It was just like old times as Oulart-The Ballagh blitzed champions Sarsfields in the opening quarter to wrestle the AIB All-Ireland senior club camogie title from the westerners’ grasp in stunning fashion by 4-8 to 2-9 at UPMC Nowlan Park.
Úna Leacy and Shelley Kehoe shot first-half goals in a repeat of the type of start that accounted for Slaughtneil in the semi-final and with a commendable performance of efficiency and energy that included Leacy completing a second-half hat-trick, there was no way back for Sarsfields, hard though they battled.
It wasn’t an ideal preparation for such a big game for the dual-parish outfit, who were bagging their third crown, having secured their first in 2012 when Leacy was captain.
This time around, it was her sister Mary who got to lift the Bill and Agnes Carroll Cup, and the siblings joined clubmate Karen Atkinson, on the bench on this occasion, as individuals who had captained club and county to ultimate glory.
The feat was achieved despite many of the players attending yesterday’s wedding of midfielder Stacey Kehoe, a twin of Shelley, but there was no hint of physical or mental lethargy as they took it to their opponents from the off in ideal conditions, with Stacey named player of the match after a sterling display.
Sarsfields actually struck the first point, from a Niamh McGrath free after a foul on sister Orlaith, but at the water break, it was 2-4 to 0-1 and the champions were on the ropes.
Stacey Kehoe and Anais Curran gained the upper hand around the middle to ensure a constant flow of gall towards Leacy and Ursula Jacob, while Orlaith and Siobhán McGrath were starved at the other end.
Another Wexford All-Ireland-winning skipper, Ursula Jacob levelled from a free and Shelley Kehoe had OTB in front, when Leacy, bandaged like a mummy (as against a mammy, which she is) reminded us of the genius poacher she has been throughout a storied career, despite being beset by a series of horrific injuries and operations to both knees over more than 20 years.
It was a sensational finish in the tenth minute, befitting of the stage. Maria Cooney, operating in a sweeper role like Mary Leacy at the other end, allowed a high ball bounce off her palm and Jacob pounced, before hand-passing to her long-time partner in crime.
One touch were required to bring the sliotar under control, another to bring into her striking zone and the third doubled it to the net. Stunning.
Shelley Kehoe finished from close range two minutes later, after Lauren Glynn had denied both Katie Gallagher and Shauna Sinnott and OTB were humming.
The second quarter was about consolidation, Niamh McGrath slotting two points from play for Sarsfields, including one that whistled just over the OTB crossbar, but a wonder score by Shelley Kehoe was the highlight of the winners’ response as they went in at the short whistle leading by 2-7 to 0-4.
Sarsfields had the perfect start to their comeback bid with a Siobhán McGrath goal after her sister Niamh’s long delivery was dropped by Ciara Storey but Úna Leacy punctured the Galway side’s momentum when dispossessing Laura Ward and kicking to the net little over a minute later.
The margin was still eight points at the three-quarter mark but when Klara Donohue’s mis-hit shot somehow ended in the OTB net, it was game on once more.
But Leacy wasn’t finished and she racked up the hat-trick with a thunderbolt off the sod two minutes later.
Sarsfields would not yield easily however, displaying the heart of champions, with four points from the McGraths Orlaith (two), Siobhán (one) and Niamh (one) but Shelley Kehoe had the final say.
SCORERS FOR OULART-THE BALLAGH: Ú Leacy 3-0; Shelley Kehoe 1-3; U Jacob 0-3(2fs); K Gallagher, A Curran 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR SARSFIELDS: S McGrath 1-3(0-2fs); N McGrath 0-4 (2fs); K Donohue 1-0; O McGrath 0-2 each
OULART-THE BALLAGH: Lauren Sinnott, M Leacy, A Brennan, K Roche, A Dunne, C Storey, M O’Dowd, Stacey Kehoe, A Curran, K Gallagher, Shelley Kehoe, Louise Sinnott, Ú Leacy, U Jacob, Shauna Sinnott
SARSFIELDS: L Glynn, R Kelly, K Gallagher, L Ward, J Daly, A Deeley, T Kenny, N McGrath, C McGrath, K Donohue, O McGrath, S Spellman, S Corcoran, S McGrath, M Cooney. Subs: R Murray for Deeley (34), C Kenny for Daly (45)
REFEREE: Andy Larkin (Referee)