by CCAO PRO, Ann Marie Guinan
There was plenty of highs and lows in the first day of the Ashbourne Cup in Abbotstown today. Straight out of the starting blocks in the 11am games Athlone IT comfortably defeated IT Tralee on a score line of 6-10 to 0-6 in the Fr. Meaghair semi-final while Dublin IT had to fight off a determined IT Carlow side in their Purcell Cup semi-final.
AIT’s Niamh Lawless found the net twice in their game to book the first of the two Fr. Meaghair final spots. Meath’s Aoife Minogue had 1-1 on the DIT scoreboard before IT Carlow got to grips with the game. 2016 Junior player of the year Eleanor Tracey kept their Carlow IT in touch converting a number of frees with the wind on her back, however DIT managed to score 1-9 against the wind and this proved the winning factor. Mid-way through the second half DIT pulled away in the battle of the IT’s to register a final score of 3-15 to IT Carlow’s 0-10.
Next up at the 12:45 throw in, DCU St.Pat’s effortlessly bet St.Mary’s Belfast on a huge score line of 7-14 to 1-2 to book the second Fr. Meaghair final slot against AIT. The second Purcell semi-final provided lots of entertainment as Queen’s were switching the play intelligently, mixing it up with diagonal balls left and right into the forward line, and the movement inside was causing the Maynooth defence all sorts of bother. A goal and two points from Melissa Lyons proved the deciding influence as Queen’s couldn’t close the Maynooth lead. Rachel Merry and Eimear Hayes were on form for Queen’s but a late goal chance stopped by Niamh Doyle then flicked off the crossbar was stopped ensuring the second Purcell final spot was taken by Maynooth.
All eyes were on the Ashbourne Cup semi-finals which seen old rivals UCC and WIT go head to head for the first of the two final slots up for grabs. Senior Cork trio Hannah Looney, Pamela and Katrina Mackey were the driving force behind UCC while Denise Gaule and Aine Gannon worked hard for the blue, white and reds. It was a battle of the free takers as Denise Gaule and Katrina Mackey were both deadly accurate on placed balls. Some uncharacteristic wides from WIT in the latter stages of the game costed them dearly. Nicole Fortune had a goal chance but it was stopped on the line by Ciara O’Leary and eventually cleared after a number of WIT attacks. UCC held on to their one-point lead to return to the Ashbourne final.
UUJ were crowned the Purcell shield champions after fighting off at tenacious Trinity side. Scoring 1-11 in the first half it was a huge lead for the Ulster University with captain Niamh Mallon stealing the show at mid-field. Some late attacks from Trinity didn’t prove effective enough to cut down the UUJ lead to send the Purcell shield northbound.
Current Ashbourne champions UL returned to the final to set up a repeat of last year’s final with an easy win over UCD. Weather conditions might not have been conducive to good hurling but UL managed to produce some picture-book stuff. Beth Carton and Patrice Diggins were the main UL operators pulling all the strings in the middle of the park. UL’s superiority was on a par with what we had seen earlier in the season however they will be hoping this form continues tomorrow for a chance at back to back titles.