NA FIANNA ARE JFC C CHAMPIONS
NEW IRELAND ASSURANCE JUNIOR ‘C’ DUBLIN LGFA CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
NA FIANNA ‘B’………………………………………5-8
By Daire Walsh
Aoife Caffrey’s extra-time goal was decisive at Lawless Park, Swords on Wednesday evening as Na Fianna ‘B’ claimed the New Ireland Assurance Junior ‘C’ Ladies Football Championship title at the expense of St Brendan’s.
This helped the Glasnevin attacker to complete her hat-trick and, like Ballymun Kickhams in the Junior ‘E’ decider that preceded it, Na Fianna had an unerring ability to raise green flags at crucial periods in the play.
They initially looked set to claim the spoils at the end of normal time with a goal from Emma Deeley, only for the reliable Sinead Morrissey to herald 20 additional minutes through a nerveless, pointed free.
The Grangegorman outfit led on a couple of occasions when the action resumed, before Na Fianna pushed forward in the aftermath of Caffrey’s latest major.
This encounter marked a renewal of acquaintances, after the two sides had previously met in a Group A tie on July 25. On that occasion, Na Fianna squeezed through with a four-point success (3-10 to 2-9) at Longmeadows.
Brendan’s had two wins under their belt (against Crumlin and Naomh Olaf) prior to that clash and then secured their passage to the last-four with a commanding 1-10 to 1-3 win over Clontarf ‘B’.
Na Fianna, meanwhile, reached the penultimate round of the competition with a perfect record of four victories from as many games. They comfortably overcame the subsequent challenge of Fingallians ‘B’ last Monday week (on a scoreline of 6-12 to 0-6), whereas Brendan’s booked their spot in this showpiece courtesy of a 6-15 to 1-9 triumph against Kilmacud Crokes ‘B’ two days later.
Eager to build on this impressive display, Brendan’s edged four points in front during the early exchanges. Inside the opening 60 seconds of the action, full-forward Aisling Newton split the posts in convincing fashion.
She proved to be a real thorn in the side of Na Fianna and she subsequently rattled the back of their net. Roisin McDonald picked her out to close to goal with a neat hand-pass and Newton fired home after executing a sharp turn in possession.
Na Fianna finally settled with a Caffrey single, before Morrissey was on hand to cancel out this effort with her maiden point of the tie. A Naomi Boardman free kept the their opponents in touch, though, and the already prominent Caffrey added extra vigour to the Na Fianna challenge.
Her powerful strike close to the posts was rocketed beyond the reach of Brendan’s netminder Karen O’Connell and she repeated the act with another majestic goal on 18 minutes – via an enterprising one-two with full-forward Aisling Gilligan.
Brendan’s needed something to halt this Na Fianna surge and another Newton point served notice of their intentions for the remainder of the play. Despite being slightly wasteful in their shot selection, it all came together in the closing moments of the opening 30 minutes.
Morrissey made no mistake with a routine free – after McDonald had a shot saved by Michelle O’Hare – and swiftly restored parity with a third point at the end of a resulting move.
As a result, the sides were inseparable on the half-hour mark (2-2 to 1-5). It didn’t stay this way for long, however, as Na Fianna struck for a third goal four minutes after the restart.
Brona Dunne forced the Brendan’s rearguard on the back-foot with a lung-bursting run, and Gilligan took full advantage with an emphatic finish. Now that they were back in the ascendancy, Na Fianna seemed hell-bent on keeping it that way.
Caffrey and half-back Erin Murphy added points in the third-quarter, but the influential Brendan’s duo of Morrissey and McDonald cancelled out these particular efforts. Indeed, following another McDonald score, Brendan’s discovered another path to the Na Fianna posts.
A high, hanging delivery placed enormous pressure on O’Hare and Dilworth was on cue to scramble home for a potentially game-changing major. Another Morrissey free suddenly opened up a two-point buffer – and with Na Fianna now struggling to make headway in attack, Brendan’s had a victory in their sights.
The Mobhi Road crew went all of 22 minutes without registering a score, but when this barren spell eventually came to an end, it looked like it might determine the outcome of the proceedings. When Deeley shaped up for a shot at a right-hand angle, she found the far corner with an inch-perfect attempt.
Although three minutes of injury-time had already been played, Brendan’s were always going to get a shot at an equaliser. This was how it transpired and McDonald briefly assumed free-kick duties from Morrissey to force an enthralling spectacle into extra-time.
A 0-2 Morrissey salvo allowed Brendan’s to build serious momentum, only for the excellent Caffrey to issue them with a fresh blow. Her speculative shot on 67 minutes dipped into the net and she also added a brilliant point on the run.
Substitute Katie Alcock converted a free with her first touch of the game, which meant that Na Fianna were three points to the good (5-6 to 2-12) in the 70th-minute.
The contest was primed to go down to the wire when Newton and Morrissey (free) bolstered their own personal tallies and, more importantly, cut the gap to a single point. However, the Na Fianna bench was beginning to have a telling impact, and they ultimately put Brendan’s to the sword with back-to-back contributions from Alcock and Kirsten Doyle.
Scorers for Na Fianna ‘B’: Aoife Caffrey 3-3, Emma Deeley, Aisling Gilligan 1-0 each, Katie Alcock 0-2 (1f), Naomi Boardman (f), Erin Murphy, Kirsten Doyle 0-1 each.
Scorers for St Brendan’s: Sinead Morrissey 0-8 (8f), Aisling Newton 1-3, Christine Dilworth 1-0, Roisin McDonald 0-3 (1f).
NA FIANNA ‘B’: Michelle O’Hare; Aoife Kennedy, Ailish Neville, Deirdre O’Neill; Erin Murphy, Emer Grehan, Saoirse Fitzgerald; Mide Ni Shuilleabhain, Ciara Kelly; Aoife Caffrey, Naomi Boardman, Emma Deeley; Brona Dunne, Aisling Gilligan, Karen O’Hare. Subs: Amy Wall for O’Neill (24), Hannah Carty for Kelly (30+1), Kirsten Doyle for O’Hare (39), Leza Walsh for Grehan (57), Lucy Skelley for Deeley (61), Katie Alcock for Dunne (69), Grainne O’Neill for Boardman (75).
ST BRENDAN’S: Karen O’Connell; Andrea Curley, Catherine Twomey, Ines Rubio Alcala-Galliano; Claire McIntyre, Erin Fadian, Nicola Carbine; Faye Kearney, Claire Owens; Aoife Fitzmaurice, Roisin McDonald, Christine Dilworth; Sinead Reilly, Aisling Newton, Sinead Morrissey. Subs: Orla King for McIntyre (18), Shauna Fitzpatrick for Fitzmaurice (29), Tara Foy for Alcala-Galliano (35), Deirdre Holland for Reilly (57), Eimear McKenna for Dilworth (61), Claire Gallagher for Twomey (68).
Referee: Derek Greene (Beann Eadair/Naomh Barrog).