This interview was conducted with Tanya Johnson ahead of the All-Ireland final against Athenry, which was originally scheduled for Sunday March 4 but was pushed back due to snow.
Johnstownbridge are on the type of roll that most can only dream of, an hour and change away from a third AIB All-Ireland Club Camogie title in a row.
Remaining grounded is critical to maintaining that type of a winning spree. So too, is ambition.
They were impatient to test themselves at a higher level, and a little frustrated to have to compete in the Junior Championship again last season, having won it already.
They finally made the step up after retaining their crown and now, have only Galway representatives Athenry between them and a glorious debut.
Along the way, they have accounted for last year’s finalists, getting the better of champions Myshall (Carlow) in the Leinster Final, and the runners-up Eglish (Tyrone) in the All-Ireland Semi-Final.
Of course Myshall are old acquaintances.
“Three years ago they beat us in a Leinster Final, the year after beating us in a Leinster Semi” recalls JTB captain, Tanya Johnson. “So this year, we knew what to expect. They’re a good team, they’d have more experience than we do of playing on bigger pitches, girls there a lot longer than us.
“We knew it was gonna be tough this year. It was pure dogged, nothing was easy. You can’t take anything away from Myshall or Eglish. Myshall won it last year and in a way, you’re looking at them after coming up from Junior and thinking you can do it too.”
It took Johnstownbridge some time to establish themselves, facing serious stumbling blocks. Myshall went on to take the AIB All-Ireland Championship both years after overcoming the Kildare outfit. And when they moved up to Intermediate level, it was Kilmessan that scuppered their dreams.
The Meath champions went all the way that way too, so the message was clear. If they could just get the Leinster monkey off their backs, who knew what might unfold? They are in a new place now. Quite literally.
“Playing in Croke Park is gonna be completely different, after coming up from Junior. But the team is the same and we sort of know what’s coming. Athenry might have a bit more experience but I think we’re ready. All we can do is our best when we get up there.
“What we’re saying is that it’s the same pitch as is in Johnstown. There’s four white lines either side of the pitch and the minute you cross that you’re with your teammates. It doesn’t matter who’s in the stands, you’re with the same girls you’ve been with for the last seven years through Kildare championships, Leinsters and All-Irelands.
“I know everyone wants to be there but it’s a game, 60 minutes to win an All-Ireland Final. We’re trying to drum that into the girls now. It’s a great day and all, but all it is is 60 minutes that you have to knuckle down to.
“Enjoy the preparation. Any team would kill for it this time of year, to be getting ready for Croke Park but it’s only a game at the end of the day. We have to win the game.”
The weather could play a big part in what unfolds this weekend but after encountering testing elements against Eglish, they will not fret. They may not have scored in the second half, facing into a ferocious gale, but they never lost their composure.
“In the first half, the forwards did what they had to do, get the scores on the board. The wind was a serious factor, you couldn’t say it wasn’t. We went on the defensive, we knew what we had to do, just crowd it out from the half-way line in and it worked.
“It was dogged. Eglish are a very good team and we knew that. They had the experience of being in Croke Park last year and would have been driven to get back and try win it this time, so it was always going to be a huge test.”
An experienced goalkeeper, who has worn the No 1 jersey at inter-county level too, Johnson clearly relishes being captain of this particular group.
“It was a big step up but sure it’s a privilege. I remember Dick Flanagan ringing me to say the girls had voted for me to be captain. It’s just a huge honour. It’s a great team of girls. Everybody gets on.
“Some clubs you’d hear the cliques and everything but not Johnstown. Johnstown is a big family. I know that’s cliché but you’re appreciated by every single person in the club, there’s never a bad word said, nobody ever gives out about anybody, there’s no real issues. Everybody gets them out on the table and everything is said.
“It’s a great club.”
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