Sunday, 9 Oct 2016.
Sarsfields 0-12 Mullagh 1-09.
Lough Rea Hotel & Spa Senior Camogie Championship.
Mullagh: C. Daly; C. Donohue, J. Coone, C. Lowry; S. Larkin, S. Dervan, N. O’Brien; C. Glennon (0-1), G. Finnerty; E. Coen (0-1), P. Manning, A. Donohue (1-6, four frees); S. Dolan, C. Hardiman, K. Kennedy (0-1). Subs used: T. Manton for Dolan
(13m), M. O’Brien for Hardiman (50 m).
Sarsfields: Y. Lyons; R. Murphy, L. Ward, A. Spellman; T. Kenny, C. McGrath, E. Leslie; G. Flynn, K. Gallagher; O. McGrath (0-4), N. McGrath (0-7, all frees), M. Cooney (0-1); K. Donohue, S. Spellman, S. McGrath. Sub used: S. Cannon for Leslie (49m).
Match reports – Darren Kelly in Kenny Park:
An enthralling county senior camogie final last Sunday fittingly couldn’t declare new champions as Mullagh and Sarsfields will have to meet again. In a contest dominated by defences in the first half, it opened up significantly during the second 30 minutes as Mullagh came from five points behind to lead by three only for Sarsfields to show great composure to secure the draw.
Aoife Donohue’s 34th minute goal completely changed this final after Sarsfields led 0-6 to 0-1 at half-time as the captain put Madge Kennedy’s team to the front. But her opposite number Orlaith McGrath also stepped up in the critical final 10 minutes to steer Sarsfields to parity. This was a highly anticipated decider between two attacking East Galway outfits even though the opening period was low scoring.
Indeed, Sarsfields had the ball in the Mullagh net after four minutes. Siobhan McGrath has been a major force since her emergence in the senior ranks this year and her team’s tactic of putting the ball into her area was evident early on. Ciara Donohue was assigned the marking job and kept tight with this year’s All-Ireland under 16 winning captain but one slip allowed McGrath through but her pass to Sarah Spellman was ruled illegal even though the ball went over the line. It wasn’t long though before Michael McGrath’s team did go ahead. On six minutes, Siobhan McGrath was brought down to allow sister Niamh the first chance. The three-time All-Star made no mistake splitting the posts.
But Sarsfields’ advantage only lasted 60 seconds as Mullagh responded. Aoife Donohue received possession down the left before sending a super effort from 40 yards over the bar. Another expected duel saw Tara Kenny assigned to pick up Donohue which was a gripping affair and the Sarsfields wing back edged the first round as Mullagh wouldn’t score again. It took Sarsfields until the 12th minute to regain the initiative when Niamh McGrath found the target and her third free five minutes later put two between them. Already, Mullagh had looked to the bench with Therese Manton, who picked up a cruciate injury for Galway back in January, making her long awaited return.
But Sarsfields’ young full back line was playing with a maturity beyond their years as Rachel Murphy, Laura Ward and Aisling Spellman were very miserly with any presented opportunities. At the other end, the half forward line of Orlaith and Niamh McGrath plus Maria Cooney were keeping the Mullagh defence busy, though Sinead Larkin, Sarah Dervan and Niamh O’Brien looked up for the challenge. As Orlaith McGrath yielded Sarsfields’ first point from play on 19 minutes. The two sisters built up their tallies before the break though the contest started to lose some of its momentum with some hard challenges and hold-ups threatening to spoil play. Niamh’s fourth free was followed by Orlaith’s second from play to make it 0-6 to 0-1 at half-time and a first ever county title for Sarsfields looked good.
Mullagh had failed to make significant inroads but a gamble straight after the restart turned this game upside down. Kennedy sent Aoife Donohue into full forward and instructed her squad to get ball into attack quickly. Kenny followed her county team mate with Ward going to the wing but Donohue was about to hit a gold rush. A free after 45 seconds reduced arrears before Donohue was brought down by Clodagh McGrath earning another converted free. At 0-6 to 0-3, Mullagh was back but they made a massive statement when Patricia Manning sent a long ball towards goal. Kenny had just stepped too far up leaving Donohue running onto the break with just the keeper to beat and her ground pull rattled the net to level the tie.
Mullagh had momentum and didn’t let up with Karen Kennedy putting them ahead 60 seconds later. Sarsfields were in disarray and needed to settle. Orlaith McGrath won another free and Niamh found the target to level at 1-4 to 0-7 on 37 minutes. It was only a slight reprieve as Mullagh surged again. Donohue hit a fine effort from the right though she missed an unmarked Erica Coen inside. But another Donohue free had Mullagh two to the good. Sarsfields were trying to stay in touch but even though their supply line was slowing, they hit points at critical junctures. Clodagh McGrath started a move that involved Niamh and Maria Cooney lifted their hopes splitting the posts. Therese Manton picked out Colette Glennon who raised a white flag before Coen got one herself to put Mullagh three clear with 12 minutes remaining. The situation was now the polar opposite of the first half with the 2014 winners looking odds on for a sixth crown.
Sarsfields never panicked even if they lost their shape in the third quarter and their top players came to the fore. Kenny was back on the 40 where she excelled while Orlaith McGrath’s determination drove them on. Despite not scoring, Siobhan McGrath caused Mullagh endless problems, often drawing four defenders and securing precious frees. A Niamh McGrath free with 10 minutes left was followed by an Orlaith point making it 1-8 to 0-10. Donohue responded with Mullagh’s final score but Orlaith McGrath picked off her fourth minor to restore the one-point deficit. Those engrossed in this contest sensed a draw as Sarsfields manoeuvred a comeback and when the free arrived on 56 minutes, Niamh McGrath made no mistake levelling the sides.
There were chances for both as a significant amount of added time was played but the defences got back on top denying clear cut chances to seal a win. Eventually, referee Conor Quinlan called time on a cracking contest and the teams would have to lock horns again in six days. Donohue was Mullagh’s star performer and was well supported by keeper Catriona Daly, Coone, Larkin, Dervan and Glennon. For Sarsfields, Orlaith McGrath showed leadership qualities complimented by Niamh and Siobhan McGrath, Murphy, Ward, Kenny and Cooney.
- Match photos: Mullagh v Sarsfields (Joe Keane)