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GAA: Saints secure the silverware

GAA: Saints secure the silverware

THE rain may have been torrential prior to Thursday afternoon’s Connacht Final joust at Kilbride, but the poor weather conditions certainly did not dampen the spirits of Claremorris school Mount St Michael, as the South Mayo students celebrated a coveted Provincial success.

The first half was not particularly entertaining, but that was due in part to the underfoot conditions as controlling possession in such slippy circumstances is always a difficult task.

Ballinamore raced into an early two point advantage courtesy of efforts from Siobhan McCartan, a free, and Ciara McLoughlin.

Mount St Michael had to work particularly hard to move the ball up-field and their first score of the day was acquired on 12 minutes, thanks to a well taken free from the busy Naoimh Higgins.

Both full-backs, Mount St Michael’s Niamh Morley and Ballinamore’s Leanne McGrath, gave very commanding displays during the opening half and they eased the pressure on their teammates making some timely and vital interceptions.

Both teams found scores difficult to come by during the opening half but Claremorris’ Rebecca Kean struck over a neat effort just before the break and this helped restore parity, with both sides going in at the interval deadlocked at two points apiece.

The Claremorris supporters were delighted with their sides start to the second period, as Naoimh Higgins fired over another impressive free. However, on 34 minutes that joy turned to despair as Ballinamore filched a hotly disputed three-pointer.

Ciara McLoughlin’s drive appeared to have been gathered on the goalline by the alert Lucy McNamara but the umpire adjudged that the leather had crossed the white markings and referee, Pat Costello concurred with this judgement and the goal was allowed stand.

Shortly after, McLoughlin rubbed further salt in the Claremorris wounds, as she struck over a free.

Some teams may have been distraught at such an outcome, but not this bunch of Claremorris footballers.

Three points in arrears, the South Mayo college went in search of the scores which would help level matters, and they were gleaned by Una Griffin, Laura Kelly and Aoife Hyland, so that parity was restored by the 47th minute.

Indeed, during the above scoring burst by Clare-morris, Naoimh Higgins was left ruing her luck, as she scuffed a real goal-chance harmlessly off target.

Ballinamore continued to stick to their gameplan though, and a point from McCartan soon after edged her teammates in front by the most slender of margins.

On 49 minutes, Hyland fired over a peach of a long-range point and this levelled matters once again in what was a real epic second half.

Further Claremorris points from Naoimh Higgins, a free, and Kean, were the prelude to a Mayo three-pointer on 59 minutes, which in effect was the turning point of the game and which helped seal the win for the Maroon and White. The hard-working Naoimh Higgins gamely won possession and her delightful ball teed-up Kelly and she finished with some aplomb to the back of the Ballinamore net.

During the four minutes of injury-time, Ballinamore’s Josephine Maguire and her team-mate Clare Plunkett, a free, struck over white-flagged efforts which ensured that both sets of supporters still remained on tenterhooks.

However, Claremorris rounded off the game in style and a point from Kean proved to be the vital insurance score, and at the sounding of the full-time whistle the traditional celebratory pitch invasion occurred, as the Claremorris supporters savoured an historic win.

SCORERS – Mount St Michael: Laura Kelly 1-1, Rebecca Kean 0-3, Naoimh Higgins 0-3 (all frees), Aoife Hyland 0-2, Una Griffin 0-1. Ballinamore: Ciara McLoughlin 1-2 (2f), Siobhan McCartan 0-2 (1f), Clare Plunkett (f) and Josephine Maguire 0-1 each.

MOUNT ST MICHAEL: Lorna Burke; Elaine Commins, Niamh Murphy, Lucy McNamara; Yvonne Sloyan, Sarah Tierney, Caileen Meehan; Aoife Hyland, Stephanie Delaney; Rebecca Kearns, Una Griffin, Laura Kelly; Rebecca Kean, Naoimh Higgins, Aoife Higgins.

BALLINAMORE: Niamh McGovern; Sarah Quinn, Leanne McGrath, Naomi Doonan; Rachel Doonan, Catherine Holohan, Katie Duignan; Clare Plunkett, Nora McGovern; Deborah Gilheaney, Aoife Fox, Siobhan McCartan; Michelle Gallagher, Josephine Maguire, Ciara McLoughlin. Sub: Laura Bohan (for Gallagher – inj).

Referee: Pat Costello (Galway).

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