Aghada up ante in second half
A BLISTERING second-half performance from Aghada gave them a historic All-Ireland title on Saturday, as they proved far too strong for Corduff in Crettyard.
Trailing by a point at half-time, the Cork champions were unplayable after the changeover as their intensity levels overwhelmed their opponents.
With Hannah Looney charging forward from midfield time after time, and Player of the Game Roisin Phelan battening down the hatches at centreback, there was no route to victory for Corduff. It caps a truly incredible year for Aghada, who have now won everything they possibly could have in 2017. The rest of the clubs in Cork should beware too, because with 13 of their starting 15 aged 20 or younger, this Aghada team are well positioned to progress even further.
Corduff had looked sprightly and dangerous on the attack in the early stages, but their impressive start would not yield any scores, as they kicked three wides in the opening five minutes.
Neither side were helped by a very heavy pitch, which made hopping the a futile exercise, and the opening minutes were blighted by lost possession.
Aghada finally started to come into the game as we approached the 10-minute mark. Lauren McAllister and Aileen McGrath both came close to being played through on goal, only for Corduff keeper Sinead Loughlin to spring from her line to clear the ball seconds before either of them could gain possession.
However, Aghada’s growing confidence was soon rewarded with the opening score of the game. Emma Farmer’s free from 40 yards picked out Looney in front of goal, and she made space for herself before splitting the posts for a fine score.
Scores were incredibly hard to come by in the first half, as the occasion and conditions clearly affected both teams. The Cork champions would not score again before the break, as Corduff eventually found their own route to goal.
Their first score will have upset Aghada, as they had a numerical advantage at the time following a sin-binning for Elena McEnaney. Nonetheless, Corduff captain Laura McEnaney burst onto a ball 30 yards out, dropped her right shoulder to create some space and fired over a wonderful score.
That left the teams tied at 0-1 apiece with the half almost over, but Corduff would edge ahead before the interval. Aghada’s Katie O’Farrell was rather harshly penalised for charging as she tried to bring the ball out of the fullback line and Corduff were awarded a free. Eva Woods took it, and from 20 yards out, she made no mistake to see the Ulster champions lead 0-2 to 0-1 at half-time.
The game was there for one of the teams to take control in the second half, and it was Aghada who showed the necessary desire. From the throwin, Looney won possession and took off like a thoroughbred through the heart of the Corduff defence. She set up Farmer for a shot at goal, which was saved, but play was called back for a free. Farmer tapped over the placed ball, and Aghada were up and running.
Farmer pushed them ahead with another point moments later, which was eventually cancelled out by a McEnball aney free for Corduff. However, that was the last score the Ulster champions registered, as Aghada kicked for home. The impressive Farmer rattled off three points without reply to see her team lead by double scores, 0-6 to 03, and then came the clincher.
Looney’s quick free from the left wing found Christine Moran on the right side of the penalty area, and her precise shot found the bottom corner of the net.
It was all a formality now, but Aghada finished with a flourish, as a patient team move in the final minute allowed Clare Walsh to rattle in a second goal, as Aghada claimed a deserved victory.
Aghada players celebrate after their All-Ireland Ladies Football Junior Club Championship final win over and Corduff at Crettyard in County Laois.