Ladies foot­ball

Proud north Cork club suf­fer fi­nal agony yet again

Irish Examiner - County - - Front Page -

Mourne-ing a de­feat for the third time.

HEART­BREAK once more for Mourne­abbey, as they lost their third se­nior All-Ire­land ladies club fi­nal in four years at Par­nell Park yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, as a Cora Staunton in­spired Car­na­con won the ti­tle for the first time since 2013 by a mar­gin of just two points.

Staunton jets off to Aus­tralia to­mor­row to be­gin her AFLW ca­reer with yet another Al­lIre­land medal packed away in her back pocket. This was the Mayo le­gend’s sixth All-Ire­land club medal; what the Mourne­abbey play­ers would give for just the one.

Staunton would have 21 pos­ses­sions dur­ing gen­eral play over the course of the hour, not in­clud­ing her ef­forts from placed balls. The stats would sug­gest that Mourne­abbey ac­tu­ally han­dled the leg­endary Mayo for­ward fairly well over the course of the match.

Staunton’s first in­stinct when gath­er­ing pos­ses­sion was to run as di­rectly as pos­si­ble at the heart of the north Cork side’s de­fence, util­is­ing the phys­i­cal at­tributes that have gar­nered her a con­tract in the AFLW with GWS Giants next sea­son.

This ap­proach re­sulted in four points from play, five frees awarded to Staunton, three frees awarded against the Car­na­con cap­tain for over car­ry­ing, four wides, four passes and one clean dis­pos­ses­sion.

If of­fered such stats be­fore­hand I would imag­ine the Mourne­abbey man­age­ment would have grabbed it.

The prob­lem for Mourne­abbey was that Car­na­con were far from a one-woman team with the likes of Marie Cor­bett, Doire­ann Hughes, Martha Carter, Aoife Bren­nan, Amy Dowl­ing and Fiona MacHale all star­ring for the Mayo and Con­nacht cham­pi­ons.

In fact, even though Staunton will re­ceive all the plau­dits and head­lines on the back of this vic­tory the best player on the pitch on Sun­day evening was mid­fielder Fiona MacHale who worked tire­lessly for the en­tire 60 min­utes, link­ing up play bril­liantly to get the ball mov­ing in Staunton’s di­rec­tion.

Mourne­abbey may well re­gret the tac­tics as they ef­fec­tively iso­lated their own main at­tack­ing threats in Doire­ann O’Sul­li­van and Laura Fitzger­ald by with­draw­ing so many bod­ies to block off the av­enues into Staunton. While de­fen­sively this tac­tic worked, it also meant that Mourne­abbey were re­liant on counter at­tacks for their scores, and against a very young and ath­letic Car­na­con side this proved a dif­fi­cult ap­proach, with the Cork side only manag­ing to kick four points in the open­ing half.

Mourne­abbey were cry­ing out for a player to link the play on the 40, some­one who could hold the ball up, and ei­ther feed it into O’Sulli- van and Fitzger­ald or else just hold it up un­til the likes of Ciara and Brid O’Sul­li­van could get up in sup­port. In truth, Mourne­abbey needed to re­peat their goalscor­ing ex­ploits against Foxrock-Cabin­teely, when they man­aged to raise four green flags, and they went eight points down early in the sec­ond half as the game be­gin to slip away from their grasp.

For­mer All-Ire­land-win­ning Cork cap­tain Ciara O’Sul­li­van and her sis­ter Róisín kept the north Cork club in touch with two points in a minute in the 45th minute and soon af­ter it was game on again when Brid O’Sul­li­van smashed the ball to the Car­na­con net af­ter she played an in­tri­cate one-two with Laura Fitzger­ald.

The Mayo out­fit were in full de­fen­sive mode by now, as their eight-point lead had been whit­tled down to three, and who knows what would have hap­pened if Doire­ann O’Sul­li­van’s goal ef­fort with eight min­utes to go had not gone straight at Cor­na­con’s net­min­der Michelle Hig­gins.

In fact, O’Sul­li­van will have walked onto the bus an­noyed at hav­ing scored just the five points, as that late goal ef­fort could have saved Mourne­abbey, and she had a thun­der­bolt of a shot in the first half that al­most knocked the Par­nell Park up­right onto the nearby 15th green of Clon­tarf Golf Cub such was the fe­roc­ity of her shot, but alas, the umpire’s green flag re­mained un­touched. O’Sul­li­van had a 21-yard free with two min­utes re­main­ing and she made the de­ci­sion to take the point. It might be hind­sight talk­ing but given a sec­ond chance Mourne­abbey would prob­a­bly go for the goal now.

Mourne­abbey have lost All-Ire­lands in 2014, 2015 and now 2017, with an All-Ire­land semi­fi­nal also be­ing lost in 2016.

It will, of course, be dif­fi­cult to come back for a fifth tilt at the ti­tle that is now be­com­ing the prover­bial Holy Grail for the north Cork club.

It will have been a long lonely trip down south on Sun­day evening. Kin­sale, who lost the in­ter­me­di­ate fi­nal on the same day at the same venue, will have en­dured a sim­i­lar trip. They have now lost All-Ire­land fi­nals at ju­nior and in­ter­me­di­ate level in suc­ces­sive sea­sons.

