By John Foley
ON the biggest days a winning team needs their calm heads. Those who can find a pattern in the chaos and focus on the job at hand. Carlow’s ace free-taker Eleanor Treacy played that role to a tee at Croke Park on Sunday.
The Ballinkillen girl contributed so much to the battle in open play and she was excellent from placed balls, just as she has been all year, on her way to a contribution of six points.
“It was immense,” she said after the game. “From the word go it was tit for tat. You want to feel at the end of a match that you have nothing else to give. Well from one to 15 and the subs, we left everything out there and we got the right result, thank God.”
When the opportunities to keep the scoreboard ticking over presented themselves, Treacy found the posts time and time again. Her three points in the first half in particular were vitally important as Carlow settled into the game.
“When that ball is thrown in you have nothing on your mind but to take every chance. Thankfully the practice paid off, I only hit one wide. You want to do it for those girls. When someone else wins a free, all you want to do is put it over for them. It’s a collective effort.”
Trailing by a point in a low scoring first half, she said the players knew they had to raise their game.
“The work rate was not intense enough and people just had to step it up,” she said. “We regrouped and people just ploughed on in the second half. We knew we could do it. The fact we were underdogs going in, they were unbeaten through the championship.
“People underestimated the fact that during the league and in Leinster we played in the intermediate group so that stood to us. We pulled away when we had to.”
She said the scenes at the final whistle are ones she will never forget.
“It was brilliant. Everyone is so proud. The crowd out there, with some people you would never imagine had an interest. Carlow really got behind us.”
One of the key battle grounds on the pitch was the Carlow half-back line where the players did all they could to prevent the ball from making its way into an Armagh full forward line that came into this game with a big reputation.
Centre-back Kate Nolan said the players stood up to the task.
“We were under no illusions,” Kate said after the game. “We knew what we had in front of us. We had played Armagh previously so we knew exactly what we were in for. Armagh are a very physical team so we just matched them and went one better than them.”
Every loose ball was fought for like it was a piece of gold and it was Carlow’s determination to never take a backward step that brought its rewards.
“We knew once it came down the middle we had to swarm on it and get it back up to the full-forward line,” Kate said.
And when that final whistle went, it seemed as if the stadium erupted.
“The feeling was actually indescribable,” said Kate. “To finish it and walk up those steps… This sounds so clichéd but that is something we’ve been dreaming of since we were children. I dreamt of the day we would win in Croke Park. We knew were capable of it, but this is a dream come through. Walking into that dressing room where so many great teams had been and we actually got the chance to win here. Now we’re bringing the cup back to Carlow. What a feeling. It’s going to be brilliant.”