Lorrha captain Clodagh McIntyre is presented with the cup by Tipperary Camogie Board chairperson Denis Lenihan. PHOTO: ROSE MANNION

Lorrha finally get their due

By Thomas Conway

There are several ways to spend a Sunday morning in November. Some involve forest walks and artisan coffees; others take in a trip to the local market and a perusal of the day's newspapers. Winning a county final is generally an afternoon activity, but on this occasion, Lorrha had the entire thing wrapped up just before noon.

For selector Aidan McIntyre, and indeed the Lorrha contingent, it was worth the early start. Years of agony and heartache had seen this particular team come up just short in several county finals over the past couple of years. Aidan reams off those defeats in an almost plaintive tone. They were difficult to take, but all of a sudden, those games have become secondary memories. This county title seemed like it might never arrive, but it finally has, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it was extremely hard-earned.

“We had been beaten by Ballina in 2017, Knockavilla after a replay in 2018, St. Rita’s in 2019, and in 2020 we were beaten by Templemore, so we were due one,” he said

“We were actually beaten in the semi-final in 2016 as well, so we’ve been knocking on the door for a long time. It meant an awful lot.

“Other clubs might be able to pick from a few parishes, but all of our players are from Lorrha, and we were missing two of our better players as well - Caoimhe Kennedy and Kate O’Meara. They went to Dubai during the summer, so to win it without them, that showed how much the girls all knuckled down.”

Ken Hogan completed a remarkable double feat on Sunday, managing Lorrha to the Junior ‘B’ Camogie title before hightailing it to Tullamore, where he guided St. Rynagh’s to victory in the Offaly Senior Hurling final, securing a three-in-a-row for the Banagher-based outfit.

The dual success was a testament to the man’s shrewd tactical knowledge and outright dedication to Gaelic games. One imagines the adrenaline was still flowing on Sunday evening. The Offaly final went down to the wire, and as Aidan explains, this Lorrha team specialise in coming from behind.

“Even in the semi-final, we were down four points against Gortnahoe in the second-half, but then we fought back,” he recalls.

“And in the final we were down six points, and we scored 1-9 without reply. Then we nearly let them back into the game again, but I think we got a touch of white line fever - we saw the finishing line and I suppose all the hurt of the years before was on our minds. I wouldn’t say there were scenes of joy at the final whistle, but scenes of relief more so, and exhilaration as well. Just to get out of it. And then of course Ken Hogan had a fast drive over to Tullamore!”

Captaining Lorrha on Sunday was their midfield ace, inter-county star Clodagh McIntyre, a daughter of Aidan. How did the day's events compare to sprinting up and down the hallowed turf of Croke Park last August? Incomparable. As many a Gaelic games player will tell you, there's something special about the club.

“I’d say Sunday was probably the best day of my life,” she said.

“Nothing compares to playing with your club and winning with your club - especially after all the years of disappointment. I was so happy to be captain, even to be playing, it was just such an honour. And it was such a special day, because Lorrha hasn’t really been going well for the past few weeks - with the seniors and the under-21s, so we really needed a lift. It’s just great.”

This county title wasn't just won last Sunday. Clodagh emphasises the importance of the many figures who have helped to bring Lorrha Camogie to this new height - the likes of Caroline O'Meara, whose dedication has kept the club going through thick and thin.

The twenty-year-old captain has a busy lifestyle, currently working as a physio in the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire. She helps people to recover, to improve, to get the best out of themselves. Lorrha got the best out of themselves last weekend, and there might be better yet to come.