and south. St Dominic’s won the Dublin A so they are the top team in Dublin and camogie is quite strong. They will be formidable. Their games have been low scoring, from what I have seen, and they have a couple of players who do the bulk of scoring,’ Daly explained.
Sacred Heart have reported a clean bill of health – apart from the injured Ailbhe Dowling (cruciate) – ahead of the school’s biggest game since the 1999 All-Ireland final, and central to their hopes is their leading scorer (12-14 in this championship alone) and captain Claire Sexton.
‘I have been trying to play down her abilities all year because a lot of the teams that we have been playing against double mark her because she’s that good. She can be as good as she wants to be. I have been involved in camogie a long time and she is as good as I have seen,’ Daly said.