In hurling (or camogie) folklore there is a narrative often recalled that when spirits wished to organise matches in their world, they would entice the most skilled players as they slumbered, in order to participate in preternatural contests before returning them home, leaving them with nothing other than nebulous dreams of their twilight adventures. On the final Monday of January 2014 in the surroundings of St. John’s GAC Hall on the Whiterock Road, you could certainly imagine that you were indeed dreaming. A group of P6 and P7 girls from Victoria College Belfast, kitted out for the first time in their new attire generously sponsored by Noel Savage Construction, with not a single club player between them, had just won all their pool matches on their first attempt in the prestigious Allianz Antrim Cumann na mBunscol indoor camogie championship. Furthermore they had battled against Holy Child and St. Kieran’s with a pace and fluency that seemed to accelerate at a frightening rate, making a mockery of their initial odds. Tús maith leath na hoibre – a good start is half the battle.
Four days later they returned to the same venue for the finals; it also marked Lunar or Chinese New Year. 2014 is the year of the wooden horse. Those born in this year are said to exhibit equine characteristics: ebullient, steadfast and quick to learn independence – foals may walk within minutes of birth - but they can also be intransigent. If this team was conceived in the year of the water snake, it was delivered in the year of the horse. The first match of the afternoon proved to be the most decisive. An excellent St. Michael’s team threw everything they had at VCB but couldn’t deny the force of their opponents’ performance. The skills, speed of execution and the courage of St. Michael’s unwavering resistance in the face of the winners’ deadly touch provided an enthralling spectacle. VCB emerged 3-0 winners with Lois Lyttle twice getting on the scoreboard. The second match against Christ the Redeemer proved to be a tense and highly competitive affair; VCB needed to win it to secure an historic championship. Despite going an early goal down, a brace of goals from Clara Hamilton and Lois Lyttle ensured that the titanic struggle for this year’s indoor championship finally resolved itself in favour of Victoria College. The final match against St. Joseph’s (Lisburn) was a very tight affair. A score from Ella Ross and two further goals from Lois Lyttle preserved VCB’s 100% record. Not only did they lift the illustrious Tom Toner trophy, but they had done so in an emphatic manner, winning all seven matches along the route, scoring twenty-three goals and conceding only four. As the parents and coaches thrilled to the exploits of this young team, one could safely say there were no cows milked on the Malone road that night.
This achievement was no accident. They had trained for a full hour after school every Monday since the beginning of September in hail and rain. Bar injury, nobody ever missed training. Competition for places was intense. This was to be a steep learning curve - how to tackle, solo, roll-lift, jab-lift, pronounce ‘sliothar’. One is sometimes led to believe that this facebook generation have no time for the repetitive and anodyne practice of old arts; this exceptional group of youngsters clearly disagree. One girl epitomises the character of this team – Zahra Lowry, the inspirational captain whose passion and humility has helped the team to thrive. Her performances on the pitch have been characterised by countless acts of poetic beauty conducted at times in the face of daunting hostility. Success is about timing and bravery and passion; Zahra is the master and the inspiration. Alongside her in the thicket of centrefield is Lois Lyttle, Victoria’s lethal weapon. Typically she takes possession in midfield and weaves her way through the opposition, disdaining a succession of challenges as she does so before she despatches the sliothar with frightening power and precision. Indeed her prowess from placed balls is equally impressive. If Lois was the weapon of choice, there were other exceptional contributions to this victory. Ella Ross won the dirty ball on the wings, providing copious supply for the raiding midfielders. Shannon Frazer and Katie Pallin were solid in defence whilst Amber Young was superb in goal, remarkably conceding only four goals in seven outings. The County championship awaits.
Please use the following link www.ulstercamogie.ie for further information.