The hurt of losing last year’s final to an injury-time goal spurred St Killian’s College on to hit 2-1 in the last five minutes of a thrilling Fr. Davies’ Cup final in Glenravel on Sunday.
Those scores took the Tower girls over the line against St Louis, Ballymena after a really intense game of camogie that was a super advertisement for the work being done in north Antrim clubs.
St Killian’s played with intensity from the first whistle to the last, but could not break down an excellent opposition defence in which Eilis Kearns, Caoimhe Molloy and Laura McAleese shone.
Maura Downey and Angela Graham worked hard at midfield but St Killian’s half-back line of Caoimhe McNaughton, Gemma Black and Orla McKeegan kept turning ball back again and again.
The work-rate and skill of Ellen Leech at midfield gave the Tower an edge in that department, although it was the increased work-rate of her partner, Hannah McCann, in the second half that helped get St Killian’s more into the scoring area, where eventually they turned their hunger into match-winning scores.
Four minutes from time corner-forward Maeve Gillan got the final touch in a goalmouth scramble and the sliotar ended up in the back of the net.
Three minutes later Shauna McDonnell drove home, again after a scramble around the St Louis goals, and Ellen Leech put the cherry on the cake with a point in injury-time, her first from open play.
The St Louis’ defence had held out well under a lot of pressure from St Killian’s in a wind-assisted opening half from the Tower. St Louis conceded just two points despite the pressure with Eilis Kearns superb in ensuring that there was no goal threat.
Although St Killian’s maintained their intensity at the start of the second half, the wind was helping St Louis penetrate the Tower half-back line.
Points from Angela Graham and Maura Downey tied the teams after eight minutes of the second half. But, crucially, St Killian’s responded with a long-range free from Ellen Leech.
In a really tight game of this nature Caitlin Convery’s goal for St Louis, eight minutes from time, looked to have pushed them clear and within sight of victory.
However, once more St Killian’s increased the intensity and played out the remainder of the game in their opponents’ half where eventually they picked up the breaks to claim their fourth title at this level since their breakthrough in 2007.
An Ulster title fought out between two north Antrim schools with such intensity will naturally benefit the clubs and the county. On another day, St Louis could have got the breaks, but after last year’s last-gasp loss, St Killian’s had the experience and the hurt to push on and claim the Cup.
St Killian’s: Mary Mooney, Orla McKenna, Jessica Cochrane, Maria McKenna, Orla McKeegan, Gemma Black, Caoimhe McNaughton, Ellen Leech 0-3, 0-2 frees, Hannah McCann, Niamh Donnelly 0-1, Clare Emerson, Méabh Allen capt, Caoimhe O’Hara, Shauna McDonnell 1-0, Maeve Gillan 1-0.
Subs: Caoimhe McKeown for C O’Hara, Clare Stewart, Nicole Mullan, Jessica Kerr, Cara Kilgore, Alisha McPeake, Anna McNeill, Aine Quinn, Emer Quinn, Aisling Kerr, Maeve McQuillan, Molly O’Hara, Clodagh Kerr.