Proud north Cork club suffer final agony yet again
Mourne-ing a defeat for the third time.
HEARTBREAK once more for Mourneabbey, as they lost their third senior All-Ireland ladies club final in four years at Parnell Park yesterday afternoon, as a Cora Staunton inspired Carnacon won the title for the first time since 2013 by a margin of just two points.
Staunton jets off to Australia tomorrow to begin her AFLW career with yet another AllIreland medal packed away in her back pocket. This was the Mayo legend’s sixth All-Ireland club medal; what the Mourneabbey players would give for just the one.
Staunton would have 21 possessions during general play over the course of the hour, not including her efforts from placed balls. The stats would suggest that Mourneabbey actually handled the legendary Mayo forward fairly well over the course of the match.
Staunton’s first instinct when gathering possession was to run as directly as possible at the heart of the north Cork side’s defence, utilising the physical attributes that have garnered her a contract in the AFLW with GWS Giants next season.
This approach resulted in four points from play, five frees awarded to Staunton, three frees awarded against the Carnacon captain for over carrying, four wides, four passes and one clean dispossession.
If offered such stats beforehand I would imagine the Mourneabbey management would have grabbed it.
The problem for Mourneabbey was that Carnacon were far from a one-woman team with the likes of Marie Corbett, Doireann Hughes, Martha Carter, Aoife Brennan, Amy Dowling and Fiona MacHale all starring for the Mayo and Connacht champions.
In fact, even though Staunton will receive all the plaudits and headlines on the back of this victory the best player on the pitch on Sunday evening was midfielder Fiona MacHale who worked tirelessly for the entire 60 minutes, linking up play brilliantly to get the ball moving in Staunton’s direction.
Mourneabbey may well regret the tactics as they effectively isolated their own main attacking threats in Doireann O’Sullivan and Laura Fitzgerald by withdrawing so many bodies to block off the avenues into Staunton. While defensively this tactic worked, it also meant that Mourneabbey were reliant on counter attacks for their scores, and against a very young and athletic Carnacon side this proved a difficult approach, with the Cork side only managing to kick four points in the opening half.
Mourneabbey were crying out for a player to link the play on the 40, someone who could hold the ball up, and either feed it into O’Sulli- van and Fitzgerald or else just hold it up until the likes of Ciara and Brid O’Sullivan could get up in support. In truth, Mourneabbey needed to repeat their goalscoring exploits against Foxrock-Cabinteely, when they managed to raise four green flags, and they went eight points down early in the second half as the game begin to slip away from their grasp.
Former All-Ireland-winning Cork captain Ciara O’Sullivan and her sister Róisín kept the north Cork club in touch with two points in a minute in the 45th minute and soon after it was game on again when Brid O’Sullivan smashed the ball to the Carnacon net after she played an intricate one-two with Laura Fitzgerald.
The Mayo outfit were in full defensive mode by now, as their eight-point lead had been whittled down to three, and who knows what would have happened if Doireann O’Sullivan’s goal effort with eight minutes to go had not gone straight at Cornacon’s netminder Michelle Higgins.
In fact, O’Sullivan will have walked onto the bus annoyed at having scored just the five points, as that late goal effort could have saved Mourneabbey, and she had a thunderbolt of a shot in the first half that almost knocked the Parnell Park upright onto the nearby 15th green of Clontarf Golf Cub such was the ferocity of her shot, but alas, the umpire’s green flag remained untouched. O’Sullivan had a 21-yard free with two minutes remaining and she made the decision to take the point. It might be hindsight talking but given a second chance Mourneabbey would probably go for the goal now.
Mourneabbey have lost All-Irelands in 2014, 2015 and now 2017, with an All-Ireland semifinal also being lost in 2016.
It will, of course, be difficult to come back for a fifth tilt at the title that is now becoming the proverbial Holy Grail for the north Cork club.
It will have been a long lonely trip down south on Sunday evening. Kinsale, who lost the intermediate final on the same day at the same venue, will have endured a similar trip. They have now lost All-Ireland finals at junior and intermediate level in successive seasons.
