Whelan delivers crucial blow
Positional switch of Hennessy powers Martin’s home
ST. MARTIN’S 3-7 OULART-THE BALLAGH 2-7
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.