St. Anne’s shock the Shels for first ti­tle

Emo­tional scenes as Rathangan crew win first-ever ti­tle to de­throne the Shels

New Ross Standard - - SPORT - BRIAN CARTY


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).

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The history-mak­ing

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