Raharney manager Pádraic Connaughton. PHOTO: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Raharney boss happy with title win after a ‘tough year’

Raharney manager Pádraic Connaughton is no stranger to presiding over success at this stage, but breathed a heavy sigh of relief as his charges overcame Clonkill after a protracted Westmeath senior ‘A’ camogie final on Saturday afternoon.

“We’re delighted. It was an extremely tough year for us. We were in a group of five for the championship, which means we had four games, and we only played one, with three games conceded,” he explained. “We had no preparation going into the semi-final and we need the semi final to prepare for that final.

“It was down to the wire and they [Clonkill] are obviously improving. We’ve had five long years, we’ve been on the road five years, and most of them girls were playing football last Saturday. After about 50 minutes we were tired in the legs, but in the final period of extra time all we asked for was composure and I think that’s where we won the match.”

A brace of first half goals from Terese Murray and Elaine Finn gave Raharney an important cushion at half time, as they faced a very determined challenge from Clonkill.

“They were absolutely crucial. They gave us a bit of a cushion. In the first 20 minutes Clonkill were on top. We had the breeze but we were struggling. They were catching a lot of ball and we pride ourselves on catching,” Connaughton reflected.

“We made two positional switches and they led to the goals. That kept us in the game, and kept us ahead at half time. I suppose our mentality at half time was ‘drive on’, but Clonkill came back at us.

Clonkill bossed proceedings for long stretches of the second half, but Connaughton was sure that his troops had enough heart and experience to prevail.

“I’ll be honest – I never think that it’s getting away from us. I know what they’re made of. We’ve been on the hook with All-Irelands where everyone thought we were gone, and we dig in. We dug in today and I think we dug in more in composure in extra time,” he said.

“Composure, experience… it’s hard to define experience. Experience to me is doing the basics right, and in the first period of extra time we did the basics right.”

Raharney have been down the road of provincial and All-Ireland campaigns before in recent years, and they kick off this year’s journey with a Leinster intermediate club camogie clash against Kilkenny opposition later this month.

“We’re up a grade in Leinster. We have James Stephens in Kilkenny on Sunday week, and Killucan are out tomorrow in Leinster. So we’ll go down to Kilkenny and we will be massive underdogs, but we’ve been massive underdogs before, and we expect to win,” Connaughton concluded.