While the devastation and hurt among the Athleague players was palpable in the aftermath of Alan Doheny’s final whistle at the end of a pulsating hour of action at Ballinderreen, Athleague manager Seamus Qualter was the visible personification of the calm in the eye of the storm — a man who had seen enough good days and bad days to know that late goals are simply a fact of life in Gaelic games.
“It’s heart-breaking for the girls, but these things happen,” he noted, succinctly.
“These things happen and they (Clanmaurice) got the rub of the green on the day. You have to remember that that’s the Kerry county team you’re playing there and Athleague is a club team. They’re a fairly seasoned outfit, and they’re good and strong. All of them play county camogie at a fair level, so I’d be very happy with the Athleague performance, the way we applied ourselves and got stuck in,” he continued.
“I couldn’t fault our players for their effort, their application, and the way they played the game. They dug deep when they had to. We hurled as well as we could, but a couple of small mistakes cost us and that was it at the end of the day,” he felt.
One of those errors was the lapse in concentration that allowed Patrice Diggin to find space in the middle of the Athleague full-back line in the opening minute, but Qualter was more interested in the manner in which his team worked their way back into the tie following each of the two Clanmaurice goals.
“We did so well to get back into the game” he remarked. “They got a goal after about 30 seconds and we recovered from that and came back. The second goal was a mishit free that just ended up in the top corner of the net. We were six points down, scored 1-3 without reply and there was three minutes to go and we were right there in it. But when the third goal went in we just didn’t get time to get back down the field to have a go at coming up with a goal ourselves,” he illustrated.
Both Clanmaurice and Athleague have known more than their fair share of heartbreak at this level. On Sunday week Clanmaurice will play their first ever All-Ireland club camogie final after losing three semi-finals in recent years, and Qualter is hopeful that, in time, Athleague will also be able to build on the lessons learned on the hard days, like last Sunday in South Galway.
“There’s a lot of youth there, a lot of new girls came into the team over the last year that wouldn’t have played over the last couple of years so the future is bright. I’ve been through this before with a lot of other teams and sometimes you have to lose one or two to be able to win one, and hopefully they’ll bounce back and come back strong, and they’ll get their turn.
“You just couldn’t fault them today, a team comes in at the very end and gets a bit of luck when they need it, Clanmaurice got it and fair play to them. Best of luck to them in the final now,” the Athleague manager concluded graciously.