By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Cork secured a record-equalling fourth successive All-Ireland U16A Camogie Championship title when they turned around a five-point deficit approaching the end of the third quarter to edge out Galway at the end of a nailbiting tussle by 0-11 to 1-7 at UPMC Nowlan Park.
The success extends the county’s advantage over the westerners at the top of the roll of honour to two, as they registered a 17th success in total, having started their current unbeaten run by ending the Maroons’ five-in-a-row bid in 2019 (there was no competition in 2020 due to Covid-19).
It was a much closer affair than when the teams crossed swords in the round-robin phase. Galway had actually led at the interval on that occasion before being left stunned by the Rebels’ second-half blitz, the 13-point margin at the final whistle telling its own tale.
Just as on that occasion, Galway made the initial running and led by 0-6 to 0-4 at the change of ends. Cara O’Brien shot four points to turn an early one-point deficit into a good lead and it took a couple of scores from Rachel Murphy and Eimear O’Callaghan to keep Cork in touch.
When Katie Lawless drilled a penalty to the Leesiders’ net after 42 minutes, it was looking good for the Tribes unit but Cork clawed themselves back into it, launching seven points without reply. Murphy supplied the first three of those and a brace from Laura Walsh restored parity. Murphy gave Cork the lead for the first time in three-quarters of an hour with less than five minutes of regulation time remaining and totted up her seventh (four of which came from play) soon after.
Lawless left the minimum between them in the third minute of injury time but the clock was not Galway’s friend and it was Cork’s day.
A 59th minute goal from Leah Kelly grasped the All-Ireland U16A Shield title for Clare as they overcame Antrim by the bare minimum also, 1-8 to 0-10, after a pulsating conclusion to the final at UPMC Nowlan Park.
Antrim had gotten the better of the Banner girls by four points in the group stages and given that they also lost to Laois, the manner in which Clare improved in the meantime was marked. They defeated Offaly and Waterford to ensure qualification to the semi-final, where they were far too strong for Dublin.
As expected, the final was a ding-dong tussle with defenders having the upper hand in the first half, which ended at 0-4 each. Aimee Ferris (two), Rihanna Black and Mary McArthur were on target for Antrim as Kate Hayes (two frees), Jessie Hogan and Ciara Punch split the posts for Clare.
McArthur and Eobha McAllister responded to a Shauna Queally free from another postcode to give the Ulster team a marginal advantage and they still had that with time running out before Kelly made her pivotal contribution. As Hayes maintained her excellent conversion rate from placed balls, Clare had just enough breathing space to hold on.
A very slick Derry were deserving victors in the All-Ireland U16B decider, defeating Kildare by 3-19 to 2-5 at Inniskeen Grattans GAA. The damage was done in the opening period, at the end of which they led by 2-13 to 2-2.
Leah Cassidy, Cáit Conway and Caoimhe Chambers excelled for Derry and goals from Aoibh Mulholland and Cassidy put the high-scoring Oak Leafers in a strong position. They pressed home their advantage after the resumption, Mulholland grabbing a second major on the way to a tremendous victory.
Meanwhile, the All-Ireland U16B Shield is Carlow’s as a result of the second-half heroics of substitute Róisín Joyce at Birr’s St Brendan’s Park, where her talents needed to be unleashed just before the interval for the necessary rescue mission.
Westmeath led at half-time thanks to goals from Annabel Hynes, Ali Brennan and Abbie McCauley in response to Lily Jones’ early green flag but Carlow gradually reeled in the 3-5 to 1-4 deficit as Joyce wrested midfield control, while fellow replacements, Amy Doyle and Ellen Barrett also exerted influence in attack.
Barrett found the net to reduce the margin to two points in the 41st minute and after Doyle kicked two points, Kate Burke added a third goal for her side. Joyce sent a piledriver to the net soon after and finished with 1-4, all bar a point of that from play as Carlow prevailed by 4-12 to 3-6.