St. Anne’s shock the Shels for first title
Emotional scenes as Rathangan crew win first-ever title to dethrone the Shels
ST. ANNE’S SHELMALIER 0-13 1-9
IF THE plight of the underdog very often goes unrewarded in the sporting world, St. Anne’s experienced the other end of the spectrum when they shocked reigning champions Shelmalier to claim their first-ever Senior ladies’ football championship title with a thrilling 0-13 to 1-9 victory in one of the best-ever finals at this level played in front of an enthralled audience at St. Patrick’s Park, Enniscorthy, on Sunday.
The smart money beforehand was on Shelmalier continuing their hegemony of the championship. They had, after all, won the last seven titles and were chocka-block with familiar faces.
But St. Anne’s didn’t read the script, and went at their more illustrious opponents with an insatiable hunger, particularly in the second-half when they systematically chipped away at their five-point interval deficit to eventually create a moment of history.
It wasn’t a perfect display - they had their fair share of chances to win comfortably - but the newly-crowned queens of the local game won’t care one iota as their meteoric rise up through the ranks reaped the greatest award imaginable.
Strangely, they achieved victory despite only two players scoring for them over the hour, although their outstanding collective effort was best summed up by the fact that Shelmalier didn’t score from play for the final 40 minutes of a keenly-fought contest.
Both sides traded early scores before Shelmalier made the first significant breakthrough on four minutes. After Siobhán Cloake struck the upright, play was re-cycled to Leona Tector, and the Wexford legend turned and fired to the dressing-room end net for a 1-1 to 0-1 lead.
Tector followed with a sixth-minute free, while St. Anne’s connections breathed a sigh of relief two minutes later when Clara Donnelly linked up with Maeve Quill, only for her rasping shot to shave the crossbar at the expense of a point (1-3 to 0-1).
Shelmalier were threatening to let loose at this stage, with Eleanor Neville firing straight at the ‘keeper at the end of the first quarter, before Donnelly pirouetted away to kick her second point on 18 minutes, and Róisín Murphy also got up the field to score what proved to be her side’s last from play (1-5 to 0-3).
Rachel Bennett was a tour-de-force throughout for St. Anne’s and she conjured up a neat point, while Rochford converted a free to move the Rathangan ladies to within 1-7 to 0-5 at half-time.
Bennett landed from mid-range straight after the break, while Trina Gaul’s under-hit effort was palmed onto the framework by Kelda Cullen, with Rochford tapping over the free that followed to make it a onescore game on 34 minutes (1-7 to 0-7).
However, St. Anne’s matched their firsthalf wide tally of three with a few missed frees in the third quarter, and although Rochford converted two more placed balls to reduce the gap to the minimum, she was also off-cue from two other scoreable ones as tension levels started to intensify.
Shelmalier’s big-day experience meant that they weren’t duly fazed by St. Anne’s revival, with Tector kicking over a nerve-settling free on 46 minutes. She then had a chance for a game-altering goal when Donnelly broke away, but she hit the ball too close to Leanne Moore and it was cleared to safety.
Meanwhile, a misplaced kick-out allowed Bennett to edge the Anne’s within 1-8 to 0-10 nine minutes from time, although Cloake sent over a free off the ground to keep Shelmalier’s noses in front.
But destiny favoured St. Anne’s as Bennett fed Rochford for her sole score from play, while Bennett kicked the equaliser four minutes from time after being supplied by her older sister, Fiona.
Rochford then stepped up to the plate when her side needed her the most, winning a free two minutes from time, and showing ice-cool composure to split the posts for the score that proved to be the winner.
Time seemed to stand still right at the death when Donnelly hared towards goal and played the ball across towards Neville, but Moore bravely advanced off her line to intervene in the nick in time.
In truth, that moment of defiance summed up what was a truly inspirational display for St. Anne’s, with the final whistle sounding soon after to spark emotional celebrations. And they will have plenty of time to savour a job well done, as they aren’t in Leinster Club action until October 14, when they take on either the Kildare or Westmeath representatives.
St. Anne’s: Leanne Moore; Aisling Kavanagh, Marica Cullen, Sinéad White; Annie Breen, Nicola Cullen, Clara Rochford; Fiona Rochford (0-9, 8 frees), Niamh Crosbie; Lorraine Breen, Rachel Bennett (0-4), Katie Hannigan; Trina Gaul, Kelda Cullen, Fiona Bennett. Subs. - Martina Rochford for Gaul, Niamh Hannigan for K. Cullen, also Dee Cunnigham, Mairéad White (capt.), Alanna Finnegan, Grace Heffernan, Cliona Power, Kathlyn Gabbett, Sadbh Dearle, Ann Marie Bennett.
Shelmalier: Deirdre Fox (capt.); Sarah Harding-Kenny, Sadbh McCarthy, Shauna Murphy; Ciara Neville, Michelle Harding, Róisín Murphy (0-1); Siobhán Cloake (0-2 frees), Kellie Kearney (0-1); Clara Donnelly (0-2), Maeve Quill, Fiona Kinsella; Eleanor Neville, Leona Tector (1-3, 0-3 frees), Deirdre McMahon. Subs. - Ceara O’Brien for Kinsella, Ailis Neville for Harding, also Finola Monahan, Lisa Quill, Caroline Curran, Enya Byrne, Chloe Mythen, Ciara Corrigan, Leanne Corrigan, Maeve Doyle, Deirdre Byrne, Nikki Scallan, Lauren Murphy, Róisín Doolan, Megan Scallan.
Referee: David Jenkins (Gusserane).
Mairéad White receives the Noel Quill Memorial Cup from Denis