Siobhan Hurley was the star of the show in Donaghmore/Ashbourne on Sunday afternoon, as her stoppage time point gave Kildare a narrow victory over Armagh in a scrappy National Camogie League Division Three final, writes Daire Walsh.
It was perhaps not the best performance by Tom O’Mahoney’s charges during this year’s campaign, but they had just enough in their locker to secure promotion for the 2012 season, providing them with the perfect tonic for the upcoming Championship.
In a tentative opening to the contest, it was the Orchard County who got the scoring underway thanks to a point from play by midfielder, and captain, Bernie Murray. This was a followed up three minutes later by a successful 30-metre free courtesy of Tullysaran’s Collette McSorley, as the Lilywhites were finding it hard to settle into the game.
Mmatch referee Walter Cole awarded the Northerners a penalty just a minute later when Brid Byrnes dragged down Andrea McAlinden, but the Maynooth netminder made amends by turning McSorley’s subsequent effort away to safety.
This came as a huge sigh of relief to the Kildare ladies, and they finally opened their account 14 minutes in when the dynamic Susie O’Carroll converted a close-range free. Ciara Donnelly would quickly cancel out this score with a fine point from play, but Kildare would bring parity to the game for the very first time after 19 minutes following scores from placed balls by O’Carroll and Hurley, the latter shooting over from a distance of 55 metres.
After a shaky start, Kildare had certainly settled into the proceedings, and they soon edged into a two-point lead thanks to another free from Hurley, and a point from O’Carroll on the left-hand side, which was their first score from general play.
Having enjoyed a good deal of possession up to this point, Armagh would certainly have been disappointed to find themselves behind heading into the final moments of the opening period, but they did address the balance before the interval, with a point apiece from McSorley and centre-forward Katie O’Brien, leaving it at 0-5 each heading into the second half.
This left the game delicately poised upon the resumption, but the Kildare management nevertheless decided to freshen up their attack by introducing Cliodhna McSweeney for Ciara Tallon as the decider re-started. This proved to be an inspired switch, as the Courcey Rovers forward found the back of Bronagh Moen’s net with her very first touch of the game by finishing from a tight angle on the left via a telling pass by full-forward Roisin O’Connell.
It was hoped that this would be the catalyst for Kildare to push on for victory, but even though Hurley added to her tally with a brace of scores (the second of which was a fine effort from play), two expertly converted frees by McSorley meant that there was just a goal between the sides heading into the final 20 minutes of play.
Kildare’s performance levels had certainly improved as the game moved on, but a fifth point from McSorley on 42 minutes certainly did increase the pressure on last year’s finallists as the last quarter beckoned. McSorley’s accuracy from placed balls had been a major plus for Armagh from the word go, and she brought her side’s deficit down to one through another score on the right-wing with the aid of the woodwork.
This increased the tension moving into the final ten minutes, and in a low-scoring affair, every score from here on in was going to be vital. It didn’t help matters that there was quite a few stoppages during this juncture, which did disrupt the flow of the game, though it was Armagh and McSorley who came up with the more immediate response, with the inspirational half-forward knocking over her seventh point of the game with four minutes of normal time left to play to level the sides up for the third occasion.
There was now a certain amount of momentum behind Benny Brunton’s outfit moving into the closing stages, and McSorkey did have a chance to move Armagh back in the lead on 58th minutess, but she came up short with a long-range free.
The vocal Kildare support breathed a huge sigh of relief at this point, and they managed to get back on top of the possession stakes as the tie moved into second half injury-time. After their agonising defeat to Meath in last year’s final, the Lilywhites were hell bent on avoiding similar heartache this time out, and Hurley was on hand to coolly slot over a 50-metre free three minutes into overtime.
This looked like being enough to get Kildare over the line, though they did have to face three further minutes of stoppage time before their place in Division Two was sealed. Armagh were unable to muster up the score that would force the game into a replay, however, much to the delight of all involved with this increasingly impressive Kildare team.
Brid Byrnes; Niamh Breen, Aoife Trant, Niamh Concannon; Jane O’Donoghue, Carol Nolan, Clodagh Flanagan; Louise Walsh, Orla Bambury; Angela Lyons, Ciara Tallon, Susie O’Carroll (0-3, 2 frees); Siobhan Hurley (0-5, 4 frees), Roisin O’Connell, Clodagh Farrell. Subs: Cliodhna McSweeney (1-0) for Tallon (h-t), Louise Keatley for Farrell (48), Fiona Trant for O’Connell (58).
Bronagh Moen; Caoimhe McKenna, Clare McKinley, Mairead Shortt; Louise Toner, Laura Brunton, Paula Mallon; Bernie Murray (0-1), Niamh McGeown; Joanne Mallon, Katie O’Brien (0-1), Collette McSorley (0-7, 7 frees); Laura McGuinness, Andrea McAlinden, Ciara Donnelly (0-1). Subs: Colleen O’Hare for Mallon (29), Orla Curry for McGuinness (60).
Walter Cole (Cork).