Hurling and camogie

Cross and Passion, Ballycastle miss out despite storming second-half performance

Séamas McAleenan

All-Ireland Senior A Camogie final: Loreto, Kilkenny 2-18 Cross and Passion, Ballycastle 4-8

“That was one of the greatest second half turnarounds that I have ever witnessed. To take a team that was bound to be deflated at half-time and get them to produce that performance, it was superb. Thank God we had enough of a cushion to ride the storm.”

Loreto, Kilkenny coach Brendan O'Sullivan couldn't have summed up better what was a real roller-coaster of a final in Darver GAA Centre in Louth on Saturday.

His team were defending champions in search of a sixth senior title and they opened the Ulster champions with ease in the early stages of this game.

Ballycastle were caught napping with a quick free and Katie Brennan grabbed a 5th minute goal.

Three minutes later Brennan set Ruth Kent up for a second goal and a 2-3 to 0-0 lead.

Things got worse for the Ulster team with Loreto seeming to find their team-mates effortlessly and by the 15th minute, the deficit had risen to 2-8 with Ballycastle struggling to get the play beyond midfield.

Loreto then hit their first wide, and more wides followed as a combination of poor finishing and a tighter effort from Ballycastle slowed things a little before the break.

Eventually Cross and Passion won a penalty that Róisín McCormick chose to tap over to get them going. Anna Connolly added another point soon after, those late points resulting in a half-time score of 2-10 to 0-2.

But what a transformation for the second half!

A long delivery straight from the throw-in wasn't dealt with properly by the Loreto goalkeeper and Ciara Laverty nipped in to put the sliotar in the net.

And before 85 seconds had been played, Róisín McCormick sped in from the right corner to crash home a second goal.

However Kilkenny managed to get a point or two to relieve the pressure over the next 15 minutes – three frees from Rachel Kelly and one each from Tara Clifford and Ciara O'Keefe kept them going when the momentum was with Ballycastle and the score-line stood at 2-15 to 2-7 with 50 minutes gone.

Then Charley McCarry took a pass from McCormick for a third Ballycastle goal. Kilkenny came back with points from Caoimhe Dowling and Ruth Kent, before McCormick soloed in for another goal for Ballycastle - and that was followed by a Kirsty McKendry point as the game slipped into five minutes of injury-time.

Only a score separated the teams at that point, but Steffi Fitzgerald decided to take matters into her own hands and she had three solo runs in the time remaining. Two resulted in wides, but the third produced the insurance point.

O'Sullivan noted after the game. “We may have fallen apart during that second half, but we didn't fall asunder – and there is a difference. We were really under the cosh, but still able to get a few scores to relieve the pressure.”

Meanwhile a disappointed Barry Kelly (Ballycastle coach) praised his charges, while ruing what happened in the first 15 minutes.

“They drove through us during that period, seemed to be a stick ahead in everything they were doing. They have serious runners and they really hurt us.

“But we did the same to them in the second half – and that is why the girls can hold their heads high.”

Loreto: H Brennan, I Caroll, C O'Shea, N Carter, E Leahy, T Clifford 0-1, S Keoghasn, C Dowling 0-1, C O'Keefe 0-1, H Kelly 0-3, S Fitzgerald 0-4, R Kelly 0-4, 0-3 frees, J Cass, K Brennan 1-1, R Kent 1-3.

Sub: E Phelan for I Caroll (35).

Cross and Passion: A McGowan, C McCaughan, K Lynn, A O'Mullan, M O'Neill, C McShane, F McVeigh, B McKeague, M Kelly, A Connolly 0-1, K McKendry 0-1, D Magill 0-1, C Laverty 1-0, R McCormick 2-5, 0-4 frees, C McCarry 1-0.

Subs: K Laverty for C McCaughan (50), C McGarry for C Laverty (54)

Referee: Gavin Donegan (Dublin).

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