Gailltír secured a first All-Ireland Camogie title at ‘A’ level for a Waterford side on Saturday last with a 5-7 to 4-5 win against Thomastown in Semple Stadium after extra-time in a pulsating encounter.
With the alterations to the structure of the Féile competition in 2014, Gailltír travelled to Tipperary to take part in the Regional Feile for the champions of Galway, Limerick, Dublin, Kilkenny, Dublin, Tipperary, Wexford, Cork, Clare and Waterford.
Gailltír made their way to the final courtesy of wins over Eire Óg Annacarthy (3-3 to 0-3), St Martins (2-3 to 2-2), Newcastlewest (2-10 to 0-01) and Ballyboden St Endas (3-0 to 1-1).
Having played the group encounters in Borrisoleigh, four victories secured a final berth in Semple Stadium.
Playing with the aid of a strong breeze in the first-half, Gailltír flew out of the traps and hit 2-5 without response in the opening 10 minutes.
The scoring spree began in the second minute when the outstanding Clodagh Carroll released a pass to midfield partner Una O’Brien who split the posts from thirty metres for the game’s opening score.
From the following puckout, left-half forward Annie Fitzgerald won possession and wove her way past through the Thomastown defence before finishing the ball to the net.
With territorial dominance continuing for Gailltír, full-forward Aoife Fitzgerald opened her account with a point in the fifth minute.
Gailltir continued to attack with the half-back line of Alisha Flynn, Leah Sheridan and Hannah Flynn giving little away and providing the side with a strong platform for attacks.
The Fitzgerald cousins combined again to raise a second green flag when Annie set up Aoife who made no mistake in bulging the net from 14 metres, with the same player raising another white flag shortly afterwards.
A free awarded for a foul on the industrious Ciara O’Sullivan and a 45 were converted by Annie Fitzgerald which gave the Barony a commanding 11-point lead.
Despite this advantage, the Kilkenny champions grew steadily in to the game and took the ascendancy for closing five minutes of the first-half.
Two spectacular pieces of aerial fielding from midfielder Roisin O Keeffe initiated two scores for the Noresiders with Orla O’Keeffe raising a white flag followed by the first Thomastown goal courtesy of Therese Donnelly.
But with the last play of the first half, lively corner forward Orla O’Keeffe soloed through the defence before laying the ball off to Eva Hynes who made no mistake from close-range by palming the ball to the back of the net to leave the score line at 2-5 to 2-1 in favour of Gailltír at half-time.
Like any Kilkenny side, Thomastown seized their opportunities and maintained their positive momentum at the start of the second-half.
Centre-back Ciara Prendergast asserted herself at the heart of the Thomastown rear-guard and a goal from Keri Whelan followed by points from Hynes, Ruth Ryan and Roisin O’Keeffe.
This quick-fire 1-3 signalled the end of a remarkable turnaround as Thomastown an eleven-point deficit was changed in to a two-point advantage.
With the breeze against them and the momentum in favour of Thomastown, some may have felt that the Waterford side would struggle to turn the deficit around.
But the team never lost belief and rose to the occasion, none more so than captain Annie Fitzgerald. Latching on to a sliothar on the sideline 50 metres from goal having blocked down her marker, Fitzgerald dodged past three defenders before unleashing a powerful shot to the back of the net to restore a one-point lead.
Within 60 seconds, the captain repeated the dose, with the hat-trick goal pushing the lead out to four points once again.
But a goal from Roisin O Keeffe and an equalising point from Hynes set up a tense finish as both sides fought it out to take the title.
A long delivery over the top of the Gailltír defence looked to have given Orla O’Keeffe a chance to go through on goal but the ever-dependable Emma Flynn raced across to cut out the danger.
With the final attack of the game, Gailltír mounted pressure but strong defending from the Thomastown rearguard snuffed out any scoring chances and the full-time whistle was sounded with the sides level at 4-5 each.
With 140 minutes of camogie already played that day, the sides had ten extra minutes to decide the destination of the Downey Cup, named after the legendary Kilkenny sisters Ann and Angela Downey. Despite the obvious signs of fatigue, Gailltír continued to show their energy in the battle.
Aoife Fitzgerald hit the opening score of extra-time before Annie Fitzgerald struck a remarkable fourth goal to give Gailltír a four-point lead at the break,
Goalkeeper Leah O’Donoghue made a vital save to maintain the four-point lead before captain Fitzgerald pointed another free having been fouled.
Despite exerting pressure, the defence, led superbly by Anna Mai Drohan at full-back, kept Thomastown scoreless in extra-time. Following a remarkable forty minutes of camogie, the final whistle was sounded and scenes of euphoria greeted a famous win for Gailltír.
Inspirational captain Annie Fitzgerald accepted the cup from Angela Downey and lifted it aloft to the delight of the team and supporters.
Gailltír: Leah O’Donoghue, Emma Flynn, Anne Mai Drohan, Sarah Kavanagh, Alisha Flynn, Leah Sheridan, Hannah Flynn, Clodagh Carroll, Una O’Brien, Sally O’Sullivan, Ciara O’Sullivan, Annie Fitzgerald, Laoise McLoughlin, Aoife Fitzgerald, Treasa Coady, Clodagh Curham, Caoimhe Forrest, Hannah Maguire, Jessica Flynn, Sarah Maher, Sorcha Cantwell.
Thomastown: Alicia Minogue, Keri Whelan, Una Donnelly, Ellen Ryan, Michelle Donnelly, Ciara Prendergast, Sinead O’Keeffe, Laoise Fennelly-Hunt, Roisin O’Keeffe, Shauna Dack-Kennedy, Eva Hynes, Nicola Dunne, Therese Donnelly, Ruth Ryan, Orla O’Keeffe, Lauren Grace, Abbi Wemyss, Eabha Galway, Amy Walsh, Derbhla O’Reilly, Aoibhinne O’Connell, Hannah Whelan, Isabel McNena, Jessica Murphy.