Alexandra College coach Miles Warren says that overcoming the demons of 12 months ago was a crucial factor as his side won back the Leinster schoolgirls Senior Cup title.
Last year, St Gerard’s won the decider 1-0 with a last ditch drag-flick. This time around, meeting the same side, Warren said that this weighed heavy on his side’s mindeset in the build-up to the final as they sought to make things right from their perspective in this year’s final.
“There was big tension and apprehension in our squad because of us losing the final last year. We felt we were good enough to win the title,” he reflected in the wake of his side’s epic 4-2 win at Grange Road last Thursday.
“There were a lot of memories that were hurting the squad; it made them very focused. You could see the nerves in the first 15 minutes but once the first goal went in, both teams settled into it.”
Isy Delamar thundered home a brilliant shot from the circle’s edge to breach the deadlock, a goal that exploded the already raucous Alex contingent into a cacophony of noise.
It took the edge of caution off the shoulders of both sides and laid the base for a modern classic, Warren describing it as the “most exciting final” he had ever been involved in.
In the past five years, he has coached Alex to three Senior Cup crowns and the 2015 final defeat so he is well versed in the biggest game in school’s hockey.
Alex got back into the box seat when they struck twice in a matter of minutes early in the second half.
“The two goals early in the second half almost killed off the game when we went 3-1 up; there were patches when we dominated and patches where they were on top but I felt quite comfortable.”
A late Sadhbh McCarthy goal gave Gerard’s hope, hope that only last 30 seconds however as O’Connor and Sophie Roopnarinesingh counter-attacked straight from tip off to score a breathtaking fourth.It finally put the tie to bed, denying the Bray side a grandstand finish.
“The best way we could possibly answer their second goal was to get our fourth within 30 seconds from the restart. At 3-2 with five minutes to go, there is always that one big chance and they would have pushed us hard but the game was over because of that fourth goal.
“This squad has five or six really talented players and every one of them played better than they had previously. Isy Delamar really stepped up, scoring the first having made a run from her own 25; Freya McDermott was very good; Sophie Roopnarinesingh up front marshalled Lena Tice. Eva Beatty up front in the second half made a difference.
“Katherine Egan, every time she got the ball at right midfield, something was happening – she had the bit between her teeth and was going flat out every time.
“For us, the unsung hero who is so, so important to us is Emily Murphy – when they had a three v one and she broke it down, winning the ball clean and put it over the sideline. She has been doing stuff like that all season; she never gets the headline but just does the job.”
Alexandra College’s victory in the Leinster Senior Cup put them through to the Kate Russell All-Ireland championships next week in Limerick.
There, they will meet Connacht champions Salerno, South East’s Loreto Kilkenny, Munster’s Crescent Comprehensive and Ulster’s Methody who won the northern title for the first time in 28 years.
As hosts and reigning champions, Crescent go into the competition as perhaps the side to beat and Alex coach Miles Warren is under no illusions of the challenge they pose.
“Crescent have massive ambition on their side to defend the title, especially in front of their own crowd – they will be massive opposition.
“The Ulster teams are always strong too,” he adds, citing that the northern province has provided the winner three times in the last five years.
“The conditions of the tournament are incredibly tough, playing four games in two days. You have to use a full squad of 18. We have that, players I am happy to rotate and rest in some matches if we have the opportunity to. I have seen players break down in that last match.”
To that end, he does have a concern over the fitness of captain and centre midfielder Freya McDermott who has a slight hamstring strain but should be fit in time to take up her place in the competition.
She is one of the three players whose older sisters were part of the 2012 All-Ireland winners. She is hoping to follow in the trails of her sister Hannah while Sophie Roopnarinesingh’s sibling Anna and Ava Beatty’s sister Emily can all ask for advice.