Whe­lan de­liv­ers cru­cial blow

Po­si­tional switch of Hen­nessy pow­ers Martin’s home

Gorey Guardian - - SPORT - BREN­DAN FUR­LONG in Hol­ly­mount


LET­TIE WHE­LAN de­liv­ered the cru­cial blow with a goal eight min­utes from the end that even­tu­ally brought glory to St. Martin’s, as Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh’s sec­ond-half surge just fell short in this thrilling Un­der-18 camo­gie Premier cham­pi­onship fi­nal in Hol­ly­mount on Satur­day.

A power-packed open­ing 30 min­utes saw lit­tle sep­a­rate the sides, but when Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh in­creased the tempo of their game on the re­sump­tion it looked as if they were about to cre­ate a huge shock as they stormed into a 2-7 to 1-5 lead by the end of the third quar­ter.

Given the strength of their show­ing through this third quar­ter and their gen­eral dom­i­nance, it looked as if they were on their way to up­set­ting the odds as the Martin’s were pinned very much back on de­fence while find­ing it dif­fi­cult to build at­tacks of their own, and with a re­sult their scor­ing chances were lim­ited.

Re­al­is­ing that some­thing ex­tra was needed if they were to halt the Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh surge, they switched Anna Hen­nessy from full­back where she was out­stand­ing to an out­field role.

With Hen­nessy im­me­di­ately im­pact­ing on the play in her new po­si­tion, the Martin’s stormed back into the game, as her driv­ing runs be­gan to cre­ate space for the at­tack.

Ciara O’Con­nor now be­gan to con­trol pro­ceed­ings in the half­back line, and it was from her huge free from long-range that Let­tie Whe­lan fin­ished to the net, set­ting up a tense and dra­matic clos­ing eight min­utes.

Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh had to suf­fer the dis­ap­point­ment of a sec­ond suc­ces­sive fi­nal de­feat in this grade, but such was their sec­ond-half ef­fort that few in the crowd would have be­grudged them a draw.

But with Hen­nessy and O’Con­nor driv­ing on their side, St. Martin’s showed the qual­ity in their ranks as they even­tu­ally fash­ioned a hugely im­pres­sive vic­tory, to go along­side the suc­cesses of their Se­nior team.

Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh opened brightly with points from Anais Cur­ran and Sarah O’Dowd in­side the open­ing three min­utes.

While both sides were build­ing some ex­cel­lent at­tacks, St. Martin’s had to wait un­til the fifth minute for their open­ing score - a Let­tie Whe­lan 40-me­tre pointed free.

The same player then brought the sides level (0-2 each) with an ex­cel­lent run and point.

Lau­ren Sin­nott and Whe­lan (free) went on to ex­change points, with St. Martin’s get­ting the first ma­jor break­through when full-for­ward Aoife Dempsey col­lected a long Ciara O’Con­nor de­liv­ery to fin­ish to the net.

The Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh chal­lenge was main­tained, get­ting an all-im­por­tant goal seven min­utes be­fore the break.

With St. Martin’s lead­ing by 1-4 to 1-3, Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh’s Anais Cur­ran dropped a long free to the edge of the small square where Sarah O’Dowd pounced on the break­ing ball to fin­ish to the net for a real op­por­tunist goal.

A Let­tie Whe­lan pointed free sent St. Martin’s in with a 1-5 to 1-3 in­ter­val lead.

Urged on by their vo­cal sup­port, Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh be­gan the sec­ond-half im­pres­sively.

Anais Cur­ran pointed a free to leave the min­i­mum sep­a­rat­ing the sides, while af­ter 32 min­utes she saw her long de­liv­ery slip to the cor­ner of the net, giv­ing her side a 2-4 to 1-5 lead.

They went on to hit three unan­swered points through Siob­hán Sin­nott, Anais Cur­ran and Sin­nott once again to lead by 2-7 to 1-5 at the end of the third quar­ter, with the even­tual win­ners still to score in the sec­ond-half.

St. Martin’s be­gan to weather the storm on the switch of Hen­nessy, stem­ming their op­po­nents’ out­field dom­i­nance, and this led to a Let­tie Whe­lan goal at­tempt go­ing just wide.

Ten min­utes from the end, Ciara O’Con­nor lofted a huge 70-me­tre free into the goal­mouth, and the ball broke into the path of Ais­ling Alouf who first-timed to the back of the net to re­duce the deficit to two points (2-7 to 2-5).

Two min­utes later a long Ciara O’Con­nor clear­ance into the dan­ger zone broke to Let­tie Whe­lan who blazed a low ground shot to the net, giv­ing her side a dra­matic 3-5 to 2-7 lead.

Lead­ing by one point, St. Martin’s set about killing off the game with points from Ciara Bridges and Ais­ling Alouf.

In ad­di­tional time, Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh launched sev­eral at­tacks lead­ing to a suc­ces­sion of goal­mouth scram­bles, but they were un­able to get the ball over the line to force a draw as St. Martin’s held out for a dra­matic but de­served vic­tory in the end.

St. Martin’s: Han­nah Quirke; Aine Cole­man, Anna Hen­nessy, Fiona Es­monde; Alan­nah Davis, Ciara O’Con­nor, Clodgh Walsh; Ella O’Con­nor, Ciara Bridges (0-2); Amy O’Leary, Let­tie Whe­lan (1-4, 0-3 frees), El­lie Mer­nagh; Ais­ling Alouf (1-1), Aoife Dempsey (1-0), Anna Mul­li­gan. Subs. - Aoife O’Con­nor for Mer­nagh, Clare Bar­rett for Mul­li­gan, Emma Carr for Dempsey, also Ni­amh Dunne, Aoife Bridges, Ni­amh Cullen, Sarah Hob­bert.

Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh: Gráinne McCabe; Ni­amh Dempsey, Eimear O’Con­nor, Ciara Blake; Saoirse Dunne, Katie Roche, Sinéad Mythen; Michaela Hawkins, Anais Cur­ran (1-3, 0-1 free); Chloe For­tune, Miria O’Dowd, Siob­hán Sin­nott (0-2); Sarah O’Dowd (1-1), Lau­ren Sin­nott (0-1), So­phie Ros­siter. Subs. - Elaine Nolan for O’Dowd, also Cora Red­mond.

Ref­eree: David O’Leary (Rathnure).

The tri­umphant St. Martin’s squad with men­tors James Bridges, Ellen O’Con­nor and Seán Whe­lan. Ella O’Con­nor (St. Martin’s) rac­ing away from Siob­hán Sin­nott.

The beaten fi­nal­ists from Ou­lart-The Bal­lagh.

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