When Síomha McNulty found herself in space, contemplated her options and then proceeded to let fly from distance, the point she scored put Claremorris in front for the first time in today’s absorbing LGFA All-Ireland Junior club final. There was a huge Claremorris support at Parnell Park for the game and that score was met with a rousing cheer, as it began to look as if it might be their day.
The next attack ended in a narrow wide for Claremorris but the tide now seemed to be running strongly in their favour. Then the Cork team broke downfield and, completely against the run of play, Éabha O’Donovan bagged their second goal of the game. It was a hammer-blow for Claremorris, and a fatal one too.
This was a cracking All-Ireland decider, played in mild and breezy conditions at the Donnycarney venue. That breeze was a significant factor too, as it whipped and shifted around and more than once it resulted in efforts at the posts going unexpectedly awry.
O’Donovan Rossa settled quickest in this contest, a point from a free followed by one from play getting them motoring. Claremorris needed a few scores to settle them and they got them soon enough, Bree Hession off her left opening the Westerners’ account before Laura Kelly collected a long ball in and fired over to level the match.
The Cork side then surged ahead. Another free and a point from play came before a goal by Éabha O’Donovan – who was a thorn in the side of Claremorris all day, scoring 2-5 and being deservedly named Player of the Match – put them five ahead.
Claremorris battled back from that setback. A superb block by Alana Fitzpatrick initiated a move that ended with the livewire Ashleagh Salmon pointing smartly off her left. Three further points, one from play by Bree Hession, a Rebecca Kean free and another from play from Laura Kelly cut the gap to the minimum. That was a very good spell for the Mayo team.
O’Donovan Rossa were wasteful enough with their attacks, bookending their final score of the half – from a free – with bad wides from play. With two points between the teams at the break, this game was nicely in the balance.
The wides continued to mount after the break, with O’Donovan Rossa shooting three while Claremorris were off target twice on the resumption. The swirling wind had picked up a bit and so too had the game’s intensity, with both sides knowing full well that an All-Ireland title was there to be claimed.
The Cork side finally landed the first blow of the half, from a free, with Rebecca Kean responding in kind for Claremorris soon after.
From then to O’Donovan Rossa’s second goal was all Claremorris. They fought for the ball like tigers all over the pitch, putting in blocks, hunting down their opponents and driving forward at every opportunity.
A huge roar greeted Nina Wallace’s point and an even bigger one rang out when Laura Kelly slammed over a boomer from distance to level the game.
Then Isobel Phllips charged forward and her speculative shot bounced back off the intersection of the upright and the crossbar. O’Donovan Rossa’s ‘keeper Christine Fitzgerald injured herself as she clattered against the post attempting to avert the danger and had to be substituted.
Síomha McNulty’s point with seven minutes to play seemed to sign-post where this title decider was headed. Instead it proved, sadly, to be the only occasion in which Claremorris led all day and once the Cork side had found the net for the second time, it was a lead they’d then hold to the finish, as they won by two points.
It was rough justice for a brave, battling Claremorris team who came so close to All-Ireland glory today, only to see it snatched away in those final, frantic moments. While the raw pain of defeat will take a while to subside, when it does – as it will, as it must – it will, for sure, be largely replaced with a justifiable sense of pride in what’s been a great year for the club.
And, make no mistake, today in no way marks the end of the line for Claremorris. Instead, today’s All-Ireland final performance stands every chance of being a launchpad for what is still an extremely young team for next year and the years to come.
Commiserations to Claremorris on today’s loss but well done to them for such a stirring display, one that took them so very close to All-Ireland glory.
Claremorris: Claire Keane; Isobel Phillips, Ellie Maguire, Ashling Cummins; Amy Cummins, Síomha McNulty (0-1), Síle Hughes; Alana Fitzpatrick, Joanne Regan; Marina Cawley, Rebecca Kean (0-2, frees), Bree Hession (0-2); Ashleagh Salmon (0-2), Nina Wallace (0-1), Laura Kelly (0-3). Subs: Deirbhile Horkan for Regan, Kayleigh O’Brien for Wallace, Sienna Kelly for Laura Kelly.
Our Final Whistle podcast is online now on Patreon. Recorded on the pitch at Parnell Park after the game ended, it features Claremorris players Rebecca Kean and Alana Fitzpatrick, with post-match analysis from podcast regular – and Alana’s grandfather – Billy Fitzptrick. To access this and all our other great content, join our podcast club here.