GOALS PROVED decisive as Naomh Muire defeated Naomh Columba in an excellent Ladies Junior A Championship final at O’Donnell Park.
Naomh Muire 4-7 Naomh Columba 1-9
by Chris McNulty at O’Donnell Park
First-half goals by Ailbhe O’Donnell and Saoirse Bonner gave Naomh Muire a foothold before the killer third came from Erika Hanna, the captain, midway through the second period. Deep into added time at the end, Jade O’Donnell drove to the top corner to put the game beyond doubt.
The goals were needed as a Claire Byrne-inspired Naomh Columba pushed them all the way and, just when the clock ticked into stoppage time, Amy Byrne found the bottom corner.
Naomh Muire – down to 14 players by this stage after the sin-binning of full-back Hannah Gallagher – held sway by just four points, but when Jade O’Donnell got on the end of a move to fire to the net, it was game, set and match.
Naomh Muire – determined not to let this one slip after three final defeats in recent years – had a dream start with 1-1 on the board after only two minutes.
The opening goal arrived when O’Donnell’s speculative ball in – which seemed intended for Casey McGarvey – beat all, including ‘keeper Bernadette Carr, nestling just inside the post.
Bonner’s point helped give Naomh Muire a four-point buffer, but it was a nip-and-tuck tie.
Eilish McGinley was put through for Naomh Columba after just 20 seconds, but her shot flew just wide of the target, while Laura McGuire had a similar opening soon after, but shot past the far post.
Claire Byrne slotted over a pair of frees before Kellie Carr’s clever fisted point brought Glen to within a point.
A thunderous attempt by Bonner crashed off the crossbar and the follow up by McGarvey was wide as Naomh Muire set about adding to their advantage.
They did just that in the 16th minute when a free by Bonner found its way to the roof of the Glen net.
Marie McCafferty, the Naomh Muire goalkeeper, saved from Laura McGuire and managed to get her paws to the ball again when it loosened from her grip on the goal-line.
Naomh Muire led 2-4 to 0-6 at the break, with Claire Byrne’s frees keeping Naomh Columba in touch.
Two more from Byrne had the game on a knife edge before ace markswoman Byrne was denied twice in the space of a matter of seconds. Byrne’s initial shot was superbly blocked by Roisin Rodgers and Carr denied her follow-up.
Within a minute, Naomh Muire had a third goal on the board as Hanna finished high. From a chance to draw level, Naomh Columba were, all of a sudden, six behind.
As the game headed down the home stretch, Gallagher was sin-binned after a high challenge, but a Hanna free put seven between them. Carr’s goal had them sweating, but Naomh Muire finally had enough when Jade O’Donnell struck their fourth goal.
Naomh Muire: Marie McCafferty; Eilis O’Reilly, Hannah Gallagher, Caoimhe Boyle; Katie O’Donnell, Roisin Rodgers, Jade O’Donnell (1-0); Tara O’Donnell, Sarah Doherty; Saoirse Bonner (1-2, 1-0f), Caroline Sharkey (0-1), Ailbhe O’Donnell (1-1); Casey McGarvey, Erika Hanna (1-3, 1f), Amy Hanna. Subs: Leah McGarvey for O’Reilly (36).
Naomh Columba: Bernadette Carr; Nuala Byrne, Amy Carr (1-0), Caoimhe Byrne; Leeza Cunningham, Louise Doherty, Roisin Doherty; Sarah McMorrow, Christine Ní Heine; Jeannie O’Donoghue, Claire Byrne (0-7, 5f), Kellie Carr (0-1); Eilish McGinley, Laura McGuire (0-1), Nichole Cunningham. Subs: Ciara McGuire for O’Donoghue (38), Lucy McGinley for McMorrow (52), Grace Gallagher for Ní Heine (67), Sara O’Gara for K.Carr (69), Emer Car for N.Byrne (69).
Referee: Gerard McHugh (St Mary’s, Convoy).