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Sunday 22 September 2019

Double delight for Martin’s

St. Martin's 1-10 Oulart-The Ballagh 1-6

Aoife O’Connor (Oulart-The Ballagh) is chased by Lisa Firman
Aoife O’Connor (Oulart-The Ballagh) is chased by Lisa Firman
Cheers of joy from the St. Martin’s squad after retaining their title in Bellefield on Saturday

Dean Goodison

St. Martin's backed up their 2017 success with victory over Oulart-The Ballagh in the Premier Senior camogie championship final in Bellefield on Saturday.

The Piercestown-based club, who came through a dour struggle against Rathnure in the semi-final, found the open and direct approach of Oulart-The Ballagh much more to their liking and in truth the margin of victory could have been larger.

The key component was Ciara O'Connor, as the 'player of the game' produced the type of performance only her sister, Sarah, or Mary Leacy are capable of locally. She controlled the game from half-back and made her side tick in a way she wouldn't have been able to just six months ago.

That should be a frightening prospect for other clubs in this county. The level of camogie in Wexford has dropped off, and anyone who doubts that probably hasn't been paying enough attention to the county scene.

True difference makers, those whose contribution adds up to five or six points a game, are few and far between now.

Some that were that good are coming to the latter stages of their careers, while some that might be aren't quite there yet.

In Wexford we currently have Una Leacy and Sarah O'Connor, both injured, and that is it. Well, it was it, but Ciara O'Connor has pushed herself into that reckoning with this showing.

The middle third of the field belonged to her side and she was the chief wand-waver.

It wore Oulart-The Ballagh down. The former champions are strong at experienced positions, have a potential star in Anais Curran, but certainly don't have the depth in their ranks that they had when they dominated on the way to two All-Ireland titles.

No neutral gets joy in seeing a great side slip a little, but Oulart-The Ballagh have been such fantastic champions for so long that, if they don't win another county title in the next few seasons - and they may well come back and do just that - nobody can ever take away what they have achieved.

However, it's going to be an uphill struggle as this St. Martin's team is still young and can get better at important positions.

They still don't have a dominant forward, a Leacy or Jacob in their hey-day, and that may hold them back on the national stage.

It's up to the club to develop those players further now. Emma Codd, for example, had some impressive moments in this game, and so too did Amy Cardiff, so it's about pushing that into a more consistent scoring threat.

Clongeen import Chloe Foxe is another that can make an impression, and she scored a bullet goal to get St. Martin's a foothold against the breeze in the first-half.

Early omens were good for Oulart-The Ballagh when Aideen Brennan powered straight through the heart of the defence and was scythed down by Mags D'Arcy.

Referee Breen's biggest error in a fairly solid display was not pulling out the yellow card for the lunge, but it had no lasting impact as the St. Martin's 'keeper was never in that position again. Shauna Sinnott's low penalty was blocked on the line, a big let-off for the eventual champions.

Ursula Jacob was a doubt coming into the game with a shattered thumb, although her mentality is such that it was never going to stop her from playing and competing.

She opened the scoring in the ninth minute but her side struggled to make full use of the advantageous breeze.

Amy Cardiff's handpass sent Foxe on a run that ended with her making more than liberal use of her allotted steps, eight to be precise, before flashing across Lauren Sinnott to the net.

Stacey Kehoe pulled a point back but Foxe converted an 18th-minute free to make it 1-1 to 0-2.

St. Martin's got up a head of steam early in the second quarter. Codd won her battle on the left and pointed but was hurt in the process, and then Cardiff popped over to make the lead four. When Foxe added another free, her side led by 1-4 to 0-2.

Mary Leacy picked out Shelley Kehoe from the resulting Sinnott puck-out and she flashed narrowly over the bar.

There was a different result when, playing at full-forward, Leacy sent a shot low past D'Arcy, although she may have been lucky to get away with an arm barge in the lead-up.

Leading by a point (1-4 to 1-3), St. Martin's almost went in further in front but Linda Bolger pinged a pulled effort wide at the back post with the goal gaping. She made amends somewhat when pointing after the resumption.

Yet St. Martin's didn't score again in the third quarter. Shauna Sinnott converted a '45 and then a free after Leacy was fouled to tie the game (1-5 each).

But just like the first-half, their opponents had a little purple patch, as Foxe scored a pair of frees, and Cardiff pointed to put three between the great rivals.

Sinnott saw a scooped shot saved by D'Arcy in the 51st minute while Bolger cracked the crossbar at the other end.

Foxe put St. Martin's 1-9 to 1-5 up in the 60th minute but Sinnott cut the gap to three again.

Five minutes into added time, Bolger made the game safe with her second point and, despite more Oulart-The Ballagh pressure, the double champions held on to take the title and book a November date in the Leinster final opposite either the Dublin or Kilkenny champions.

St. Martin's: Mags D'Arcy; Aisling O'Connor, Noeleen Lambert, Marie Claire Morrissey; Áine Ennis, Ciara O'Connor, Mary Barrett; Katie O'Connor (capt.), Ella O'Connor; Amy Cardiff (0-2), Chloe Foxe (1-5, 0-5 frees), Linda Bolger (0-2); Lettie Whelan, Anna Hennessy, Emma Codd (0-1). Subs. - Lisa Firman for Codd, inj. (23), Codd for Hennessy (39), Amy Ryan for Whelan (54), Niamh Dunne for Ennis (60), Lauren Carty for A. O'Connor (60+5), also Ciara Bridges, Amy O'Leary, Elsa McDermott, Aoife Dempsey, Ellen Barrett, Anna Mulligan, Fiona Esmonde, Clare Barrett, Tara Doyle, Aisling Cronin, Alannah Davis, Sarah O'Connor.

Oulart-The Ballagh: Lauren Sinnott; Aoife O'Connor, Ciara Storey, Karen Atkinson; Aoife Dunne, Louise Sinnott, Katie Murphy; Shelley Kehoe (0-1), Shauna Sinnott (0-3, 2 frees, 1 '45); Stacey Kehoe (0-1), Anais Curran, Siobhán Sinnott; Ursula Jacob (capt., 0-1), Mary Leacy (1-0), Aideen Brennan. Subs. - Laura Sinnott for S. Sinnott (56), also Brídín Redmond, Eimear O'Connor, Emma Moran, Katie Gallagher, Katie Roche, Mairéad O'Brien, Niamh Dempsey, Niamh Sinnott, Rachel Sinnott, Saoirse Dunne, Leanne Nolan, Sharon Kehoe, Diane Ryan, Una Leacy.

Referee: Aidan Breen (Marshalstown-Castledockrell).

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