By John Foley
THERE’s a killer instinct that all the great forwards possess, an ability to find the most direct route to goal matched with the calm assurance to execute those chance when they present themselves.
They were qualities Ciara Quirke showed in spades at Croke Park on Sunday. The Myshall forward has come up with the goods on so many occasions over the years for club and county and on the biggest stage she scored 3-2 from play as Carlow were crowned All-Ireland champions.
The adrenaline was still coursing through her veins when she gave her reaction to the victory immediately after the match.
“I can’t believe it,” she said. “It’s unreal. Croke Park tops it all. Winning the junior club All-Ireland with Myshall meant a lot. But here in Croke Park, it feels like there are 80,000 people here and it’s just unreal.”
She said the level of support from the Carlow supporters had a huge impact on the players.
“When we came out in the second half we really needed it,” she said of the chants from the Carlow faithful. “We weren’t playing our best. But everyone just got behind us and we really picked it up. The crowd definitely got us over the line.”
However she said the noise level in the stadium also brought its own difficulties.
“In the warm-up we couldn’t hear Mark [Brennan]. We had 20 minutes to settle into it and get used to hearing each other. It was tough to get used to, but my God, the atmosphere was unreal.”
She also had a special word of praise for 16-year-old Rachel Sawyer who came on as a substitute just before half-time and changed the course of the game with her speed and direct running.
“Rachel was unreal,” said Ciara. “She’s a real team player. She passes it off if it’s the right thing to do. She’s a great player.”
There were times in the game when it seemed like Carlow might not hit their stride. Despite dominating possession for the first quarter they couldn’t make it count on the scoreboard. Ciara says a few home truths were told in the dressing room at half time.
“We got given out to but I think we needed it to get us going,” she says. “Mark has been with us the last two years and only for him, we wouldn’t be here.”
And with that she was back to the dressing room to add her voice to the songs and celebrations that were already in full flow.