Oulart break Vincent's hearts in added time
AIB Leinster Club Senior Championship Final
You would be forgiven for assuming the title had slipped away from Oulart-The Ballagh who trailed by three points as the game entered the final minute of normal time.
Oulart-Ballagh 0-12 St. Vincent's 2-5
However, an amazing finish that produced three glorious points gave them a victory to savour over a shell-shocked St. Vincent's in this hugely entertaining AIB Leinster Club Senior camogie championship final played on a heavy, rain-sodden Nowlan Park, Kilkenny, pitch on Sunday.
Credit to both sides for such an enthralling game in conditions that were not conducive to quality hurling as water lay on several areas of the ground which had also cut up considerably during the opening Intermediate final. Matters weren't helped either by a torrential shower in the lead-up to the interval of the first game.
For anyone who lauds comebacks, this one was right up there. The reigning All-Ireland and provincial champions were trailing by seven points at the interval, and looking in dire trouble as the Dublin champions looked faster, more composed and were showing a greater appetite for what was on offer in the conditions.
The Oulart-The Ballagh faithful stayed remarkably patient through that opening 30 minutes as their side was out-fought, out-thought and out-played. But they must have sensed something special was about to unfold in the second period as their side took several minutes less than the allotted ten-minute break, sent back out for action with something ringing in their ears.
They had to wait several minutes for the return of their opponents and the match officials, but immediately on the throw-in supporters sensed that the pedestrian approach had disappeared from their play as they stormed all over the opposition.
While this was a magnificent second-half showing from the Oulart-The Ballagh team, it still looked like falling agonisingly short as they still trailed by three points with the game entering the final minute of normal time.
They forced a 25-metre free in front of goal which Ursula Jacob slotted over to reduce the deficit. They returned to the attack immediately on the puck-out as the game was now 30 seconds into the two minutes of additional time.
Still with much to do as the clock ticked down, a Diane Ryan point left the minimum separating the sides.
The Wexford girls made a clear decision to attack the puck-out through Stacey Kehoe who lofted a high ball goalwards that broke off the outstretched hurleys of Ursula Jacob and full-back Deirdre Johnston.
Substitute Leanne Nolan drifted off her marker and, despite losing her hurley, somehow created space to kick a dramatic equalising point as just 30 seconds remained on the clock.
Whoever won the ensuing puck-out was going to decide the eventual result. Oulart-The Ballagh rose to the challenge and won possession out to the right, quickly lofting a high curling ball across goal that found Aideen Brennan.
And despite the attention of several defenders, she struck a magnificent winning point under intense pressure, leaving her side to celebrate the most dramatic victory in their proud history.
St. Vincent's appetite to create a shock result was evident from the very start.
After Oulart-The Ballagh had elected to play into the strong breeze, they opened with an Ursula Jacob second-minute pointed free but thereafter they were left chasing the game, as a St. Vincent's side showing many positional switches looked sharper and smarter.
With Aoife Cullen, listed at corner-forward, dropping back to centre-back immediately on the throw-in, this left Alison Maguire to switch to centre-forward, with Sarah O'Donovan taking up a right half-forward role. And that duo along with impressive full-forward Aisling Maher were causing havoc in the reigning champions' defence.
Together they were tearing gaping holes in the Oulart-The Ballagh rearguard, with an eighth-minute Maguire pointed free bringing the sides level. One minute later Maher cut around Karen Atkinson close to the end line and played the ball across goal to Kate McCarry who handpassed to the net from close range.
At the end of the opening quarter, a timely interception by 'keeper Sharon Kehoe followed by a goal-line clearance from Mary Leacy prevented a second goal.
However, it duly arrived five minutes later from Aisling Maher who soloed through to fire home left-handed to the corner of the net.
That score set her side up for a 2-5 to 0-4 interval lead, with Oulart-The Ballagh's remaining three first-half points coming through Ursula Jacob (two, one '45) and Shelley Kehoe.
In the early exchanges of the second-half Oulart-The Ballagh dominated possession but their accuracy was letting them down. Ursula Jacob pointed a 34th-minute free after 'keeper Eimear Brannigan was penalised for over-carrying.
They had to wait a further five minutes for their next score. Ursula Jacob broke clear of several tackles, but her shot for goal rose over the bar.
Points from Diane Ryan and Stacey Kehoe reduced the deficit to three (2-5 to 0-8) with 16 minutes remaining.
Oulart-The Ballagh had taken the initiative as both Karen Atkinson and Mary Leacy had taken charge of their up-to-then troublesome opponents, so much so that the Dublin champions failed to manage a second-half score as they were pinned back on defence.
Playing at a ferocious pace, Oulart-The Ballagh were now the dominant force with Shelley Kehoe and Shauna Sinnott powering all over the opposition in midfield. They looked like falling short of getting the scores though as the St. Vincent's mentors packed their defence. With five minutes of normal time remaining the up to then accurate Alison Maguire pulled a 30-metre free wide, and had it gone over it would have given them a four-point cushion.
A 15-minute scoring drought was broken with Jacob's pointed free, but the drama was by no means over as the bustling Leanne Nolan, not long in the game, knocked over a dramatic leveller in additional time, with Aideen Brennan then shooting a magical winner two minutes into added time.
Amazingly the side's last three points came in the two minutes of additional time.
What happened in those dramatic final two minutes of additional time was not lost on the players, mentors and supporters as they threw their arms in the air on the final whistle, while no doubt celebrating a dramatic victory, but also a sense of relief was quietly evident in those celebrations on the pitch.
Oulart-The Ballagh: Sharon Kehoe; Brídín Redmond, Karen Atkinson, Shauna Redmond; Stacey Redmond, Mary Leacy, Louise Sinnott; Shelley Kehoe (0-1), Shauna Sinnott; Katie Murphy, Diane Ryan (0-2), Aoife Dunne; Stacey Kehoe (0-1), Ursula Jacob (0-6, 4 frees, 1 '45), Aideen Brennan (0-1). Subs. - Katie Gallagher for Dunne, Leanne Nolan (0-1) for B. Redmond, Laura Sinnott for Shauna Redmond, Aishling Moran for Gallagher.
St. Vincent's: Eimear Brannigan; Ciara O'Leary, Deirdre Johnston, Elaine O'Leary; Catherine Moloney, Aoife Cullen, Eva Marie Elliot; Eimear McCarthy, Aine Woods; Sarah O'Donovan, Alison Maguie (0-4 frees), Aine Fanning; Kate McCarry (1-0), Aisling Maher (1-1), Ellen McGovern. Subs. - Aisling Jordan for McGovern, Mary Cronin for Maher.
Referee: Liz Dempsey (Kilkenny).