It will make for two hun­gry sides at se­nior level in Cork next year as both Mourne­abbey and Kin­sale will be­gin the jour­ney of get­ting back to the top table of ladies foot­ball again.

Wounds will have to be licked be­fore that process starts with any real gusto, but know­ing the char­ac­ter of these two sides it is a process that will prob­a­bly be­gin once more be­fore too long.

THEY pro­duced a gal­lant dis­play at Par­nell Park on Sun­day af­ter­noon, but for the third time in four years, Mourne­abbey came up just short in the LGFA All-Ire­land Se­nior Club Cham­pi­onship de­cider.

A strong third-quar­ter from the Cora Staunton-in­spired Car­na­con had cre­ated se­ri­ous day­light in the north Dublin venue, and even though Doire­ann O’Sul­li­van and Brid O’Sul­li­van helped to bring Mourne­abbey back into the reck­on­ing, they couldn’t quite turn the tide in their favour.

Car­na­con were search­ing for their first na­tional crown since 2013, and they opened the scor­ing with a fine score on the run by Martha Carter. How­ever, Mourne­abbey full-for­ward Doire­ann O’Sul­li­van later stepped up to a 30m free, and en­sured Car­na­con’s lead was a short-lived one.

With five All-Ire­land se­nior ti­tles al­ready un­der their belt, it was al­ways ex­pected that Car­na­con would present a for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge to Mourne­abbey. They edged in front once again with a rou­tine free by Staunton (who will soon be em­bark­ing on a new ca­reer in the Women’s AFL), cen­tre-for­ward Amy Dowl­ing sub­se­quently opened her per­sonal ac­count with a neat point from play.

Another free by the in­flu­en­tial Doire­ann O’Sul­li­van brought the Mourne­abbey deficit down to the bare min­i­mum, but even though Car­na­con spurned a num­ber of op­por­tu­ni­ties in the open­ing pe­riod, Dowl­ing and Carter (who was named at full-back, but played in a more ad­vanced role) found the tar­get for the western­ers.

This gave them some breath­ing space, but Doire­ann O’Sul­li­van once again fired back — this time with a su­perb long-dis­tance score from play. In­deed, de­spite see­ing this score im­me­di­ately can­celled out by 11-time Al­lS­tar Staunton, they were ag­o­nis­ingly close to restor­ing par­ity on 23 min­utes.

Doire­ann O’Sul­li­van dis­pos­sessed Claire Egan close to the Car­na­con goal, and she was ex­tremely un­for­tu­nate to see her sub­se­quent strike crash­ing off the un­der­side of the right­hand post. Team cap­tain Brid O’Sul­li­van even­tu­ally cut the gap with a fine score at the end of a pa­tient move, but thanks to an Emma Cos­grave ef­fort from a tight-an­gle, Car­na­con held a 0-7 to 0-4 ad­van­tage at the mid­way point in the ac­tion.

This kept Mourne­abbey’s quest for a clean sweep of ju­nior, in­ter­me­di­ate and se­nior ti­tles very much alive head­ing into the sec­ond-half, but within six min­utes of the restart, Car­na­con had dou­bled their cush­ion.

Staunton was on tar­get ei­ther side of a hard-earned point from Fiona McHale, and al­though Doire­ann O’Sul­li­van’s fourth brought this scor­ing se­quence from the cen­tral Mayo out­fit to an end, Staunton’s im­pact on the game was beginning to grow sub­stan­tially.

She added a 38th-minute point to her tally, and af­ter Aoife Bren­nan beau­ti­fully curled over the posts off her right-foot, another Staunton con­tri­bu­tion opened up an eight-point gap be­tween the sides. Mourne­abbey were now left with a moun­tain to climb, but the 44th-minute sin-bin­ning of Car­na­con half-back Doire­ann Hughes of­fered the Mun­ster kingpins a po­ten­tial life­line.

Back-to-back scores from Roisin O’Sul­li­van and Ciara O’Sul­li­van gave them hope, and while a sixth Staunton point briefly halted their charge, El­lie Jack also found her range in fine style.

Brid O’Sul­li­van then se­cured a much-needed goal for Mourne­abbey af­ter ex­e­cut­ing an out­stand­ing one­and two with Laura Fitzger­ald, but Staunton once again set­tled Car­na­con with a fisted score.

Fitzger­ald added her name to the score­sheet af­ter she was pre­vi­ously de­nied by Car­na­con net­min­der Michelle Hig­gins, and yet another Doire­ann O’Sul­li­van placed-ball con­ver­sion setup a nail-bit­ing con­clu­sion.

Mourne­abbey pushed hard for a match-win­ning goal in the dy­ing mo­ments, but in spite of their best en­deav­ours, Car­na­con dug deep for a nar­row vic­tory.

Pic­ture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Laura Fitzger­ald of Mourne­abbey in ac­tion against Sharon McGing of Car­na­con.

Pic­ture: Seb Daly

Car­na­con’s Cora Staunton cel­e­brates vic­tory at the fi­nal whis­tle.

Pic­ture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Car­na­con’s Louise Dowl­ing with Eimear Meaney of Mourne­abbey.

Pic­ture: INPHO

Car­na­con’s Marie Cor­bett with Doire­ann O’Sul­li­van of Mourne­abbey.

Pic­ture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

The Mourne­abbey team that fell just short in yes­ter­day’s All-Ire­land fi­nal in Dublin.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.