Sacred Heart, Newry aiming to head for All-Ireland trail but St Patrick's, Academy, Dungannon stand in their way
Senior Medallion Shield final: Saturday 2pm in Páirc Chormaic in Eglish: Sacred Heart, Newry v St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon
WHEN these two schools met in the group stages of the Senior Medallion Shield, St Patrick's Academy beat Sacred Heart, Newry by 3-8 to 1-12 after an exciting hour's camogie that would decide the top two positions in Section A.
Both teams then came through their respective semi-finals against St Connor's, Clady/Kilrea and St Colm's, Draperstown to set up this interesting final.
Back in that November league game it was a case of the Academy taking the chances they created while Sacred Heart spurned a number of first half openings that could, and should, have resulted in goals.
Eimear McLaughlin and Áine Ferran hit the net for the Academy in the first half and then sub Elisha Gervin scored the third almost with her first touch to keep them just out of reach of a battling second half from the Newry school.
The key player for the Academy was midfielder Reagan Faye who also made a big impression for Eglish in the Ulster Intermediate club final a month earlier against a Clonduff side that included a couple of the Sacred Heart players as well as the captain Paula O'Hagan who is also the Newry school's coach.
Clara Cowan was injured after just 10 minutes of that club final that Clonduff won and she missed out on all Sacred Heart's group games as a result. However she returned as a half-time sub in the semi-final with Draperstown and dictated the second half.
Cowan was an All-star last year and two more Sacred Heart players were elevated to that status this season, Crossmaglen pair Aislinn McMahon and Faye Fitzpatrick, and both have been influential in the school's run to the final.
Indeed they encountered little real resistance in that run, winning all their games apart from the Academy tie, with something to spare.
Hannah Duffy has been a big player at full-back with Caoimhin O'Neill strong under the puck outs, while Niamh Burns and Caitlin Armstrong up front have improved with every game.
The Academy's jewel in the crown is Reagan Fay, but she is far from the only reason that they have maintained an unbeaten run through the first term.
Derrylaughin's Emma Donnelly is a sound goalie while Cliona Nelis, Annabel McAteer, Áine McNulty and Aisling McLaughlin have all played well in defence.
Jessica Hamill from St Brigid's has played for Armagh at senior level while Lára Devlin has claimed a starting spot after strong showings coming off the bench.
This competition was introduced in 2001 and St Patrick's Academy won four of the first six finals, but they have lost two of the last three deciders, to St Louis Kilkeel and Loreto Cavan.
Sacred Heart have never played in a senior final in any grade since the school won the third of their Senior A titles away back in 1973.
However they appeared in the Junior Medallion Shield final last year losing by 2-8 to 1-9 to St Mary's, Clady.
With the addition of the two Crossmaglen All-stars to their ranks this season, they now look a more formidable outfit while a fully fit Clara Cowan can greatly add to their attacking force.
They will still need to police the speedy Reagan Faye, but should be on the All-Ireland trail after this game.
Sacred Heart: S Barr, A Woods, H Duffy, E Gribben, C O'Neill, R McConville, G McShane, A McMahon, C Cowan capt., G Cunningham, F Fitzpatrick, N Burns, M Brown, C Armstrong, M Smyth
Subs: E Reilly, A O'Hanlon, Niamh Fitzgerald, S McAvoy, A Mulholland, O McCusker, A Barrett, E Mullen, A Trainor, C Magone, K Murphy, A Lundy, C Gorman, C McDonnell
St Patrick's Academy: E Donnelly, A Forker, A McLaughlin, C Nelis, R Cunningham, A McNulty, A McAteer, J Hamill capt., R Faye, S Fitzgerald, S McGeary L Devlin, F Farley, B Jones, R O'Neill
Subs: E Mclaughlin, E Gervin, Á Ferran, G Daly, C Ballintine, C Ferran, N Elian, K Faye, A Fitzgerald