Power packed Sleacht Néill a bridge too far for Shamrocks

AIB Ulster Senior Club Camogie Final

Sunday November 10

Loughgiel 1-7 Sleacht Néill 2-8

Brendan McTaggart reports from Páirc Esler, Newry

It was more Ulster final heartache for Loughgiel camogs in Páirc Esler as Sleacht Néill camogs retained their crown to make it four in a row.  It was tough on the Shamrocks who made a dream start to the final, scoring 1-3 in the opening eight minutes before Sleacht Néill found a footing.  Loughgiel managed just a further four points in the 52 remaining minutes as Sleacht Néill controlled the contest.  Shannon Graham outstanding throughout with Louise Dougan immense in the second half.  Maeve Connolly, Emma McMullan, Caitrin Dobbin and Roisin McCormick all impressed for the Shamrocks but they fell just short once again.

Clare McKillop scores Loughgiel’s goal Loughgiel during Sunday’s final in Pairc Esler, Newry. Pic by Cathal McOscar

Fast Start…

Loughgiel made a superb start to the final and had Sleacht Néill under pressure from the first whistle.  Caitrin Dobbon, Anna Connolly and Emma McMullan forming a half forward line that kept turning the screw.  The first score of the game came in the third minute, Emma McMullan converting a 30 yard free after a foul on Amy Boyle.

Caitrin Dobbin doubled the Shamrocks advantage two minutes later when she split the uprights after good work by Roisin McCormick while in the next attack Emma McMullan robbed Bridin McAllister of the sliotar to steal through and fire over, opening a three point lead in the process.

The Loughgiel goal came in the eighth minute and was just rewards for their start to the final.  Dobbin’s effort from range dropped short with Sleacht Néill ‘keeper Jolene Bradley batting the sliotar clear.  Clare McKillop was the first to the lose ball and she pulled first time to the back of the net.  The dream start for the Shamrocks but their goal sparked Sleacht Néill into life.

A quick fire brace of points from Tina Bradley and Shannon Graham got the reigning champions off and running before Olivia Rafferty scored their opening goal.  A cross field ball collected by Sinead Mellon.  She fed Siobhan Bradley who spotted Rafferty in space and the Sleacht Néill forward gave Megan Coyle no chance between the sticks with an instinctive finish.

The Derry champions had the bit between their teeth and were hemming Loughgiel in their own half.  The Shamrocks couldn’t get out of their own half as Sleacht Néill continued to apply pressure but the Loughgiel defence were immense in tackling, closing down and blocking everything that came their way.

Maeve Connolly briefly stopped the rot for the Shamrocks when she split the posts after good work by Emma McMullan in the 17th minute but the Shamrocks would only add one further point in the time that remained of the first half.

Shannon Graham pointed despite being under pressure before Tina Bradley pointed her first free of the final in the 22nd minute.  Christine Laverty has a sniff of a goal chance when Jolene Bradley fumbled a Caitrin Dobbin shot before Roisin McCormick added her name to the scoresheet moments later.

The killer blow for the Shamrocks came in the 27th minute.  After looking like they had saw off the Sleacht Néill storm with McCormick’s point, Shannon Graham found the back of the net for the Derry champions.  Cliona Mulholland sending the sliotar cross field where Graham caught and turned to wrong foot the Loughgiel defence.  Bearing down on goal and 20 yards out, she rifled her effort to the top corner, giving her side the lead for the first time in the match and one they wouldn’t relinquish.

Tina Bradley rounded off the scoring for the half with a free in injury time to leave Sleacht Néill ahead by three at the short whistle.

Players from both teams battle under the dropping ball during Sunday’s Ulster final in Newry

Half time: Loughgiel 1-5 Sleacht Néill 2-5

Sleacht Néill started the second half brightly with another Tina Bradley free from 45 yards out with barely 60 seconds gone from the restart.  She took her tally to five for the match five minutes later and Loughgiel were searching for a foothold that the Emmets weren’t willing to yield.

The reigning Ulster and All-Ireland champions controlled the vast majority of the second half and despite Loughgiel constantly knocking on the door, the Sleacht Néill defence were immense with Louise Dougan sweeping and repelling anything Loughgiel could throw their way.

Emma McMullan pointed a free in the 45th minute for the Shamrock’s first point of the second half before Caitrin Dobbin had a sight of goal but her effort went to the right of the post. 

Substitute Orlaigh Laverty, introduced 10 minutes previous and causing the Sleacht Néill defence plenty of problems, also had a half goal chance but Louise Dougan’s block was heroic and Cliona Mulholland cleared the danger from the Sleacht Néill line.  McMullan’s third free of the match and fourth white flag overall brought the deficit down to three points again for the Shamrocks and they looked like they were going to launch one final assault.

The final score of the game came with the next attack.  Tina Bradley with the score that dragged the momentum away from Loughgiel and came at the best possible moment for the Derry champions.  Loughgiel continued to press and had a number of chances to close the gap in the time that remained but Sleacht Néill’s experience shone in the closing stages to deny the Shamrocks for a fourth year in a row.

Caitrin Dobbin fires the ball towards the Slaughtneil goals but her shots just goes wide of the right hand upright in the final minutes of the game.

TEAMS

Loughgiel: Megan Coyle; Charlene Campbell, Chloe Higgins, Clare McKillop; Maria Lynn, Maeve Connolly, Shauna Devlin; Amy Boyle, Lucia McNaughton; Caitrin Dobbin, Anna Connolly, Emma McMullan; Ciara Laverty, Christine Laverty, Roisin McCormick

Subs: Orlaigh Laverty for A Boyle (42); Meghan McGarry for C McKillop (48); Ciara Dobbin for M Lynn (58)

Scorers: Emma McMullan 0-4 (3 f’s); Clare McKillop 1-00; Maeve Connolly 0-1; Caitrin Dobbin 0-1; Roisin McCormick 0-1

Sleacht Néill: Jolene Bradley; Cait McEldowney, Gráinne Ní Chatháin, Eilis McGrath; Bridín McAllister, Aoife Ní Chaiside, Clare McGrath; Shannon McGrath, Cliona Mulhollan; Siobhan Bradley, Tina Bradley, Therese Mellon; Olivia Rafferty, Sinead Mellon, Louise Dougan

Subs: Josine McMullan for T Mellon (48)

Scorers: Tina Bradley 0-6 (4 f’s); Shannon Graham 1-2; Olivia Rafferty 1-00

Referee: Philip McDonald (Cavan)

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