OULART STAY ON COURSE

OULART-THE BALLAGH 3-19 MULLINAVAT (KILKENNY) 3-7

DEAN GOODISON In Oulart

OULART-THE BALLAGH survived a major lapse in concentration at the start of the second-half to advance to the Leinster Senior camogie championship final at the expense of Mullinavat in Oulart on Sunday last.

Leading by 2-10 to 0-5 at the break, after coasting ahead in a powerful first period, the All-Ireland champions lost the plot in the third quarter, allowing the Kilkenny side to pull within three with 14 minutes remaining.

However, Oulart-The Ballagh didn't waltz to the national championship last year by chance.

Sensing a threat, the defence tightened up after a few positional alterations and the deadly duo of Ursula Jacob and Una Leacy continued about their business of tacking on their side's scores.

With March's final heroine, and county final injury victim, Aideen Brennan, hobbling on the sideline, Oulart-The Ballagh were left fitting pieces in around the scoring double act.

Early signs were good as both corner-forwards got in on goalscoring duties in a frenetic opening quarter.

Jacob and Leacy both raised a pair of white flags in the opening four minutes, and their side's lead grew further when Aishling Moran batted Nicola Sinnott's cross-goal centre to the visitors' net.

Leacy nipped a shot over off the top of the crossbar moments later, but the second major wasn't long in coming as Jacob picked out Sinnott who caught out of the sky, turned inside and lashed past Mullinavat 'keeper Bríd Aylward.

With only Kilkenny inter-county starlet Michelle Quilty troubling the hosts, the lead continued to grow in the second quarter and, with four more Ursula Jacob points, Oulart-The Ballagh eventually went in at the interval eleven clear (2-10 to 0-5).

Doubles traded between Quilty and Jacob gave no indication of what was to come, but when substitute Lorraine Fennelly forced home from Sinéad Phelan's centre the visitors were clearly lifted.

Indeed, it took less than 30 seconds to add a second major, with Quilty playing the provider role for Julianne Malone to belt a shot past Helena Jacob.

Ursula Jacob pointed for her Oulart-The Ballagh side but it didn't have the settling influence it might have as more Mullinavat pressure saw Sinéad Phelan somehow force home the ball from close range with 15 minutes remaining to leave three between the sides (2-13 to 3-7).

From that point, just as the game's intensity hit its highest point, Mullinvat failed to score again and Oulart-The Ballagh reeled off a succession of points. Jacob added five more to bring her tally to 14 and Una Leacy put a little further gloss on the scoreboard in injury time, firing home her side's third goal.

Next up for Oulart as they bid to add another All-Ireland trophy to the cabinet is the Leinster final against Ballyboden St. Enda's from South Dublin.

That fixture takes place in the Hawkfield venue in Newbridge on Sunday next with a 3.30 p.m. throw-in.

Ballyboden defeated St. Vincent's in their county final by 1-11 to 1-5, with the new rules for scoring in camogie coming into play as Anne Griffin converted a line ball which is now worth two points.

The teams have met before in the competition and Oulart-The Ballagh have had the better of the exchanges to date.

If they succeed on Sunday, they can take a wellearned rest before concentrating on defending their All-Ireland title in the new year.

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