Camogie queens reign supreme in replay
A purple patch in the opening eight minutes of the second-half spurred Oulart-The Ballagh on to a hard-fought victory in their Premier Senior camogie championship final replay against Rathnure in Oylegate on Sunday.
Oulart-The Ballagh 1-10 Rathnure 1-6
After leading by just a point at half-time (0-7 to 1-3) and turning around to play into a stiff breeze, the All-Ireland champions looked to be up against it.
However, that period of dominance after the interval, which yielded 1-2 without reply, gave them a semblance of breathing space and, try as they might, a gutsy Rathnure outfit just weren't able to peg them back.
Player of the match Mary Leacy was imperious in the second-half when the pressure was cranked up, and time and time again she made vital blocks and inspirational clearances from her centre-back berth.
Oulart-The Ballagh were the first to work the scoreboard in a cagey encounter when Brídín Redmond broke the deadlock with a point, and Ciara O'Connor followed suit for Rathnure two minutes later, splitting the posts with a free.
The champions edged into a 0-4 to 0-2 lead by the twelfth minute with Ursula Jacob, Stacey Kehoe and Shauna Sinnott knocking over points and Michelle Martin replying for Rathnure. And the girls from the shadow of the Blackstairs got a mighty lift in the 15th minute when Marie Morrissey got the green flag waving.
The corner-forward gained possession wide on the right near the endline but managed to round her marker, bear down on goal and squeeze the ball to the back of the net.
Oulart-The Ballagh's response was good though, and they edged themselves back in front by the 26th minute with points from Stacey Kehoe and Ursula Jacob.
After missing a couple of chances from placed balls, Ciara O'Connor held her nerve to strike over a free on 30 minutes and draw Rathnure level, but Stacey Kehoe ensured the Oulart-The Ballagh girls had a pep in their step on the way to the dressing-room as she fired over an inspirational point to give them a slender advantage at the break.
As she had in the first-half, Brídín Redmond was again the first to find the range in the second period, but this time her score sparked a spell of dominance for the girls in red and black.
Ursula Jacob knocked over the next point and two minutes later Jacob was again involved in the game's pivotal score, when her handpass found Shauna Sinnott in space to the right of the posts and she clinically arrowed the ball to the corner of the net.
To Rathnure's credit they did rally after that bitter body blow and tagged on the next three points through Oonagh Doyle, Ciara O'Connor (free) and Eimear O'Connor to leave a single puck of the ball between the sides (1-9 to 1-6).
Rathnure then registered three costly wides as they fought valiantly to force their way back into the game before an Ursula Jacob free three minutes into injury-time sealed the deal.
The victory was all the sweeter for Oulart-The Ballagh having come back from the brink in the drawn encounter, and a gallant Rathnure outfit won't need telling that it was on the first day that they left it behind them.
Next up for the champions is a Leinster final clash at home to St. Vincent's of Dublin who beat Mullinavat from Kilkenny on Sunday by 4-13 to 2-9.
Oulart-The Ballagh: Sharon Kehoe; Stacey Redmond, Karen Atkinson, Louise Sinnott; Katie Murphy, Mary Leacy, Shauna Redmond; Shelley Kehoe (0-1), Diane Ryan; Aoife Dunne, Shauna Sinnott (1-1), Aideen Brennan; Stacey Kehoe (0-2), Brídín Redmond (0-2), Ursula Jacob (0-4, 1 free). Unused subs. - Ciara Storey, Niamh Sinnott, Katie Gallagher, Aishling Moran, Laura Sinnott, Leanne Nolan, Rachel Sinnott, Mairéad O'Brien, Orlaith Prendergast, Una Leacy, Aine Sheridan, Aoife O'Connor.
Rathnure: Laura Brennan; Bernie Holohan, Farren Byrne, Louise O'Leary; Laura Redmond, Jackie Quigley, Leanne Foley; Eimear O'Connor (0-1), Evelyn Quigley; Oonagh Doyle (0-1), Ciara O'Connor (0-3 frees), Michelle Martin (0-1); Olivia Hearn, Aoife O'Connor, Marie Morrissey (1-0). Subs. - Niamh O'Connor for Doyle, Jean Hayden for Martin, Fiona Donnellan for A. O'Connor, Elizabeth Whitely for Hearn, also Emma O'Connor, Shauna O'Connor, Brudge Roche.
Referee: Seán Whelan (St. Martin's).