“This could be my first and my last.” Noeleen Lambert is enjoying club success late in her career.
BY OISIN LANGAN
“I want to enjoy the county final win first, this could be my first and my last” said an exhilarated Lambert to wexfordtoday.com following St Martin’s victory over Oulart the Ballagh last month. It may have been a second title in a row for Martin’s. However, it was a first for Lambert who missed last year’s decider due to the birth of her second child.
The former Wexford defender gets emotional when she talks about her club and their recent success. It’s quite clear that outside of family, St Martins is the love of her life. “I’ve been lucky enough to win 4 All-Irelands with Wexford, but you always want to win with the club. It meant a lot to me to win with them. “
When Lambert talks about St Martin’s recent victories, she refers to the entire club and not just the current squad when crediting the success of this generation of players. The special bond between the past and current players is best exemplified by a video made especially so the squad could watch it on the eve of this year’s county final. The motivational video featured past players sending their best wishes ahead of the battle the following day and Lambert was quick to credit them for their service.
“We don’t just win for ourselves, we win for all of the past players. Before the county final I would have looked at different past players who never won a county medal and I was nearly winning it for them as much as the current squad.”
Ornagh D’Arcy (mother of Mags), current selector Máire O’Connor and former Wexford player and All Star Aine Codd soldiered for many years without any silverware to show for their work and Lambert says they are still very much part of the on-field success.
“We have a group called ‘Oldies but Goodies’. They are the older crowd who never won a county final, it meant a lot for me to win it for them and it meant a lot to them as well”.
St Martin’s went senior in 2000 and contested a first ever senior county final in 2005, losing to Oulart. It was 2017 before they returned to the decider, beating Rathnure before retaining the crown this year with victory over Oulart the Ballagh. Lambert says much of the credit for the recent success must go to manager JJ Doyle. Doyle has an impressive CV winning three Leinster under 21 titles in a row with Wexford, as well as All-Ireland titles with the Wexford camogie team.
He’s now part of Davy Fitzgerald’s backroom team along with St Martin’s goalkeeper Mags D’Arcy.
The graduation of a successful underage crop to senior, combined with the management of JJ Doyle, formed a potent combination. Lambert says players like Katie and Ciara O’Connor have brought a confidence into the squad through their underage success.
“This bunch of young players are talented. They have won all the way up, matured well and you see the confidence in them. When JJ got on board with Máire O’Connor they put a plan in place and built towards the success we’re currently enjoying. The players really look up to JJ and he brings a professionalism we had not seen before.”
Doyle may not be St Martin’s by birth but he’s one of their own now, according to Lambert. Rather than join the rest of the Wexford backroom team in Boston this weekend for the Fenway Classic he’ll be on the sidelines in Nowlan Park.
“I’m willing to sacrifice if ye are willing to sacrifice,” were Doyle’s words after the county final when informing his team that he’d be pitchside in Kilkenny rather than Boston this weekend.
“I hope we can reward him for his sacrifice this Sunday because it would have been a great trip to be on” says Lambert, who acknowledges the time and commitment the current boss gives to them.
“Enjoy but don’t fear it” is Lamberts advice to the players ahead of Sunday’s final against three-in-a-row chasing Thomastown in Nowlan park. Lambert, along with her former county teammate Mags D’Arcy, have suffered many bad days as well as the good. They draw from that experience when advising the younger players about playing in big matches like this one.
“They have the confidence and belief that they can win all the time, but as Mags and I know it won’t happen by just believing you can win. You have to make it happen. We drive home that message that we believe too, but you need to make it happen by hurling to the best of your ability and getting your preparation right coming up to the match.”
Talking to Lambert, you can’t escape how passionate she is about her club. But at 35 we put it to her that she is closer to the end then the beginning and every big day could be one of her last.
“I have to block that out because I don’t want to get too emotional. If I go into a match thinking this is my last it would skew my head. If I was to be in anyway emotional it would take over my preparation. I joke about it but I don’t make it a part of it.
“I won’t be going out on Sunday thinking this could be my last game in a Martin’s jersey”.