Dou­ble de­light for Martin’s

Title­hold­ers back up 2017 suc­cess as Ou­lart fall short

New Ross Standard - - SPORT - DEAN GOOD­I­SON

ST. MARTIN’S 1-10 OU­LART-THE BAL­LAGH 1-6

ST. MARTIN’S backed up their 2017 suc­cess with vic­tory over Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh in the Premier Se­nior camo­gie cham­pi­onship fi­nal in Belle­field on Satur­day.

The Pierces­town-based club, who came through a dour strug­gle against Rath­nure in the semi-fi­nal, found the open and di­rect ap­proach of Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh much more to their lik­ing and in truth the mar­gin of vic­tory could have been larger.

The key com­po­nent was Ciara O’Con­nor, as the ‘player of the game’ pro­duced the type of per­for­mance only her sis­ter, Sarah, or Mary Leacy are ca­pa­ble of lo­cally. She con­trolled the game from half­back and made her side tick in a way she wouldn’t have been able to just six months ago.

That should be a fright­en­ing prospect for other clubs in this county. The level of camo­gie in Wex­ford has dropped off, and any­one who doubts that prob­a­bly hasn’t been pay­ing enough at­ten­tion to the county scene.

True dif­fer­ence mak­ers, those whose con­tri­bu­tion adds up to five or six points a game, are few and far be­tween now.

Some that were that good are com­ing to the lat­ter stages of their ca­reers, while some that might be aren’t quite there yet.

In Wex­ford we cur­rently have Una Leacy and Sarah O’Con­nor, both injured, and that is it. Well, it was it, but Ciara O’Con­nor has pushed her­self into that reck­on­ing with this show­ing.

The mid­dle third of the field be­longed to her side and she was the chief wand-wa­ver.

It wore Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh down. The for­mer cham­pi­ons are strong at ex­pe­ri­enced po­si­tions, have a po­ten­tial star in Anais Cur­ran, but cer­tainly don’t have the depth in their ranks that they had when they dom­i­nated on the way to two All-Ire­land ti­tles.

No neu­tral gets joy in see­ing a great side slip a lit­tle, but Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh have been such fan­tas­tic cham­pi­ons for so long that, if they don’t win an­other county ti­tle in the next few sea­sons - and they may well come back and do just that - no­body can ever take away what they have achieved.

How­ever, it’s go­ing to be an up­hill strug­gle as this St. Martin’s team is still young and can get bet­ter at im­por­tant po­si­tions.

They still don’t have a dom­i­nant for­ward, a Leacy or Ja­cob in their hey-day, and that may hold them back on the na­tional stage.

It’s up to the club to de­velop those play­ers fur­ther now. Emma Codd, for ex­am­ple, had some im­pres­sive mo­ments in this game, and so too did Amy Cardiff, so it’s about push­ing that into a more con­sis­tent scor­ing threat.

Clongeen im­port Chloe Foxe is an­other that can make an im­pres­sion, and she scored a bul­let goal to get St. Martin’s a foothold against the breeze in the first-half.

Early omens were good for Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh when Aideen Brennan pow­ered straight through the heart of the de­fence and was scythed down by Mags D’Arcy.

Ref­eree Breen’s big­gest er­ror in a fairly solid dis­play was not pulling out the yel­low card for the lunge, but it had no last­ing im­pact as the St. Martin’s ‘keeper was never in that position again. Shauna Sin­nott’s low penalty was blocked on the line, a big let-off for the even­tual cham­pi­ons.

Ur­sula Ja­cob was a doubt com­ing into the game with a shat­tered thumb, although her men­tal­ity is such that it was never go­ing to stop her from play­ing and com­pet­ing.

She opened the scor­ing in the ninth minute but her side strug­gled to make full use of the ad­van­ta­geous breeze.

Amy Cardiff’s hand­pass sent Foxe on a run that ended with her mak­ing more than lib­eral use of her al­lot­ted steps, eight to be pre­cise, be­fore flash­ing across Lau­ren Sin­nott to the net.

Stacey Ke­hoe pulled a point back but Foxe con­verted an 18th-minute free to make it 1-1 to 0-2.

