Sunday, 15 Oct 2016.
Sarsfields 1-13 Mullagh 1-08.
Lough Rea Hotel & Spa Senior Camogie Championship.
Sarsfields: Y. Lyons; R. Murphy, L. Ward, A. Spellman; T. Kenny, C. McGrath, E. Leslie; N. McGrath (0-6, five frees), K. Gallagher; O. McGrath (0-4), S. Spellman, K. Donohue; M. Earls, M. Cooney (0-1), S. McGrath (1-2). Subs used: S. Cannon for Earls (56 mins).
Mullagh: C. Daly; C. Donohue, J. Coone, C. Lowry; N. O’Brien, S. Dervan, S. Larkin; C. Glennon, G. Finnerty; E. Coen (0-1), P. Manning (1-1), A. Donohue (0-4, all frees); T. Manton, C. Hardiman, K. Kennedy (0-2).
Referee: J. McDonagh.
Match report – Darren Kelly in Duggan Park for The Connacht Tribune:
Twenty-seven years to the day that he captained his club to county senior hurling glory, Michael “Hopper” McGrath oversaw the next generation of players achieve historic success last Saturday as Sarsfields were crowned camogie champions for the first time ever. In a contest equally as intense and entertaining as the first instalment six days earlier, it took a Siobhan McGrath goal six minutes from time to finally but distance between two evenly matched sides as her sister Orlaith got the honour of lifting the Catherine Donnellan Cup.
Throughout the field, Sarsfields fought for every ball including a rock solid defence who limited chances for their opponents while at critical stages, the New Inn/Bullaun/Woodford outfit picked off crucial points. But likewise, Mullagh played their part battling back into contention after Patricia Manning’s 28th minute major and had another couple of goal chances gone their way, this tie could have had a different outcome. Interest had increased rapid fold following the pulsating drawn game in Athenry and throw-in had to be delayed nearly 10 minutes due to the huge crowd arriving. Mullagh started quickly trying to get ball into their attack with Aoife Donohue out on the left wing and they won a free in the second minute with the county winger obliging for the opening score.
However, Sarsfields responded within 60 seconds as Niamh McGrath found the target to level affairs before her side built a three-point lead. While Donohue and McGrath have proved reliable from placed balls, early scores from play would give one side the initiative and Sarsfields seized it. Orlaith McGrath converted on eight minutes before Maria Cooney split the posts within a minute. When Niamh McGrath sent over a second free on 13 minutes, Sarsfields led 0-4 to 0-1. Sarsfields looked to be spreading the ball much better than constant deliveries to Siobhan McGrath who would make her impact be felt. In contrast, Mullagh’s tactic was to try supply Donohue and Collette Hardiman but often left themselves short on numbers as they pulled players back to try win the midfield exchanges.
A Donohue free on 15 minutes reduced the deficit but Sarsfields were enjoying the breaks. Siobhan McGrath, scoreless in the drawn game, opened her account within 60 seconds before Orlaith McGrath won two frees which Niamh converted to stretch their lead to 0-7 to 0-2. Mullagh needed the rub of the green and they got their chance on 22 minutes. An attack involving Donohue led to Therese Manton taken down for a penalty. Goalkeeper Caitriona Daly came the length of the field for the resulting shot but a player travelling a similar distance, full forward Cooney blocked it on the line. A chance went a begging for Mullagh but they were starting to test the Sarsfields defence. Beforehand, Niamh McGrath hit back with a free putting six between the teams before Mullagh countered only for Colette Glennon’s fierce effort to shave the wrong side of the post.
This final had reached a critical juncture with many golden opportunities before half-time. Indeed, Sarsfields had theirs too with Siobhan McGrath denied twice by two excellent Daly stops. Donohue did convert a Mullagh placed ball after Karen Kennedy was taken down but on 28 minutes, they got a lifeline. Donohue may well have gotten a free when challenged near the 40 but referee John McDonagh allowed advantage and the All-Star nominee looked keen to take it. She brought play into the Sarsfields area before a scramble for the sliothar allowed the ball spill. Manning was waiting outside the six-yard box and her ground stroke bounced over the line for a priceless goal and Mullagh trailed by just 0-8 to 1-3 at half-time.
The momentum had flipped over to Madge Kennedy’s side and with the wind to come, they looked set for a storming second half. But having being caught out in the opening instalment, Sarsfields learned their lesson for the sequel. Within 56 seconds of the second half, they were back four ahead with two vibrant attacks out left. First Orlaith McGrath set on a run before delivering a white flag. And then Siobhan McGrath found herself in a similar position and a similar result. They were important scores but Mullagh came straight back to restore the two-point margin. Erica Coen and Kennedy got points the first day and delivered again to make it 0-10 to 1-5. There was a brief lull in play with defences enjoying their periods with Sarsfields’ Tara Kenny and Mullagh’s Sarah Dervan standing out. But Orlaith McGrath ended an eight-minute drought getting her third minor on 46 minutes. Six minutes later, Kennedy cancelled that leaving it 0-11 to 1-6 and delicately poised entering the closing stages. And then it all changed! Siobhan McGrath managed to retrieve a high dropping ball from three Mullagh defenders on 54 minutes and she set off on a run. As a fourth player joined the chase, this year’s All-Ireland under 16 winning captain maintained the pace closing in on goal. Daly couldn’t stop her hand pass as the ball found the net, Sarsfields had their goal and were five points clear.
Mullagh did make inroads with a Donohue free and Manning point reducing arrears but the second goal required didn’t materialise with one Donohue low shot blocked by Kenny. With space opening up the other end, Niamh and Orlaith McGrath pushing the gap to five again. With only one minute of added time, it proved to be enough and Sarsfields had finally taken their place on top. Nothing makes up for a county final loss but Mullagh played their part in two epic clashes. Daly was tremendous in goal; Dervan and Niamh O’Brien typified a resilient defence; while Glennon, Donohue and Kennedy worked hard in attack. But this was Sarsfields’ day and with a side all 23 or younger, their potential knows no limits. Laura Ward, Kenny and Clodagh McGrath were the pick of the defenders while in attack, Orlaith, Niamh and Siobhan did the damage.