By Kevin Egan at Páirc Tailteann
Four Roads 1-12
A STUNNING performance from Meath dual star Megan Thynne powered Kilmessan to victory in a memorable AIB All-Ireland Junior Club Championship Final, her late goal finally killing off a resolute challenge from Four Roads that looked as if it might upset the odds right up until the dying minutes.
As reigning champions and flagship club for Meath Camogie, Kilmessan were widely expected to come through this test and move up to the Intermediate ranks for next season as two-in-a-row champions.
Four Roads didn’t appear to have read that script however as they burst to an early 0-3 to 0-1 lead, the highlight a stunning point on the run from Aisling Dempsey, the teenager breaking through two tackles with the ball on her stick and splitting the uprights from the right-hand touchline.
They still led by a single point midway through the first half when Thynne announced her presence, cutting in from the right corner and striking an inch-perfect low shot that crept inside Cáit Kenny’s near post.
Again Four Roads rallied, making far better use of their chances – every attempt on goal from the Roscommon champions found the mark in the first half, unlike Kilmessan who posted five wides in the opening 30 minutes.
Lizzy Glennon-Tully hand-passed an equalising goal after good work from Niamh Coyle and Shauna Fallon, and Coyle then pointed from distance to put Four Roads in front, but there was another burst to come from Kilmessan shortly before half time. Thynne set up Katie Ní Choileáin for a second goal, then struck one of the best points of the game from a few yards inside the sideline to make it 2-5 to 1-5 at the break.
The second half resumed in the same vein, Thynne pointing on the run from 30 metres, but Four Roads started to settle into the tie, inspired by some great work from their half-back line, led by captain Aisling Fallon and Soaring Star winner Gertie Dowd.
Glennon-Tully pointed twice, but they were always living on the edge at the other end of the field. Leah Dennehy looked capable of burning defenders for pace every time she got on the ball, Ailbhe Lynch blasted the sliothar over the bar when it looked as if a goal was on, and when Ní Choileáin made it 2-8 to 1-6 with 10 minutes gone in the second half, Kilmessan looked like they might drive on and win well.
Instead, what followed was Four Roads’ best spell of the game. Glennon-Tully continued to run the Kilmessan defence ragged, winning frees and converting points of her own, Coyle sent over a wonderful score under pressure and Fallon continued to be faultless from frees throughout the hour.
The previously reliable Aileen Donnelly missed two attempts of her own for Kilmessan, albeit tough chances from wide positions, but she bounced back with two crucial scores to stem Four Roads’ momentum, one from a free and one from play when she ghosted into space at the centre forward slot.
Another Fallon free cut the gap to the minimum, but while Thynne had been out of the game for a while, that was never likely to last.
Sure enough she pounced for a late goal, in between two further scores for Donnelly, to put a gap between the teams that was perhaps a little harsh on the valiant Connacht club, but still a worthy reflection of the potency and power of a Kilmessan team that will surely be serious contenders at Intermediate level again in 2019.
SCORERS FOR KILMESSAN: M Thynne 2-2; A Donnelly 0-6 (4fs); K Ní Choileáin 1-2; T King, A Lynch 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR FOUR ROADS: L Glennon-Tully 1-2; S Fallon 0-5(fs); N Coyle 0-2; P Lennon, A Dempsey, S Coyle 0-1 each
KILMESSAN: A M Dennehy, A Walsh, R Kelly, M Lally, M O’Leary, A Lynch, L O’Neill, T King, S Horan, N Doyle, Aileen Donnelly, L Dennehy, M Thynne, K Ní Choileáin, C Doyle. Subs: Abby Donnelly for O’Neill (28), M Horan for Dennehy (60), C Ní Choileáin for King (60)
FOUR ROADS: C Kenny, K Carty, E Lennon, D Kelly, A Fallon, G Dowd, M Hastings, S Fallon, P Lennon; S Coyle, N Coyle, N Crean, A Dempsey, L Glennon-Tully, S O’Brien. Subs: O Kelly for Hastings (38), L Gacquin for Crean (48)
REFEREE: M Ryan (Tipperary)