St. Martin’s got up a head of steam early in the sec­ond quar­ter. Codd won her bat­tle on the left and pointed but was hurt in the process, and then Cardiff popped over to make the lead four. When Foxe added an­other free, her side led by 1-4 to 0-2.

Mary Leacy picked out Shel­ley Ke­hoe from the re­sult­ing Sin­nott puck-out and she flashed nar­rowly over the bar.

There was a dif­fer­ent re­sult when, play­ing at full-for­ward, Leacy sent a shot low past D’Arcy, although she may have been lucky to get away with an arm barge in the lead-up.

Lead­ing by a point (1-4 to 1-3), St. Martin’s al­most went in fur­ther in front but Linda Bol­ger pinged a pulled ef­fort wide at the back post with the goal gap­ing. She made amends some­what when point­ing af­ter the re­sump­tion.

Yet St. Martin’s didn’t score again in the third quar­ter. Shauna Sin­nott con­verted a ‘45 and then a free af­ter Leacy was fouled to tie the game (1-5 each).

But just like the first-half, their op­po­nents had a lit­tle pur­ple patch, as Foxe scored a pair of frees, and Cardiff pointed to put three be­tween the great ri­vals.

Sin­nott saw a scooped shot saved by D’Arcy in the 51st minute while Bol­ger cracked the cross­bar at the other end.

Foxe put St. Martin’s 1-9 to 1-5 up in the 60th minute but Sin­nott cut the gap to three again.

Five min­utes into added time, Bol­ger made the game safe with her sec­ond point and, de­spite more Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh pres­sure, the dou­ble cham­pi­ons held on to take the ti­tle and book a Novem­ber date in the Le­in­ster fi­nal op­po­site ei­ther the Dublin or Kilkenny cham­pi­ons.

St. Martin’s: Mags D’Arcy; Ais­ling O’Con­nor, Noeleen Lam­bert, Marie Claire Mor­ris­sey; Áine En­nis, Ciara O’Con­nor, Mary Barrett; Katie O’Con­nor (capt.), Ella O’Con­nor; Amy Cardiff (0-2), Chloe Foxe (1-5, 0-5 frees), Linda Bol­ger (0-2); Let­tie Whe­lan, Anna Hen­nessy, Emma Codd (0-1). Subs. - Lisa Fir­man for Codd, inj. (23), Codd for Hen­nessy (39), Amy Ryan for Whe­lan (54), Ni­amh Dunne for En­nis (60), Lau­ren Carty for A. O’Con­nor (60+5), also Ciara Bridges, Amy O’Leary, Elsa McDer­mott, Aoife Dempsey, Ellen Barrett, Anna Mul­li­gan, Fiona Es­monde, Clare Barrett, Tara Doyle, Ais­ling Cronin, Alan­nah Davis, Sarah O’Con­nor.

Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh: Lau­ren Sin­nott; Aoife O’Con­nor, Ciara Storey, Karen Atkin­son; Aoife Dunne, Louise Sin­nott, Katie Mur­phy; Shel­ley Ke­hoe (0-1), Shauna Sin­nott (0-3, 2 frees, 1 ‘45); Stacey Ke­hoe (0-1), Anais Cur­ran, Siob­hán Sin­nott; Ur­sula Ja­cob (capt., 0-1), Mary Leacy (1-0), Aideen Brennan. Subs. - Laura Sin­nott for S. Sin­nott (56), also Brídín Red­mond, Eimear O’Con­nor, Emma Mo­ran, Katie Gal­lagher, Katie Roche, Mairéad O’Brien, Ni­amh Dempsey, Ni­amh Sin­nott, Rachel Sin­nott, Saoirse Dunne, Leanne Nolan, Sharon Ke­hoe, Diane Ryan, Una Leacy.

Ref­eree: Ai­dan Breen (Mar­shal­stown-Cas­tle­dock­rell).

Cheers of joy from the St. Martin’s squad af­ter re­tain­ing their ti­tle in Belle­field on Satur­day.

Player of the match Ciara O’Con­nor clears her lines as Aideen Brennan (Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh) looks on.

Katie O’Con­nor, the St. Martin’s cap­tain, break­ing away from Siob­hán Sin­nott and Mary Leacy.

Aoife O’Con­nor (Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh) is chased by Lisa Fir­man.

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