ALMOST a year to the day after St Leo’s captured their fifth successive Leinster A Final with a comprehensive victory over St Mary’s of Edenderry, the two camps revisited their rivalry on Thursday evening last in a repeat of last year’s showpiece. The venue was different, with the floodlit McCann Park in Portarlington chosen this year, but unfortunately for the Offaly ladies, the outcome remained the same as Leo’s again proved too strong and captured an unprecedented six Leinster crowns in a row.
Leinster PP Schools Ladies Senior A semi-final
St Leo’s, Carlow 3-14
St Mary’s, Edenderry 3-1
Both sides featured ten of the starting fifteen that lined out in Vicarstown last year, and one of the St Mary’s survivors, mid-fielder Catherine O’Malley fired her side into a fourth minute lead but that was to be the only time they enjoyed an advantage and once Rhona Julian swept a delightful left-footed effort over Jenny Milligan’s post the Carlow girls got going and carved out a healthy half-time lead.
Lauren Dwyer, one of only three Carlow natives in a Laois-dominated fifteen hand-passed to captain Sinead Doogue who pointed well and ten minutes in Dwyer went one better when she got out in front of her marker to claim Doogue’s high ball and drove an unstoppable shot past Jenny Mulligan into the Edenderry net. Doogue then added a well-taken point to edge Leo’s further ahead before St Mary’s responded in spectacular fashion.
Erica Burke was one of the stand-out performers on the night and although she ended up on the losing side, she can take comfort in the fact that her seventeenth minute goal was a score that would have lit up any final. She gathered Catherine O’Malley’s quick free and with nothing much on she set off on a mazy solo effort leaving three Leo’s defenders in her wake before hitting a rasping shot that reduced goalkeeper Ciara Moore to a mere spectator.
Burke’s outstanding strike reduced the Carlow champions’ lead to just three and St Mary’s looked to have seized the momentum. St Leo’s didn’t become 2010 All-Ireland champions by chance however, and they were quick to quell the St Mary’s fight-back with a string of fine scores before the interval.
Michaela Nolan, Sinead Doogue, Emer Delaney and the increasingly impressive Hilary Griffin all chipped in with well-taken scores to stretch their lead to seven points at the break and less than two minutes of the second period had passed when Hilary Griffin bagged the first of her two second-half brace to make St Mary’s uphill task even more difficult. Lauren Dwyer weaved her magic again as she danced through the St Mary’s back-line and she crossed for Griffin to rifle home from close range. Griffin then tapped over a point less than a minute later and the shell-shocked St Mary’s girls were now clearly struggling to contain the increasingly buoyant Leo’s attack.
Ciara Callanan and Michaela Nolan added another two to the scoreboard before things got even worse for the Edenderry girls when Hilary Griffin struck again. Once more it was Lauren Dwyer who made the chance and when her low shot came back off the post, Griffin swatted home from a yard out to put an unassailable nineteen points between the sides with more than a quarter of an hour remaining. With a ruthlessness that suggests that St Leo’s All-Ireland crown will be extremely difficult to wrestle from their grasp this year, they refused to relent and Sinead Doogue, Danni Callanan and Ciara Callanan kept the scoreboard ticking over with scores of considerable quality.
On the rare occasion that St Mary’s could muster an attack it seemed to be snuffed out all too easily by the sublime St Leo’s defence but to their credit the Offaly girls kept plugging away and were rewarded for their endeavour with two late goals that at least put a look of respectability to the scoreline. With eight minutes to go Catherine O’Malley benefitted from a generous refereeing decision to blast a close range free into the roof of the St Leo’s net and although a comeback was beyond them at that stage, O’Malley’s goal finally gave the subdued Edenderry following something to cheer.
O’Malley repeated the trick with two minutes to go but it was of course too little too late. St Leo’s girls celebrated their sixth Leinster title in a row, but at least the late rally at least suggested that this St Mary’s team has the desire to return for another tilt at ending the ongoing Leo’s dominance next year.
St Leo’s: Hilary Griffin (2-3), Sinead Doogue (0-4, 0-3 frees), Lauren Dwyer (1-0), Ciara Callanan (0-2), Michaela Nolan (0-2), Rhona Julian (0-1), Emer Delaney (0-1).
St Mary’s: Catherine O’Malley (2-1, 2-0 frees), Erica Burke (1-0).
ST LEO’S CARLOW: Ciara Moore, Patrice Whelan, Rhona Julian, Ciara Callanan, Grace Miller, Aisling Wall, Jane Moore, Danni Callanan, Aisling Hayden, Sarah Quigley, Sinead Doogue, Michaela Nolan, Emer Delaney, Hilary Griffin, Lauren Dwyer. Subs: Sara Rennick for Quigley (40 mins), Amanda Kinsella for Hayden (45mins), Tara Kelly for Julian (46mins), Sarah Dempsey for Wall (52mins).
ST MARY’S EDENDERRY: Jenny Mulligan, Amy Rafferty, Niamh Byrne, Tia Byrne, Rachel Ward, Aisling O’Connor, Donna Cormican, Catherine O’Malley, Shauna O’Donoghue, Kym Furey, Orla Kelly, Erica Burke, Karen Cummins, Ruth Bergin, Hannah McMahon.
Subs: Rachel Cribben for McMahon (19 mins), Laura Whelan for Cormican (29 mins), Ciara Brady for Furey (47 mins), Megan Moore for O Kelly (52 mins).