Late Goals Seal Ulster Title For Ahoghill

By Liam Tunney

St Mary’s Ahoghill (Aontroim)                 3-10

Erin’s Own Lavey (Doire)            2-07

Feature photo –

THIS ONE’S FOR CLAIRE
A highly emotional moment as Ciara and Brona McGuigan hold a photograph of thier late sister Claire during celebrations at the final whistle. The team were not able to wear their specially commissioned club jerseys in memory of Claire during the game because of a colour clash with Lavey but changed at the final whistle before starting their celebrations

Goals in the 58th and 60th minutes from Noreen Graham and Paula Gribbin saw St Mary’s Ahoghill shake off the dogged challenge of Erin’s Own and break the Derry side’s passionate resolve to claim the Bridie McMenamin Shield in Lavey on Saturday afternoon.

The late goals brought to an end a gripping encounter in near-perfect conditions. Cloney’s undoubted class had seen them race into an early lead, but Shauneen McCann’s 12th minute free found the St Mary’s net and shook Lavey into the game.

Noreen Graham celebrates afters scoring a 58th minute goal

Trailing by a single point at the break, they were level within seconds of the second half beginning and despite being rocked by Noreen Graham’s first goal, the Derry girls battled back immediately to go ahead through a Claire Madden major.

Lavey found themselves level with two to play before Graham and Gribbin struck the killer blows to finally seal victory.

Before the match, the name ringing in the Lavey defence’s ears would no doubt have been Noreen Graham and the free-scoring full forward shot Ahoghill ahead after just 2 minutes, taking a neat touch and dispatching the sliotar from 25 yards.

Caitríona Graham then doubled the lead with the first of seven frees, in an exhibition of the art, before Noreen fired over her second as a rampant Cloney burst to life, but the hosts soon began to exert their physicality on the game.

Penning Ahoghill in their own half for a five-minute spell, the Erin’s Own side pushed to trouble the scoresheet. Tigerish Cloney defending managed to reduce them to one shot from Kerri Chivers that was superbly blocked by Eadaoin McGarry but Lavey finally reaped reward for their efforts in the 12th minute.

A perfectly timed tackle from Emma Scullion on a rampaging Caitríona Graham overturned possession and Lavey won a free 50 yards from goal on the counter. McCann’s effort dropped straight in over the heads of the Cloney defenders and into the net to draw them level.

Player of the match Maura Downey punches the air after scoring a second half point

Buoyed by the goal, Lavey’s intensity upped and another superb dispossession by Maria McGill followed, the counter-attack this time ending in the hand of Claire Madden who slotted her side into the lead.

Ahoghill responded immediately and took the lead with a brace of Caitríona Graham frees. The composed midfielder then traded 0-02 with Claire Madden to see the Antrim champions leading by a single point at the break.

Cara McGoldrick, introduced just before the break, fired Lavey level within seconds of the restart, but before the cheers had subsided, Noreen Graham rocked them back on their heels. Maura Downey’s low shot was superbly saved by Emma Harkin, but the tireless half-forward recycled the ball to the waiting Graham who lashed the ball to the bottom corner of Harkin’s net.

With the exceptional Laura Scullion turning ball after ball from the Lavey defence, they came again and Shauneen McCann notched her first point of the game in response. The Derry side then wrestled back the lead, Claire Madden getting the final touch to turn in Una McCloy’s crossed hand-pass.

Panic momentarily set in for Ahoghill and Eimear Drumm, sweeping in front of Harkin’s goal, claimed three balls in a row as wayward Ahoghill passing rained down on her. The action became frantic with goal chances ebbing and flowing at both ends and gripping the large crowd in tense anticipation.

It took twelve exhilarating minutes of mayhem before Caitríona Graham restored both order and parity, her 47th minute free levelling the scores and settling Cloney, who went ahead immediately afterwards through a Maura Downey point.

A further Graham free extended the lead to two, but Erin’s Own refused to go quietly. Claire Madden landed a 45 to reduce the arrears before Shauneen McCann slotted a 54th minute free to see the sides level yet again.

Lavey threw everything at St Mary’s and after an almighty scramble had yielded the 45 for Madden’s score, they looked to be in again after a slack puck out fell to Cathy Convery. The Cloney masses regrouped, swarming Convery, who was eventually penalised for overcarrying.

Ahoghill took full advantage.

Ahoghill’s Paula Gribben wins possession

A raking clearance landed with Noreen Graham who took off on a trademark run before arrowing a shot into the top right-hand corner of the Lavey net. With Erin’s Own visibly rocked, Paula Gribbin nipped in for their third, keeping her cool to finish past Harkin and ignite the celebrations.

An emotional win for the Ahoghill side, whose customised jerseys bearing the name of young Ahoghill Gael Claire McGuigan materialised on their backs as if they’d always been there.

Claire passed away earlier in the year and the image of sisters Ciara and Brona holding her photograph above the thronged celebrations indicated what the win meant for the Cloney club.

“In an Ulster Club game you never know what you’re going to get” remarked Ahoghill manager Dermot Graham afterwards.

What we got was an outstanding game of camogie, decided by moments of sheer quality and one in which both teams can look back on with justified pride.

St Mary’s: Angela Graham, Nicola Doherty, Mairead McCloskey, Sinead McKenna, Emma McGlone, Eadaoin McGarry, Caitlin McLaughlin, Caitríona Graham (0-07f), Fiona Blaney, Paula Gribbin, Aine Graham, Maura Downey (0-01), Ann Marie O’Neill, Noreen Graham (2-02), Ciara McGuigan.

Subs: Marian Graham for Caitlin McLaughlin 28’, Bronagh Graffin for Ann Marie O’Neill 35’.

Erin’s Own: Emma Harkin, Catilin McWilliams, Eimear Drumm, Emma Scullion, Maria McGill, Laura Scullion, Katie Taylor, Lia Kelly, Maria Mulholland, Anna Rafferty, Kerri Chivers, Shauneen McCann (1-02f), Cathy Convery (0-01), Claire Madden (1-01, 0-01f, 0-01 – 45), Una McCloy.

Subs: Cara McGoldrick (0-01) for Katie Taylor 29’

Referee: Phillip McDonald (An Cabhán)

MARY JOINS IN THE CELEBRATIONS

Mary Butler with Ahoghill team captain Fiona Blaney

Joining in the Ahoghill celebrations was Mary Butler (née McFaul) who played on the club side that won their first Antrim senior championship in 1948, two years after she helped Antrim win the 1946 All-Ireland senior final with victory over Galway in MacRory Park, Belfast.

“I have really enjoyed today. It was a great finish and a great win for Ahoghill.

“I don’t remember too much about the All-Ireland final or the championship final in the 40s – sure I was only a teenager at the time and I thought that I would win more. But I didn’t.

“It’s great to see these girls enjoying themselves after winning.”

And Mary is hoping to get to another Ulster final next month just before her 90th birthday.

“Yes, I have a grand-daughter Charlene (Campbell) who is playing for Loughgiel against Slaughtneil in the Ulster (senior) final. I gave her my All-Ireland medal a few years ago. I would love to see her win and that would be a great birthday present for me.”


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