By Daragh Ó Conchúir at Crettyard GAA
Clanmaurice (Kerry) 1-4
Kilmessan (Meath) 1-4
A brilliant goal by Aileen Donnelly with just seconds of the three allotted minutes of injury time remaining rescued Kilmessan and denied Clanmaurice, ensuring that the AIB All-Ireland Junior Club Championshio Final goes to a replay next Sunday.
It was tough on Clanmaurice, who had already made history by becoming the first Kerry club to reach a Camogie club decider.
They failed to capitalise on a complete dominance in the opening quarter, and their tally of six first-half wides with the wind behind them, in comparison to two for Kilmessan in that period was significant in such a tight game.
Even though Kilmessan never led, the champions of 2014 grew into the game however and had the majority of the possession for the last 40 minutes. Had they failed to reel in their opponents, they would have rued their inability to translate that superiority into scores.
They found full-back Niamh Leen leading a wonderfully stout defensive effort however, while behind her, goalkeeper Alanna Maunsell pulled off two excellent saves and was calmness personified under the high ball.
The driving rain and bitter cold made it very difficult for the players though they emptied themselves completely in what was always going to be a slog. The Crettyard pitch stood up to the elements brilliantly but this was a test of character unlike any other.
Mind you, it looked like Clanmaurice might race away when Patrice Diggin slotted three points inside seven minutes. They should have been further clear though and gradually Kilmessan settled into the fray.
John Waters had started with Megan Thynne, star of Meath’s All-Ireland Intermediate Championship victory, at full-forward but starved of possession, the speedy teenager was eventually relocated towards the middle third.
Donnelly hit a couple of points, including one with the boot moments after being denied courageously by Maunsell and it was 0-3 to 0-2 at half time.
The experienced centre-forward brought the teams level from a free but Diggin ended a 28-minute drought for Mike Enright’s outfit from a similar opportunity.
Once more Donnelly replied, this time with a classy score on the run but when Aoife Behan poked the sliotar to the Kilmessan net in the 59th minute, after Jessica Fitzell had diverted Diggin’s free back across the goal, it looked the crucial contribution.
Thynne really stepped up to the mark for Kilmessan at this juncture however and had almost carved out a couple of chances for other players when picking up possession and slaloming away from two Clanmaurice players.
She drew one more, hand-passed to Donnelly and the ciotóg did the rest, driving a low shot from 25m that not even Maunsell could stop, ensuring that the teams will have to do it all over again
SCORERS FOR CLANMAURICE: P Diggin 0-4(3fs); A Behan 1-0
SCORERS FOR KILMESSAN: A Donnelly 1-4(0-3fs)
CLANMAURICE: A Maunsell, T Moran, N Leen, M Costello, E Ryall, S Murphy, O Young, P Diggin, O Dineen, A Behan, L Collins, S Horgan, J Fitzell, J Horgan, A M Leen. Subs: A O’Connor for A M Leen (41), J O’Keeffe for Ryall (55)
KILMESSAN: A M Dennehy, A Walshe, R Kelly, C O’Leary, L O’Neill, A Lynch, T King, S Horan, M O’Leary, N doyle, A Donnelly, M Ní Choileáin, L Dennehy, M Thynne, K Ní Choileáin. Subs: K Gorman for Doyle (40), A McLoughlin for M Ní Choileáin (51)
REFEREE: C Quinlan (Galway)