It will make for two hungry sides at senior level in Cork next year as both Mourneabbey and Kinsale will begin the journey of getting back to the top table of ladies football again.
Wounds will have to be licked before that process starts with any real gusto, but knowing the character of these two sides it is a process that will probably begin once more before too long.
THEY produced a gallant display at Parnell Park on Sunday afternoon, but for the third time in four years, Mourneabbey came up just short in the LGFA All-Ireland Senior Club Championship decider.
A strong third-quarter from the Cora Staunton-inspired Carnacon had created serious daylight in the north Dublin venue, and even though Doireann O’Sullivan and Brid O’Sullivan helped to bring Mourneabbey back into the reckoning, they couldn’t quite turn the tide in their favour.
Carnacon were searching for their first national crown since 2013, and they opened the scoring with a fine score on the run by Martha Carter. However, Mourneabbey full-forward Doireann O’Sullivan later stepped up to a 30m free, and ensured Carnacon’s lead was a short-lived one.
With five All-Ireland senior titles already under their belt, it was always expected that Carnacon would present a formidable challenge to Mourneabbey. They edged in front once again with a routine free by Staunton (who will soon be embarking on a new career in the Women’s AFL), centre-forward Amy Dowling subsequently opened her personal account with a neat point from play.
Another free by the influential Doireann O’Sullivan brought the Mourneabbey deficit down to the bare minimum, but even though Carnacon spurned a number of opportunities in the opening period, Dowling and Carter (who was named at full-back, but played in a more advanced role) found the target for the westerners.
This gave them some breathing space, but Doireann O’Sullivan once again fired back — this time with a superb long-distance score from play. Indeed, despite seeing this score immediately cancelled out by 11-time AllStar Staunton, they were agonisingly close to restoring parity on 23 minutes.
Doireann O’Sullivan dispossessed Claire Egan close to the Carnacon goal, and she was extremely unfortunate to see her subsequent strike crashing off the underside of the righthand post. Team captain Brid O’Sullivan eventually cut the gap with a fine score at the end of a patient move, but thanks to an Emma Cosgrave effort from a tight-angle, Carnacon held a 0-7 to 0-4 advantage at the midway point in the action.
This kept Mourneabbey’s quest for a clean sweep of junior, intermediate and senior titles very much alive heading into the second-half, but within six minutes of the restart, Carnacon had doubled their cushion.
Staunton was on target either side of a hard-earned point from Fiona McHale, and although Doireann O’Sullivan’s fourth brought this scoring sequence from the central Mayo outfit to an end, Staunton’s impact on the game was beginning to grow substantially.
She added a 38th-minute point to her tally, and after Aoife Brennan beautifully curled over the posts off her right-foot, another Staunton contribution opened up an eight-point gap between the sides. Mourneabbey were now left with a mountain to climb, but the 44th-minute sin-binning of Carnacon half-back Doireann Hughes offered the Munster kingpins a potential lifeline.
Back-to-back scores from Roisin O’Sullivan and Ciara O’Sullivan gave them hope, and while a sixth Staunton point briefly halted their charge, Ellie Jack also found her range in fine style.
Brid O’Sullivan then secured a much-needed goal for Mourneabbey after executing an outstanding oneand two with Laura Fitzgerald, but Staunton once again settled Carnacon with a fisted score.
Fitzgerald added her name to the scoresheet after she was previously denied by Carnacon netminder Michelle Higgins, and yet another Doireann O’Sullivan placed-ball conversion setup a nail-biting conclusion.
Mourneabbey pushed hard for a match-winning goal in the dying moments, but in spite of their best endeavours, Carnacon dug deep for a narrow victory.
Laura Fitzgerald of Mourneabbey in action against Sharon McGing of Carnacon.
Carnacon’s Cora Staunton celebrates victory at the final whistle.
Carnacon’s Louise Dowling with Eimear Meaney of Mourneabbey.
Carnacon’s Marie Corbett with Doireann O’Sullivan of Mourneabbey.
The Mourneabbey team that fell just short in yesterday’s All-Ireland final in Dublin.