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Tuesday 11 December 2018

Martin’s savour famous first

AIB Leinster Club Senior camogie championship final: St. Martin's 2-10 Thomastown 1-6

Leading scorer Chloe Foxe racing away from Thomastown defender Catherine Walsh
Leading scorer Chloe Foxe racing away from Thomastown defender Catherine Walsh
Katie O’Connor, the St. Martin’s captain, after receiving the cup
The St. Martin’s celebrating their success in Nowlan Park on Sunday with mentors J.J. Doyle, Máire O’Connor and Benny Ennis. Selector Noel Cardiff is absent from the photograph

Dean Goodison

St. Martin's became just the fifth Wexford club to taste AIB Leinster Club Senior camogie championship glory with victory over 14-woman Thomastown in Nowlan Park, Kilkenny, on Sunday.

The Piercestown-based club produced the type of performance they have become known for, a grinding showing, full of effort and endeavour, with a little class sprinkled in, and it proved too good for the reigning provincial title-holders.

Arguably the biggest moment of the game came in the seventh minute, well away from the action. Referee Ray Kelly's attention was drawn to an incident inside the Thomastown '20, where Lettie Whelan lay prone on the ground.

After consultation with his umpires, Kelly pulled Ailish Butler aside and produced a red card, giving the hopes of the Wexford club a huge boost in the process.

St. Martin's deployed Ciara O'Connor as the extra woman in front of the full-back line and it certainly helped to curtail the Thomastown threat.

While St. Martin's have struggled to produce scorers in their recent county title successes, they haven't lacked in defence, where they were again superb. They rarely looked like conceding majors, which was particularly vital against a team which needed green flags to survive a player light.

Thomastown were disadvantaged by missing two of the Farrell sisters, Anna who was suspended, and Shelly who is currently in Australia. It left them a little toothless in the attacking third but they still won plenty of frees.

And free-taking would prove to be hugely important. Chloe Foxe missed just two placed balls, one of which was disputed and looked more over than wide.

At the other end, Eimear Farrell had a nightmare from dead-balls, wasting multiple chances as her side fell into arrears despite dominating midfield in the first-half.

What St. Martin's did well was get a good return from their half-forward line. All of their scores came from that area of the field, and the majority of their converted frees were won by the trio in that sector too.

Foxe did put St. Martin's ahead in the second minute after Emma Codd was fouled, but missed her first moments later after Linda Bolger was impeded.

Chloe Corrway failed to connect when Jenny Reddy picked her out in the fifth minute, and soon Butler was dismissed.

St. Martin's built on their lead with a numerical advantage and were far more economical with their scoring opportunities. Foxe pointed from 45 metres out on the run and added two more frees as her side moved 0-4 to nil ahead.

Niamh Donnelly got Thomastown on the board with an 18th-minute score, but Farrell missed another free seconds later.

Linda Bolger became St. Martin's second scorer in the 20th minute, and Mags D'Arcy made a crisp save from the superb Reddy a short time later to keep her side 0-5 to 0-1 ahead.

Farrell failed with a '45 in the 27th minute, and St. Martin's made Thomastown pay with Bolger's second point. When Niamh Donnelly's shot came down off the upright, Chloe Corrway's shot was too weak to trouble D'Arcy.

Eimear Donnelly did add a late point for Thomastown but, given the pattern of the game, they probably should have been considerably closer than 0-6 to 0-2 down at the change of ends.

Thomastown continued to edge things territorially in the third quarter, but St. Martin's slowly started to take advantage of spaces opening up in their opponent's half of the field. They caused the Kilkenny side plenty of problems, with Foxe and Amy Cardiff to the fore.

Eva Hynes came on and took the game to the Martin's defence as Thomastown pulled points back through Niamh Donnelly and Eimear Farrell.

Lettie Whelan missed a vital touch when Anna Hennessy's ball was batted into her path, but Foxe did add a point three minutes later when Cardiff's hurl was chopped.

Donnelly and Meighan Farrell pulled Thomastown within one (0-7 to 0-6) as the game moved into the final quarter.

The vital score came when Linda Bolger broke away down the left, before hitting a ball in short that goalkeeper Dearbhail O'Keeffe misjudged and allowed to fly into her net.

Thomastown looked beaten for ten minutes after the goal as St. Martin's dominated, and Cardiff added a point as her side moved 1-8 to 0-6 clear.

Then, out of nothing, D'Arcy misjudged Róisín O'Keeffe's long-range free and Thomastown had life.

However, the goal angered St. Martin's more than it lifted a physically struggling Thomastown. The champions re-doubled their efforts and Foxe settled the nerves with a 59th-minute converted '45 after Cardiff was blocked out on the way to goal.

Foxe put a seal on victory in added time when she hared away through the centre and fired past O'Keeffe, and she added another dead-ball right at the death to bring her personal tally to 1-7, outscoring Thomastown on her own.

The Wexford and Leinster champions will now take a well-earned break before coming back to an All-Ireland semi-final against Cork and Munster champions Inniscarra in the new year.

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 (0-1), Chloe Foxe (1-7, 0-5 frees, 0-1 '45), Linda Bolger (1-2); Anna Hennessy, Lettie Whelan, Emma Codd. Subs. - Aisling Cronin for E. O'Connor (40), Lisa Firman for Whelan (40), Niamh Dunne for Hennessy (49), Amy Ryan for Codd (57), Lauren Carty for Morrissey (60+2), also Alannah Davis, Amy O'Leary, Ellen Barrett, Ciara Bridges, Aoife Dempsey, Anna Mulligan, Fiona Esmonde, Clare Barrett, Sarah O'Connor.

Thomastown: Dearbhail O'Keeffe; Eimear Corr, Ailish Butler, Kate McDonald; Sally Teehan, Meighan Farrell (0-1 free), Catherine Walsh; Jenny Reddy (capt.), Ciara Farrell; Eimear Donnelly (0-1 free), Sinéad Brennan, Joanne Fitzpatrick; Eimear Farrell (0-1 free), Chloe Corrway, Niamh Donnelly (0-3, 1 free). Subs. - Eva Hynes for Corrway (31), Róisín O'Keeffe (1-0 free) for E. Donnelly (46), Aine Lennon for Teehan (60+1).

Referee: Ray Kelly (Kildare).

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