Delight for Na Fianna

Delight for Na Fianna.
Na Fianna 1-11 Naomh Mearnóg 1-10.

Na Fianna captured the Michael Murphy Memorial Cup at Parnell Park on Friday evening last, under the floodlights, and at the fourth time of asking. Having failed three times against Ballyboden St. Enda’s they secured possession of the trophy against northside rivals, Naomh Mearnóg, but only just. This game could have gone either way and for a long time a draw looked on the cards, especially when sub. Katie Slattery stepped up to take a free in the twenty-eight minute for Naomh Mearnóg which would have levelled the score for the seventh time in the game. It wasn’t to be, however, as her effort just curled wide of the far post. Luck deserted the Portmarnock side again seconds later when a cracking shot from full forward Sinead Aherne came back off the crossbar with goalkeeper, Sorcha Turnbull, beaten and was cleared to safety. A super block by Mearnóg’s goalkeeper, Cliodhna O Connor seconds later from dangerous corner forward, Orla Egan, kept the game in the melting pot right up to the end of injury time. When referee, Andrew McAllister, blew for full time Na Fianna players, mentors and supporters rightly celebrated a famous victory. For Naomh Mearnóg it was devastation. So near and yet so far at the third time of asking.

Na Fianna tore into this game right from the start and had two points on the scoreboard after two minutes with Laura Walsh and Orla Egan doing the needful. Two minutes later Egan escaped her marker after a lovely passing move and one on one with O Connor buried the ball in the back of the Mearnóg net. Another point from Walsh three minutes later and the signs looked ominous for Mearnógs. Driven on by captain, Orla Colreavy and right half forward, Anne Clarke, who played deep in defence throughout the first half the Portmarnock side gradually settled into the game. A couple of poor kick-outs from goalkeeper, Sorcha Turnbull, helped Mearnógs to mount pressure on Na Fianna. Good combination play between Bronagh Sheridan and Sinead Aherne saw the Dublin full forward put her side on the scoreboard after eight minutes. Seconds later the same player scored her second after a darting solo run. Nora Stapleton and captain, Nadine Doherty at midfield turned the tide once again their side’s way and the pressure resulted in the concession of two soft frees which free taker, Mary Nevin duly dispatched. Leading by 1-5 to 0-4 into injury time and Na Fianna looked comfortable. A late surge by Naomh Mearnóg saw Aherne convert a free and now the lead was down to one goal. Fast forward to the other end of the pitch and O Connor denied Egan another goal. Play moved swiftly back down the pitch where a free was conceded. Quickly taken by Niamh McEvoy to corner forward, Denise McGill, she soloed by her marker and drove the ball home. As the whistle sounded for half time the sides were level at 1-5 apiece. Unbelievable.

The belief factor was high amongst the Mearnóg players at the start of the second half as they took the game to Na Fianna. Denise Masterson set up Niamh McEvoy for an early point and they were ahead for the first time in the game. Opportunities were then wasted to extend the lead and this allowed their opponents the chance to draw level and then retake the lead. A fine solo effort from Egan put the Mobhi Road ahead by 1-7 to 1-6. Aherne and Sheridan responded in kind and the lead was back with Mearnóg. Two more pointed frees by Nevin restored Na Fianna’s lead, the final one coming in the twenty-sixth minute. They hung on from there to the finish despite Naomh Mearnóg’s best efforts, to lay claim to their first senior county title.

Na Fianna will be thrilled to finally have this trophy in their possession but Naomh Mearnóg will rue the concession of frees in scoring positions which Mary Nevin duly converted, missing only one out seven attempts at points. Too often in the first half the wrong options were taken in the forward line with players running into blind alleys making it easy for Na Fianna defenders. Na Fianna on the other hand took all of their opportunities with the exception of two superb saves from Cliodhna O Connor to deny Orla Egan. Only three players registered scores for Na Fianna and they had no wides during the entire game. That’s an incredible statistic. Naomh Mearnóg had eight with six of those coming in the first half. Niamh McEvoy, Bronagh Sheridan and Sinead Aherne worked tirelessly throughout but Mearnóg were too dependent on Sinead to generate scores for their side. Anne Clarke had a very impressive game and Orla Colreavy led by example. Cliodhna O Connor played to her usual high standard. Na Fianna worked hard as a unit and had the attacking prowess of Orla Egan and the free-taking skills of Mary Nevin to thank for this victory.
The Player of the Match award deservedly went to Orla Egan who was a constant thorn in the side of the naomh Mearnóg defence.

Na Fianna – S. Turnbull, N. Colleran, E. Cassidy, D. Cassidy, S. Quinn, L. O Sullivan, F. Maye, N. Stapleton, N. Doherty, capt., M. Nevin, (0-8, 6 frees), B. Finlay, L. Lacey, L. Walsh, (0-1), R. Grogan, O. Egan, (1-2).
Subs – H. McInerney for L. Lacey, C. McAteer for R. Grogan and A. Cushen for L. O Sullivan.

Naomh Mearnóg – C O Connor, M. Redmond, T. McConnell, A. Lyons, D. McLoughlin, E. Dunne, S. Tracy, O. Colreavy, capt., D. Masterson, A. Clarke, (0-1), N. McEvoy, (0-1), K. Kennedy, B. Sheridan, (0-1), S. Aherne, (0-6, 2 frees), D. McGill, (1-1).
Subs – K. Slattery for E. Dunne and H. O Sullivan for D. McGill.

Referee – A. McAllister, Starlights.

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