The Arklow Rocks renaissance rages on with victory over Kiltegan in Junior camogie final



Arklow Rocks 2-14

iltegan 4-3

Renaissance, revival, revolution; call it what you want but it’s happening in Arklow Rocks right now and it’s a beautiful thing to watch.

Chairperson and unofficial spiritual leader of the club Penni Heald cried tears of joy after the final whistle on Sunday in Pearse’s Park when they emerged from a battle with Kiltegan to be crowned Junior camogie champions of 2022.

Six years ago, camogie was being wound up at Parnell Park according to the Stockport native, but a fragile dream, a collective effort and the development of some wonderful young players now means that the goal of having a team at every underage level and an adult squad competing for championship honours is now a sweet, sweet reality.

And the most pleasing thing is the potential. How much further can the Rocks go? What new horizons can they aim for? What brilliant adventures await them? It’s very much in their own hands. They are riding on the crest of a wave. A palpable sense of hope roars from their supporters, they bring a vibrancy to games, a colour, energy. Young players believe. The Rocks are rocking and as a county we need them to rock with everything they’ve got because a strong Arklow can only help raise standards across the board.

“My daughter started playing camogie and she liked it,” said Penni after the final whistle when we asked her to describe the journey to this magical moment. “Camogie was being wrapped up at the Rocks. They were stopping it. I took over with a lady called Fiona. She’s since moved on, but I became chairperson. We didn’t have many players, but my goal was to get players in at under-8 and that we would fill it up. The goal was to get a team at every level and then get an adult team and then win something,” explained Penni as she looked around at the girls who were young children when she began this journey celebrating wildly in Pearse’s Park.

“And I was saying, it’s better to have something to show for my husband divorcing me because I put so much time into the Rocks. So, at least I’ve got something to show for it. I can retire now, but they’re telling me I can’t,” she added.

Penni adores this proud club. She may never have played camogie but what she has done for the sport in Arklow is incredible. One ingredient in the recipe that is working a treat there is fun. You can see it on their social media channels and witness it at their games. The players are clearly loving their time together.

“All of them. They all make a great team. Billy (Mellon), the coach, has softened a little bit this year. Now, not too much, but it’s the fun they have whatever we do. We knew we had to (get a tight bond). We came from nothing. We lost everything, and this is just, I don’t know, I might wake up and it’s all a dream, a bit like Dallas,” she joked.

Penni can rest assured that this is no dream. A stunning performance from Ciara Lancaster and a powerful showing from Lizzie Bourke were just two of the key factors behind this victory that was anything but straight-forward.

If Lancaster and Bourke dazzled for the Rocks, then Leah Furlong starred for Kiltegan as she almost single-handedly brought them to a title that looked beyond them at 2-7 to 1-3 behind at the break.

Lizzie Bourke opened the scoring after one of her trademark trundles through the middle and while Furlong replied with a fine free, Ciara Lancaster then announced herself on the big stage with two super scores in that effortless, easy way the centre-forward has about her. As she moves across the field it seems that gravity has a different effect on her than on most other people. She ghosts across the grass, almost ethereal like.

The tireless and brave Aine Byrne walloped home the first major of the day after 12 not long after Stephanie Jackson fired over after heavy Kiltegan pressure on the Rocks square, but Elisha Ryan’s side were in serious bother when Roisin Murphy fired home with 20 gone to make it 2-5 to 0-2 with Kiltegan having serious trouble getting the ball to Furlong inside and having to make a double substitution to try rescue the situation.

Standing strong for the Rocks were Jessica Mellon, Emma Breen, Zara Fennell and Doireann Kavanagh.

Kiltegan were given a glimmer of hope when Miriam O’Keeffe’s long ball found Furlong and she lashed home past Ide Ryan in the Rocks goal, but Billy Mellon’s side would finish the stronger with two sweet scores from the excellent Roisin Murphy to leave it 2-7 to 1-3 at the break, Amber House firing over Kiltegan’s third point after great work from Tanisha Daly Danne.

With the wind at their backs, you knew Kilegan were going to go route one, and by God did they cause the Rocks nightmares in the first 18 minutes of that second half!

Furlong had her second goal not long after the restart, getting on the end of a long ball from out the field.

Probably the winning of the game was the fact that the Rocks didn’t panic and that strong belief within the squad allowed them reply with scores at the other end. Following the concession of that first goal of the second half, they hit back with four points, three from lethal Lancaster and one from brilliant Bourke.

But Kiltegan were hunting. Ide Ryan stopped one dangerous ball and another effort came back off the butt of the Rocks post. Big showings from Catherine Donovan, Selina Byrne, Andrea Byrne, Amber House and Miriam O’Keeffe were gaining Kiltegan some foothold.

Furlong had her hat-trick after 13 minutes thanks to a clever flick from Stephanie Jackson and the gap was down to five points.

Again, the Rocks recovered superbly; two outstanding Lancaster points giving the superb Rocks crowd plenty to shout about.

But Furlong struck again, striking clean to the heart of the Rocks soul with her fourth major of the day. The Kiltegan star was now having to contend with being double marked and with supply diminishing she found herself having to drift out the field and the Kiltegan goal threat was greatly reduced, and they would need another one or two to really attack this game in the closing stages.

However, it wasn’t to be. A late Lancaster point concluded the scoring and the final whistle brought scenes of jubilation to the Rocks and despair to a brave Kiltegan side who gave everything to the cause in what was a wonderful advertisement for Wicklow camogie.

Arklow Rock Parnells: Ide Ryan; Aoife O’Brien, Jessica Mellon, Kelly Somers; Zara Fennell, Emma Breen (capt.), Doireann Kavanagh; Niamh Killoran, Lizzie Bourke (0-2); Roisin Murphy (1-2), Ciara Lancaster (0-10, 3f), Doireann Killoran; Aine Byrne (1-0), Maisie Mellon, Erin Bardon. Subs: Orla Hoey for M Mellon (52), Mary Geraghty for K Somers (52). Panel: Aishlinn Strahan, Eimhear Lee, Rose Hudson, Stacey Riley, Aoife Joey, Sinead Riley, Lisa Mellon, Sarah O’Driscoll.

Kiltegan: Carmel Spillane; Olive Bermingham, Tanya Wynne, Alison Holmes; Ailbhe Maguire, Catherine Donovan, Tanisha Daly Danne; Selina Byrne, Andrea Byrne; Miriam O’Keeffe, Amber House (0-1), Suzanne Toomey; Olivia Harmon (capt.), Leah Furlong (4-1, 1f), Stephanie Jackson (0-1). Subs: Sophie Kavanagh for S Toomey (19), Noeleen Rowan for O Harmon (19). Panel: Wendy Fairbrother, Roisin Timmins, Orlaith O’Toole, Kate Hanbidge, Sarah Keane, Sharon Mooney, Clara O’Keeffe, Grace Kelly, Michaell Byrne.

Referee: Max Molloy (Annacurra)


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