AIB All-Ireland Junior A club final: Granemore (Armagh) 3-9 Athleague (Roscommon) 2-5
THE Phil McBride Cup stays in Ulster with Granemore leading from pillar to post in Saturday’s AIB All-Ireland Junior A final to follow Eoghan Rua, Coleraine and Brídíní Óga, Glenravel into the record books.
There may have been a bit of luck in Kinnegad with their opening goal on 90 seconds when a harmless looking shot from Rachel Merry from some 40 metres out bounced awkwardly and came off a defender’s stick to deceive the Athleague goalkeeper.
But they fully deserved this victory and held their opponents to a single point from Rebecca Brennan before half-time to take a comfortable lead.
Captain Ciarraí Devlin faced two penalties and saved one as well as doing well in the first half to deny Rachel Fitzpatrick a goal.
Her defence has been sound throughout the competition and did well once more while the front three stretched the Athleague defence time and again with Rachel Merry scoring a superb 2-7 including two excellent points from wide on the right in the second half.
The early goal really settled the Armagh side and they put Athleague on the backfoot throughout the first half with Merry accurate from placed balls.
The only real dangerous attack came close to the break when Fitzmaurice got clear ofthe last Granemore defender, but Devlin closed the angle and averted the danger.
Athleague needed a good start to the second half and they got it with points from Kelley Hopkins and Fitzmaurice and then a good team move that Tara Naughton finished by blasting high into the net.
Within three minutes, however, Granemore had responded with a goal of their own to lead 2-6 to 1-3. St Patrick’s Keady Sixth Former Fiadhna Loughran picked up possession in the right corner and passed across to Merry whoturned and fired left-handed to the net.
That goal stalled the Roscommon side’s progress and maintained a reasonable gap that remained until six minutes from the end when Rachel Fitzmaurice was dragged down for the first penalty.
Kelley Hopkins struck hard and low to give Devlin no chance. She followed up with free to reduce the gap to three points for the second time in the game. But once again Granemore provided the perfect response.
Corinna Doyle was some 60 metres out when she gained possession, but ran at the defence and then turned to her right to fire to the Athleague net. It was a match-winning score.
Athleague continued to battle, even after Merry added one of herhuge points from play, and Fitzmaurice earned a second penalty in injury time.
However Devlin saved Hopkins’s effort this time to crown a memorable day for the Armagh side who bring the Phil McBride Cup back to its spiritual home.
Granemore scorers: R Merry 2-7 (0-5 frees), C Doyle 1-1, E Lavery0-1
Athleague scorers: K Hopkins 1-3 (1-0 pen, 0-3 frees); T Naughton 1-0, R Brennan and R Fitzmaurice 0-1 each
Granemore: C Devlin; C McClelland, C O’Hare, Á Keenan; AMcVeigh, G McWilliams, S McClelland; A Doyle, E Lavery; L Carr, F Loughran, J Carr; C Doyle, R Merry, C Hill
Sub: K Smyth for J Carr (41)
Athleague: P Daly; C Whyte Lennon, E Daly Donnelly, É NíChumhaill; É Dowd, M Tiernan, A O’Brien; L Fleming, K Hopkins; N Conway, R Fitzmaurice, C Dowd; T O’Brien, T Naughton, R. Brennan.
Subs: A McDermott for Conway (40), N Farrell for C Dowd(52)
Referee: J McAllister (Antrim).