Shane OíNeillís come undone to Annaghdown
Tuesday, 6 December 2016
AS much as Sunday's defeat was a bitter pill to swallow for the Shane O'Neill's Ladies and their supporters, it proves just how far they have come, that so much was expected from them.
Shane O'Neill's ...3-05
The girls didn't hang around the changing rooms long but as they boarded the bus there was a massive crowd of Shane O'Neill's supporters to applaud their heroes.
The south Armagh girls have had an amazing journey, and with the oldest player only 22-years-old, there is much more to come.
Sunday was Annaghdown's day but it could have been so different as the Camlough girls kicked 14 wides.
Played in Dublin's Parnell Park, conditions were perfect for football.
Grainne Barrett and Rachel King opened the scoring for Annaghdown before Aimee Mackin converted a free after Moya Feehan was fouled. Shanes were settling into the contest as Aoife McCoy and Aimee kicked narrowly wide.
But with eight minutes gone the Shanes supporters and every neutral were on their feet as Aimee delivered a moment of magic. Her sister Blaithin floated a perfectly measured pass long into Aimee who didn't have to jump to collect but within a split second turned and rifled her shot into the top corner of the Annaghdown net.
It was the lift that the Camlough side needed but Annaghdown replied through Nicola Burke and King to level the score. However, on 11 minutes Shanes were back in front after Aimee pointed following a clever one-two with McCoy.
Shanes then kicked four wides in a row before Aimee bagged her second goal on 23 minutes as she predicted that Annaghdown would take a short-free before intercepting that said free and from distance buried low and into the net.
The Camlough girls should have built on their lead but both Mackin sisters kicked wides, while at the other end keeper Katie Daly had to be alert to punch a ball from danger.
Shane O'Neill's did stretch their lead when the talented and determined Kirsty Murphy struck between the posts. Niamh Duggan replied with a converted free as Shanes led 2-03 to 0-05 at the break.
Annaghdown's Nicola Burke chipped over a point as Aimee's shot rolled low and wide of the post and then came Shauna Grey's sin-bin, which left Shanes with only 14 players.
And Annaghdown quickly got to work. Previously they had found difficulty breaking the Shanes defence, which had been excellently marshaled by captain Louise Kenny. But with numbers over the Galway girls simply ran at Shanes. Points from Barrett and substitute Ciara McCarthy quickly followed to level the score.
But almost immediately Shanes showed character and again it was the perfect combination between McCoy and Aimee, with the latter popping over a fine point.
But Annaghdown picked up their pace and continued to attack in numbers. Louise Kenny made a brilliant block to deny Barrett a score but Duggan's point levelled the score again on 41 minutes.
And two minutes later Rachel King bagged 1-1 in quick succession. It was massive blow for Shanes but with Grey back on the pitch the Ulster champions never gave up hope.
Aimee pointed on 49 minutes and then had another chance but struck the side net. Considering Aimee has scored 22 goals and 48 points in only eight club championship games, it is easy to understand why the strategy was to persist with aiming for killer goals when points were on offer.
Blaithin Mackin's goal came with 108 seconds remaining and trailing by two points, the Shanes side never gave up, but they failed to create another chance and with it the All-Ireland title belonged to Annaghdown.
It is a game that should stick with the players and a journey that will be fondly remembered by the club and south Armagh area. While it may not have been enough, it was a great team performance. Katie Daly was again solid in goals, while Kirsty Murphy, Emma Kenny, Caroline McMenamin, Hannah McMenamin, captain Louise Kenny, Cliodhna Sloan and Claire Garvey defended bravely but were also intelligent in use of possession.
Again, Shauna Grey, Aoife McCoy, Moya Feehan and Blaithin Mackin kept the Shanes machine motoring by putting Annaghdown under pressure and they took several heavy hits, which went unpunished.
Aoibheann Jones and Ellen Hannaway covered so much ground while Aimee Mackin dazzled with some breathtaking scores, but she was limping in the last few minutes and even Aimee's magic couldn't rescue this All-Ireland title.
Of course it takes a squad to get a team this far and there is no doubt that Shanes can be a competitive force in the future.
SHANE O'NEILL'S: Katie Daly, Kirsty Murphy (0-1), Emma Kenny, Caroline McMenamin, Hannah McMenamin, Louise Kenny, Cliodha Sloan, Shauna Grey, Blaithin Mackin (1-0), Aoife McCoy, Moya Feehan, Ellen Hannaway, Aoibheann Jones, Aimee Mackin (2-04, 0-1 free), Claire Garvey. Subs: Jessica Watters for Murphy (41), Sorcha McDonnell for Hannaway (43).
ANNAGHDOWN: Mary Kate Killiea, Jemma Burke, Bronagh Quinn, Fiona Wynne, Chelsie Crowe, Chloe Crowe, Theresa Keane, Erin Coyle, Nicola Burke (0-2), Niamh Duggan (0-2, 0-1 free), Grainne Barrett (0-4, 2 frees), Aoife Scully, Nicola Comer, Rachel King (1-04), Emma Keane. Subs: Ciara McCarthy (0-1) for E Keane (ht), Kelsey Forde for Comer (47), Regina Noughtan for Scully (55).
Referee: S McNulty (Wicklow).
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