Brídíní Óga are All Ireland Champions

By Daragh Ó Conchúir at Kinnegad

Brídíní Óga (Antrim) 2-7 Knockananna (Wicklow) 1-5 

Second-half goals from Aisling Millar and Molly Woulahan within nine minutes of one another were the key scores as Brídíní Óga became the first Antrim team to win the AIB Camogie All-Ireland Junior A Club Championship title at a packed Coralstown Kinnegad GAA grounds. 

A full house played its part in a wonderful occasion, with players displaying tremendous grit in difficult conditions as well as so many of the skills of the game in a cauldron of red-hot activity. 

Aimee Maher flighted a wonderful opening score after just 49 seconds, having collected possession just outside her own 45, fed Róisín Byrne and then taken the return to finish inspirationally from just outside the opposition 45. 

A tear rolls down the face of Brídíní Óga manager Rodney Kerry as he embraces his players at the final whistle

Rodney Kerr would have been irked by the manner in which Maher was untracked and unmarked but it was a fantastic display of movement and athleticism, followed by a scintillating finish. 

Emily Hadden slotted a free to make it 0-2 to 0-0 after just five minutes but it wasn’t a portent of things to come in terms of scoring rate, due in part to the heavy underfoot conditions and strength of the wind, which was in Knockananna’s favour in the opening period. 

The Wicklow side, looking to make it back-to-back All-Irelands having annexed the Junior B crown last season, didn’t make enough of that elemental advantage, leading by just a point at half-time, 0-3 to 0-2. 

In contrast, Na Brídíní Óga found it easier to get the scoreboard moving although to their credit, Knockananna did too despite playing into the teeth of the gale in the second half. 

Victoria Edgar got the Ulster side off the mark in the 12th minute with a neat finish but back came Knockananna with a point from Sarah Byrne, who clipped over but had a teammate completely unmarked inside her, standing just outside the small parallelogram. 

Goal scorer Molly Woulahan and free taker Eimhear McAleenan celebrate at the final whistle

That was it in terms of scores for more than 15 minutes, although both teams had chances, and it wasn’t until just before the interval when the dangerous Woulohan split the posts for Brídíní Óga after some brilliant defence had denied her a goal opportunity. 

With nerves dispensed with, the teams served up an exhibition after the resumption, and Ciara Byrne made it double scores after good work by Maher but a 36th minute goal off the sod by Aisling Millar put Brídíní Óga in front for the first time. 

Aimee Traynor and the vastly experienced Eimhear McAleenan (free) pointed either side of a Ciara Byrne score that came after a goalbound Laura McGrath shot had been blocked, and when Woulahan finished to the net after bursting through the middle for her sixth consecutive game raising a green flag, it was looking good for the Glenravel crew. 

Birthday girl Rita Higgins, had something special to celebrate at the final whistle.

Knockananna, fielding minus the services of captain and midfielder Jessie Byrne, who has gone to Australia, illustrated their appetite for the battle though and when McAleenan opened the gap to two goals from a placed ball, Tom Byrne’s troops halved the deficit with a 55th minute major from Rachel Byrne, who rocketed a free to the net with a stunning strike. 

Their hopes were extinguished by points from young substitute Clodagh McPeake, making a return from injury, and McAleenan, however, and it was Brídíní  

Team captain Kirlsty Laverty receives the All Ireland Cup from Camogie Association president

SCORERS FOR NA BRÍDÍNÍ ÓGA: M Woulahan 1-1; A Millar 1-0; E McAleenan 0-3(2fs); V Edgar, A Traynor, C McPeake 0-1 each 

SCORERS FOR KNOCKANANNA: R Byrne 1-0(f); C Byrne 0-2; A Maher, E Hadden (f), Sarah Byrne 0-1 each 

NA BRÍDÍNÍ ÓGA: O Donnelly, A Mulholland, M McKenna, J Woulahan, E Coulter, M Mulholland, B Laverty, L McKenna, K Laverty, E McAleenan, S Fyfe, V Edgar, A Millar, M Woulahan, A Traynor. Subs: C McPeake for Millar (38); S McDonnell for Traynor (60), N McKay for Edgar (60+2)

KNOCKANANNA: K Byrne, E Breslin, Á Byrne, E O’Sullivan, Róisín Byrne, E Hadden, S Goetelen, A Maher, C Byrne, Rachel Byrne, L McGrath, E Mulhall, Sinéad Byrne, Sarah Byrne 

REFEREE: Brian Kearney (Kildare) 

Player of the match Laoise McKenna receives her trophy

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