The green and blue balloons of Foxrock Cabinteely floated off into the Swords’ sky, raised by mentor Maureen King’s emotional words and a gritty, determined performance to land a sixth successive DLGFA senior championship title.
Amy Connolly, Jodie Egan and Ashling Murphy hit 1-2 apiece, holding off the challenge of Kilmacud Crokes for a second successive season in a high-quality finale.
Julia Buckley’s 2-3 and a trio of Eabha Rutledge points had Crokes in touching distance of their fiercest rivals but blitzes as the end of each half saw Fox-Cab home.
Locked at 3-4 to 2-7 going into the final stages, the Kilbogget club summoned all their resourcefulness in a clinch to eke out a lead again via an Egan point with further back-up coming from Jess Connolly and Murphy.
Goalkeeper Aisling Tarpey’s outstretched arm crucially denied Rutledge in stoppage time.
It meant another golden moment for Fox Cab, an extra-special one given the context of a global pandemic and the empty sidelines which King put into words in the post-match huddle.
“We live in this moment and take it to think about how fortunate we were to play a game we absolutely love with the people we love. This club is our family and we stayed connected, active, and just happened to win a senior championship.”
While the vast majority of the side were getting their hands on the Michael Murphy Cup once again, it was a first for player-of-the-match Sinead Loughran, capping a remarkable season.
“When they called out my number, I didn’t realise I was wearing 10 because that’s usually Amy Connolly’s number [she wore 11 on the night]. I didn’t know it was me!” she told the Dublin Gazette of getting the accolade.
Surprise, indeed, as this was her first ‘full’ season in the sport for nearly 15 years and owed much to serendipity.
An incredible natural talent, she played for Dublin underage sides from age 11 up to 16 before focusing on hockey, the sport which helped take her to University of North Carolina on scholarship.
For good measure, she is also in the running for Milltown Golf Club’s player of the year. “I had a high handicap and, sure, any hockey player can bash a ball; when you put that together, it is probably a bit of a fluke!” she modestly qualifies that achievement.
Again, the evolving pandemic played a part. A medical student – usually based in UL these days – she found herself at a bit off loose end this summer when the lockdown hit.
“I was supposed to be doing electives. It was devastating not to be able to do that but it was completely understandable that students couldn’t go into hospitals which would be a medium for transmission. I worked on research and played golf because it was basically the only sport you could do until the Gaelic started back which was when I gave it a go!”
As for the Gaelic, when her path veered into hockey, she never thought it would be so long before she got back to it with Foxrock Cabinteely.
“I always wanted to go back to it and had a ‘kind of’ season the juniors last year. I really enjoyed it and said I’d give senior a go. I was not saying I would be good enough but I knew all the girls and played with most of them before and so ending up with a senior county championship is amazing!
“Over the years, even though I wasn’t playing, I’d go to as many matches as I could. Any sportsperson would know how much it means, anyone who is at a relatively high level would understand the competitive nature of the athlete’s mind. I understood what it meant to the girls.
“Having five previous wins was probably scary for them with that expectation so I knew there was that additional pressure on so I wanted to perform as best I could for them.”