Sunday 20 October 2019

Martin's pipped by one point

Thomastown 0-16 St. Martin's 3-6

Chloe Foxe moving away from Sally Teehan of Thomastown
Chloe Foxe moving away from Sally Teehan of Thomastown
Amy Cardiff in danger of being hooked by Thomastown’s Jenny Reddy
Lisa Bolger of St. Martin's taking on Thomastown's Meighan Farrell
Sarah O’Connor of St. Martin’s about to block Thomastown’s Catherine Walsh
The St. Martin’s squad before Sunday’s one-point defeat in Netwatch Cullen Park, Carlow

Brian Carty

So near but yet so far. Make no bones about it, Thomastown's reign as AIB Leinster Club Senior camogie champions looked under threat when St. Martin's deservedly held the edge by 2-3 to 0-8 at half-time in an absorbing final at Netwatch Cullen Park, Carlow, on Sunday.

The Bolger sisters, Linda and Lisa, had caused considerable damage in that first half hour, either finishing or creating every Martin's score, while their team-mates played with a fearlessness that must have left the Kilkenny side sweating during the interval.

But whether the weight of history began to weigh on the shoulders of St. Martin's on the resumption, or Thomastown simply went up a gear or two, is hard to figure out.

Certainly, the workrate and economical play that had served the first-time finalists so well up to that point wasn't quite as evident in the second-half, as Thomastown hung on to claim a heartbreaking 0-16 to 3-6 win and retain their provincial crown.

In truth, just three points from open play was never going to be enough to defeat a team of their calibre, even if St. Martin's were boosted by three gift-wrapped goals.

It's worth bearing in mind that Thomastown only lost the All-Ireland semi-final to Sarsfields from Galway by a point earlier this year, so for St. Martin's to subsequently run them to a similar margin speaks volumes of the rate of progress being made in Piercestown and Murrintown.

They got off to a quite sluggish start though as Kilkenny star Anna Farrell opened the scoring following a run from midfield less than two minutes in, while her younger sister Eimear smacked over from the 'D' to double their tally.

St. Martin's were level by the sixth minute courtesy of a pair of Linda Bolger frees, although a rare misplaced puck-out from Mags D'Arcy led to Eimear Farrell edging Thomastown back ahead.

An intelligent pass out of the corner from Lettie Whelan teed-up Bolger on ten minutes, and when Ciara O'Connor's crossfield pass wasn't properly dealt with by goalkeeper Dearbhail O'Keeffe, Linda Bolger applied further pressure.

The ball eventually squirmed out to Lettie Whelan, whose scruffy ground stroke found the net for a 1-3 to 0-3 advantage.

Thomastown had the next four points on the board, however, to turn the tables by 0-7 to 1-3 after 22 minutes, with the second score in that sequence drawing an acrobatic save out of D'Arcy at the expense of a point.

However, St. Martin's tails were up again three minutes later as a free from Linda Bolger dropped short, and her twin Lisa was quickest to react by forcing the ball beyond the near post at the second attempt to build that narrow 2-3 to 0-8 interval cushion.

They had a chance to increase the gap even further in injury time when Whelan found herself clear on goal, only for the sliothar to run away from her, while Sarah O'Connor was quick to intervene when Niamh Donnelly threatened to break through at the other end in the last chance of the half.

Amy Cardiff showed incredible heart to work her way out of traffic before pointing on 32 minutes, while Linda Bolger nudged them 2-5 to 0-9 ahead from a '45 two minutes later.

However, the methodical way which Thomastown slowly wore down St. Martin's valiant challenge thereafter was commendable, as they picked off seven points without reply to clinch victory.

Six of their seven points in that spell came from the increasingly influential Niamh Donnelly - four from frees - with Sinéad Brennan completing the set with a neat strike from play.

There was ten seconds remaining in the two minutes of injury time when Sarah O'Connor's free was knocked home from a yard out by her sister, Ciara, and suddenly the gap was down to 0-16 to 3-6.

Linda Bolger was the ideal candidate to have in possession when an equaliser was required, but as she probed down the centre, she was correctly adjudged to have over-carried, with the full-time whistle sounding immediately after to bring the curtain down on a year never to be forgotten.

St. Martin's: Mags D'Arcy; Niamh Dunne, Sarah O'Connor, Lauren Carty; Katie O'Connor, Marie Claire Morrissey, Mary Barrett; Amy Cardiff (0-1), Chloe Foxe; Aisling Cronin, Linda Bolger (capt., 0-4, 2 frees, 1 '45), Ciara O'Connor (1-0); Lettie Whelan (1-0), Lisa Bolger (1-0), Emma Codd (0-1). Subs. - Aine Ennis for Carty (HT), Ella O'Connor for Cronin (50), also Megan Carty, Becky Hamilton, Amy Ryan, Alannah Davis, Elsa McDermott, Rachael Bridges, Anna Mulligan, Anna Hennessy, Ellen Barrett, Lisa Firman, Ciara Howard.

Thomastown: Dearbhail O'Keeffe; Eimear Corr, Ailish Butler, Aoife Holden; Ciara Farrell, Meighan Farrell, Sarah Walsh; Jenny Reddy (capt.), Anna Farrell (0-2, 1 free); Eimear Donnelly, Sinéad Brennan (0-1), Michelle Farrell; Niamh Donnelly (0-9, 6 frees), Catherine Walsh (0-1), Eimear Farrell (0-3). Subs. - Sally Teehan for S. Walsh, inj. (14), Lisa Donnelly for C. Walsh (44).

Referee: Alan Doheny (Laois).

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