Heartbreak for St Paul’s as Kenny leads Naomh Ciarán fightback

LGFA All-Ireland Club Intermediate Football Championship final

Naomh Ciarán (Offaly) 2-11 St Paul’s (Antrim) 2-9

There was heartbreak for St Paul’s ladies at Breffni Park on Saturday as Offaly and Leinster champions Naomh Ciarán staged a late fightback to deny the Shaw’s Road girls a history making victory. Midway through the second half it looked like St Paul’s were on their way to becoming he first Antrim team to win an All Ireland ladies title, but the scoring dried up as the Offaly champions clawed their way back into contention and a late scoring burst saw them home by two points.

Kirsty McGuinness swings over a St Paul’s point

The early stages of the game were evenly contested as St Paul’s Natalie McGuinness and Naomh Ciaran’s star performer Kate Kenny led the way for their teams. Kenny got her team in front with a pointed free but St Paul’s hit back with a brilliantly taken goal from Kirsty McGuinness when she got onto the end of a neat pass by her sister Ciatlin to fire home.

Naomh Ciaran squandered a few chances to draw level but they made no mistake midway through the opening half when good approach work between Aofie Corbett, Kate Kenny and Anny Mangan ended with Mangan firing home to put her team two ahead. Kirsty McGuinness pulled a point back on 17 minutes and the Belfast girls should have hit the front soon afterward but two goal chances were squandered after excellent approach work.

St Paul’s captain Aine Turbidy surges forward

McGuinness drew them level and minutes later St Paul’s captain Aine Tubrity added one to put her side ahead but the dangerous Kenny replied with one at the other end.

Still, the Antrim and Ulster champions were back level and a free from McGuinness moved them into a 1-3 to 1-2 lead on 23 minutes before Kenny converted a free at the other end. Another exchange of point between the games top scores McGuinness and Kenny left the sides level at 1-4 apiece as they went in at half time.

St Paul’s started the second half brightly when two more McGuinness points put them two clear, but Kenny, who was now operating in midfield, was starting to make her presence felt and she had Naomh Ciarán back on terms by the 37th minute. When McGuinness restored her team’s lead with a goal the large St Paul’s following were in full cry and when the lead was stretched to five with points from Naoishe Burns and Kirsty McGuinness and with less than ten minutes to play the title appeared to be heading to Belfast. However the Offaly champions were far from finished and when substitute Shauna Heffernan got in for a goal the tide turned completely.

The Belfast girls’ chanced were dealt a bad blow when McGuinness was sin-binned, and from then on it was all downhill as Naomh Ciaran pushed for home and though St Paul’s gave it everything they had the Leinster champions were two to the good at the final whistle.

NAOMH CIARÁN: A Keena; N Buckley, E Nally, A Grehan; R Ennis, E Flynn, F Boland; K Kenny 0-8 (0-4fs), A Mangan; E Cahill, L Keena, K Rigney; A Corbett, R Cockram, E McEvoy 0-2.

Subs: R Egan 0-1 for Corbett (HT), A Kelly for Rigney (HT), S Heffernan 1-0 for Cockram (51mins), S Egan for Cahill (51mins).

ST PAUL’S: A Healy; C Stewart, E Kelly, L O’Neill; M Hanna, C Brown, L Wallace; S McCann, A Tubridy 0-1; N Enright, C McGuinness, L Dahunsi; F Rocks 0-1, K McGuinness 2-6 (0-3fs), M Cooper.

Subs: N Burns 0-1 for Rocks (48mins), K McConville for McCann (60mins), R Hemsworth for Brown (64mins).

REFEREE: M Kenny (Mayo).

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