By Kieran Galvin at Coralstown Kinnegad
A sensational goal from Shanise Fitzsimons – worthy of winning any final – was the decisive score as Cavan edged out defending champions Wexford in the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 3 decider in Kinnegad.
With the sides level in the last minute of regulation time, Fitzsimons stole the show when she rifled the sliotar to the roof of the Wexford net. Remarkably, it was Cavan’s only score of the entire second half but it proved the precious match winner.
Wexford battled desperately to pull the game out of the fire but their late pressure only yielded a pointed free from Siobhán Sinnott. There was a huge sigh of relief in the Cavan ranks when a last-gasp goalmouth scramble eventually led to the ball going wide.
Anybody who doubted there is passion for camogie in football-mad Cavan would think differently if they witnessed the Breffni County’s supporters during and indeed after this game.
Wind-assisted Cavan led 1-5 to 0-3 at the interval, but they probably expected an onslaught from Wexford in the second period and the Slaneysiders delivered to draw level with a couple of minutes left.
There was little between two evenly matched sides for long spells of the first half, with Cavan leading 0-4 to 0-2 by the 21st minute. The freetaking prowess of Clodagh Keenaghan was to the fore for Cavan, while Hannah Fitzsimons and Shanise Fitzsimons were also on target. Emma Tomkins (a splendid individual score) and Emma Codd were on the mark for Wexford.
Shanise’s first goal opened up a decent bit of daylight in the 25th minute. Josephine Maguire drove the ball inside and Fitzsimons showed her customary poaching instincts to create the space, before firing a low shot into the far corner of the net.
Keenaghan and Sinnott exchanged pointed frees before the half-time whistle, with the latter also surprisingly missing one from close range.
Katie Gallagher was among the Wexford players who burst into life in the second half. Gallagher, Sinnott (two), captain Aideen Brennan and Miria O’Dowd all raised white flags to leave the sides level.
At the other end, Shanise Fitzsimons was foiled by a saved from Wexford goalie Lara O’Shea shortly after the resumption and though Tina Reilly scrambled the rebound to the net, referee John Horgan awarded a free out.
As both sides fans watched the closing stages with a mixture of excitement and anxiety, Clodagh Keenaghan sent a free goalwards. The ball broke to Shanise Fitzsimons and the sniper supreme did the rest as Philip Brady’s charges went on to be crowned Division 3 league champions, thereby denying Wexford a league final double over the weekend.
Afterwards, joint Cavan captains Josephine Maguire and Aideen Coyle were presented with the trophy, while hugely impressive full-back Erinn Galligan received the player of the match award.
SCORERS FOR CAVAN: S Fitzsimons 2-1; C Keenaghan 0-3 (fS); H Fitzsimons 0-1
SCORERS FOR WEXFORD: S Sinnott 0-4 (3fs); E Tomkins, E Codd, A Brennan, K Gallagher, M O’Dowd 0-1 each
CAVAN: J O’Rourke; L O’Rourke, E Galligan, A Finnegan; J Maguire, R Crowe McKeever, A Coyle; H Fitzsimons, E Fitzpatrick; C Keenaghan, A Keenaghan, C Fay; E Brady, S Fitzsimons, N Majola. Subs: T Reilly for A Keenaghan (25); N Keenaghan for Fitzpatrick (ht); S Cusack for L O’Rourke (44); A Collins for Fay (57)
WEXFORD: L O’Shea; C Jackman, A Halligan, M O’Dowd; C Donohoe, A Brennan, A Dunne; E Tomkins, L Doyle; K Gallagher, K Devereux, L Firman; E Codd, S Sinnott, Muireann Fitzpatrick (Crannford). Subs: Muireann Fitzpatrick (Castletown Liam Mellows) for Devereux (30); K Roche for M Fitzpatrick (Crannford, 40)
REFEREE: J Horgan (Cork)