A sensational second half performance saw Eoghan Rua, Coleraine camogs turn round a three point half-time deficit (2-0 to 0-9), to beat Ardrahan of Galway 2-8 to 0-12 to retain their All-Ireland Intermediate camogie title.
Back in Croke Park again the defending champions were outplayed for most of the first half by the Connacht champions and certainly did not look likely to make in two in a row at the break. However Eoghan Rua manager Joe Passmore let his players do most of the talking at the break and they certainly came up with the goods in the second half.
“Basically all we said was that we hadn’t played well in the first half although there was a bit of a wind against us,” he told Times Sport.
“It was time to put up or shut up and to be fair the players knew themselves what was needed. All this talk about ‘two in a row’ from outside the group was just nonsense, tyou have to go out there and put in a performance and prove your worth. Well if we did’nt perform in the first half then by God they did in the second and that showed what these girls are really made of.”
They certainly did. In that first half the challengers were very sharp all over the field and seemed to be first to nearly every ball. As Passmore agreed: “Ardrahan are a very good side, probably the best we have met in the last couple of years, they didn’t get to the final by winning a lotto ticket.”
The holders looked nervy in the opening quarter and failed to register a score in that period. By that stage Ardrahan had taken a three point lead. Their dangerous full forward Brenda Kerins scored twice and was fouled for the free that Aoife Callanan swept over the bar. Certainly kerins proved to be a real thorn in the side of the Eoghan Rua team as Passmore alluded to.
“Yeah, their full forward was causing us problems, she’s a very good player, we moved Meabh McGoldrick back in there towards the end of the first half but we felt we needed Meabh back out the field in the second half. To be fair to Maria Mooney she went back in to full back and did a great job, which took some guts,” he said.
The Galway side were playing with the aid of the difficult wind in the first half but they were hurling much better than the champions at that stage. Eoghan Rua were struggling in the middle third and needed a score to settle. That came courtesy of midfielder Jane Carey who hit a speculative long range shot that sailed all the way to the Ardrahan net.
The Galway side hit back almost immediately with a point but in the 17th minute Eoghan Rua manufactured a second crucial goal that would keep them in touch at the break. It was a well worked and clinically finished effort. Full back Maria Mooney cleared the ball out along the Hogan Stand side to Meabh McGoldrick who moved it on to Rosanna McAleese who in turn found Grace Mcmullan wide left on the 13m line.
The hat-trick hero from last year’s title win cut the sliothar across the ‘square’ wher the inrushing Grainne McGoldrick swept to the net with a first time shot. Incredibly Eoghan Rua were now in front despite being under the cosh.The lead did not last long however as Ardrahan continued to dominate and points from Callanan and Lynskey had the sides level going into the last ten minutes of the half.
The pressure from the Galway side was relentless in the last ten and twice Aileen Moore, in the Eoghan Rua goals saved brilliantly. The Eoghan Rua defence battled bravely to stem the tide and crucially kept Ardrahan from scoring goals. In one of those scrambles the sliothar was cleared for a ‘45’ that Callanan pointed to put her side back in front. The Galway girls finished the half strongly with two more points from Siobhan Gardiner and Sheila Forde to lead 0-9 to 2-0. At half-time Ardrahan had scored nine times to Eoghan Rua’s two, an indication of the Galway side’s quality and superiority in the possession stakes.
Crucially, however, Eogahn Rua’s two strikes were goals and that was just enough to keep them in touch despite being outgunned for most of the first half. Whatever was said to the Eoghan Rua players at half –time it had the desired effect as they were a transformed time over the next half hour or so. Within four minutes of the restart they were level, Grainne McGoldrick twice from dead balls and Megan Kerr the scorers.
Kerr’s score was a super strike as she took a pass from Kelly Maybin under the Cusack stand, turned her marker and struck over the bar from a tight angle. Ardrahan showed their quality again when midfielder Aoife Callanan burst forward to put her side back in front. Eogahan rua then spurned a couple of chances before a long range Grainne McGoldrick free levelled matters yet again midway through the half. Megan Kerr then repeated her earlier effort when striking over from virtually the same spot to put Eoghan Rua two clear.
The holders had Ardrahan under some pressure but in a couple of scrambled efforts failed to score before Grainne McGoldrick pointed to put her side three up with less than ten minutes to go. Then came the ‘double penalty’ drama when Ardrahan were awarded two inside a couple of minutes. The first in the 53rd minute seen Ardrahan goalkeeper Sarah Skehill come all the way up Croke Park to ‘The Hill’ side to take the penalty. Her shot was skied over the bar, a let-off for Eoghan Rua. Two minutes later a second penalty award seen Skehill step up again and this time her low drive was brilliantly blocked by Grainne McGoldrick and cleared to safety, now it seemed it really was going to be Eoghan Rua’s day!
In the 59th minute, just after two added minutes were announced to the crowd, Grainne McGoldrick put three between the sides from a ‘45’but again Ardrahan came back with a point Aoife Callanan scoring to set up a very nervous finish. For some reason the referee allowed the game to go on into the fifth minute of added despite their being no stoppages in the two ‘added on’ minutes. Ardrahan won yet another free but the sliothar was cleared to safety. Eoghan Rua then got their own free in midfield in the fifth minute, the ball drilled forward to the sound of the full time whistle and that really was the final act, champions again for the second year in succession.
The Eoghan Rua manager signed off by paying tribute to his side. “Maybe this group of players will now get the credit they deserve from some quarters in the camogie world for what they have done in this grade. In the last couple of years they beat the best in Ulster twice, the best in Leinster twice, the Munster champions, Lismore and just then the best Connacht has to offer, a very good Ardrahan side.
Passmore added: “I think those girls deserve all the credit, they put in the hours of hard graft on the training field and they deserve the honours they have won, they earned every bit of it.”
Eoghan Rua team: Aileen Moore; Adele Archibald, Maria Mooney, Aisling Carey; Eilis McNamee, Meabh McGoldrick, Maureen Heneghan; Kelly Maybin, Jane Carey; Maeve Dillon, Grainne McGoldrick, Megan Kerr; Rosanna McAleese, Grace McMullan, Claire Tracey. Substitutes used; Amy Holmes for C Tracey (53)
Eoghan Rua scorers: Grainne McGoldrick (1-6, 0-3 frees, 0-2 ‘45s’), Jane Carey (1-0), Megan Kerr (0-2).