By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Slaughtneil (Derry) 2-11
Sarsfields (Galway) 1-9
LOSING last year’s goalscoring hero Mary Kelly to emigration was a significant blow to Slaughtneil’s ambitions of defending their AIB All-Ireland Senior Club Championship title.
For a while, it looked like they might have to without Shannon Graham too, though thankfully she returned from a stint abroad and was magnificent as the Derry side proved too strong for Sarsfields in the decider once more.
They did have a new, not-so-secret weapon however in Tina Hannon. The Offaly star relocated to the area and is building a house with former Derry footballer and Slaughtneil midfielder Patsy Bradley.
Having played a major role in getting them to St Tiernach’s Park, Hannon produced another Player-of-the-Match performance by scoring 1-8 and in the end, even augmenting a tremendous defensive effort.
Hannon’s goal and four points in the first half were particularly important as Slaughtneil were definitely in the back foot in that opening period.
The goal came immediately after Sinéad Cannon capitalised on sensational work by Siobhán McGrath to raise a green flag at the other end.
The teams went in at 1-5 apiece and the Robert Emmetts’ contingent gradually exerted increased pressure as the second half wore on.
“It’s been a dream really” said Hannon. “It was tough all the way through. Even before this match, we’d a really tough Semi-Final and we knew playing 80 minutes that day would stand to us. Sarsfields got off to a better start, they were quite strong and we were lucky enough to be going in a draw at half time.
“When you go in a draw at half time it’s Even Stephen again for the second half. We were delighted, we pushed on, pushed forward and got the result we wanted: back-to-back All-Ireland champions.”
Hannon’s former club Naomh Brid sent her a card wishing her luck beforehand. It also included a bit of grass, and a reminder not to forget her roots. That would never happen.
“On days like this you think back to where it all started. It started with my native club Ballyskenach and then we amalgamated with Coolderry to be Naomh Brid. It was a real journey. I left the club last year on a high, we won the Junior Championship.
“Even when I was leaving last year, they knew the circumstances and they’ve been nothing but a massive support. On days like this, I think back to when I was wearing the green and black jersey and I’ll never forget those days.”
Being named Player of the Match was welcome but Hannon was accepting it on behalf of her fellow Slaughtneil players.
“It’s a team sport… you win together and you lose together. On our jersey is ‘There’s no strength without unity’ (Ní neart go gur le chéile) and we carry that through when we come onto the pitch. We fight for each other to the last minute. It’s a testament that we usually finish strong in a match and I’m delighted that once again we put in a performance and finished strong again today.”
SCORERS FOR SLAUGHTNEIL: T Hannon 1-8(0-6fs); L Dougan 1-0 (pen); T Mellon 0-2; S McKaigue 0-1
SCORERS FOR SARSFIELDS: S Cannon 1-1; S McGrath 0-3(fs); N McGrath 0-2(1f); O McGrath, R Murray, M Cooney (f) 0-1 each
SLAUGHTNEIL: J Bradley, C McGrath, B Ní Chaiside, Dervlagh McGuigan, E Ní Chaiside, A Ní Chaiside, G O’Kane, D McGuigan, L Dougan, S Graham, T Hannon, S McKaigue, T Mellon, J McMullan, S Mellon. Subs: C McEldowney for S Mellon (52), A McGrath for Denise McGuigan (56), B McAllister for T Mellon ((60+2)
SARSFIELDS: Y Lyons, R Murphy, L Ward, A Spellman, T Kenny, C McGrath, E Leslie, K Gallagher, N McGrath, M Cooney, O McGrath, S Spellman, S Cannon, S McGrath, R Murray, S Mellon. Sub: K Donohue for N McGrath inj (40), E Larkin for Leslie inj (60+4)
REFEREE: C Egan (Cork)