Complied by Daragh Ó Conchúir
Slaughtneil remain on target to become only the second club to achieve four-in-a-row honours in the AIB All-Ireland Senior Club Championship, as a result of their 2-10 to 1-10 defeat of Scarriff/Ogonnelloe at a blustery Donaghmore Ashbourne.
And the Derry champions face familiar opposition in their bid to join Wexford’s Buffer’s Alley in the history books as a result of Sarsfields getting the better of St. Vincent’s, 1-13 to 0-8 in MacDonagh Park.
The two teams met in the 2017 and 2018 Finals but the Galway representatives will be hoping for a different result at Croke Park on March 1st.
The Intermediate decider on that day will be contested by St. Rynagh’s and Gailltír, after the latter gained revenge for their Final defeat by Clonduff last year by 2-13 to 0-11 at Conneff Park, while St. Rynagh’s accounted for Carnmore in Duggan Park, 2-13 to 0-13.
Slaughtneil laid the foundation for their triumph in the first half, when they had the wind in their favour and defended resolutely after the resumption against an outfit that has made tremendous progress in recent seasons, having lost an All-Ireland Junior Final just four years ago.
Former Offaly star Tina Bradley inflicted much of the damage, hitting 1-4 of her personal tally of 1-5 in that opening period. Bradley’s fortuitous goal after 10 minutes was a key moment as her free flew all the way to the net at a juncture when Scariff/Ogonnelloe were trailing by just a point.
Bradley (twice), Louise Dougan and Shannon Graham had all given Slaughtneil the lead but Marion Rodgers, Mairéad Scanlan on the double had kept their Clare opponents very much in touch.
Therese Mallon rattled in a second goal just five minutes after Bradley’s strike, after receiving an excellent pass from Josie McMullan, and at the other end, Jolene Bradley saved splendidly from Rodgers, contributing to a 2-8 to 0-6 advantage at the break.
That enabled Slaughtneil to dig in though Scariff/Ogonnelloe threw everything at them after the resumption and kept the Ulster side to two points, from Graham and Tina Bradley.
Rodgers (two), Lynda Daly and Scanlan raised white flags but they needed a goal and though the excellent Rodgers did strike, it was almost the last act of the game and too late to deny Slaughtneil.
Contrary to Slaughtneil, Sarsfields did the damage in the second half, leading by just a point at the interval, 0-6 to 0-5.
It was a cagey opening period, Niamh Hetherton and skipper Ali Maguire doing well for Vincent’s, Siobhán McGrath proving deadly accurate for Sarsfields.
The youngest of four McGrath sisters on the team finished as top scorer with 10 points, two of those from play, but it was the second half goal of Rachel Murray six minutes into the second half that really turned the tide, as she deflected the sliotar to the net following Niamh McGrath’s long free.
The Dublin side did have opportunities but the absence of injured former All-Star Aisling Maher was keenly felt. Sarsfields’ dominance was undoubted however, and Siobhán McGrath was able to enjoy the luxury of opting to take points from two penalties, while siblings Niamh and Orlaith also got on the scoresheet for what was ultimately a comfortable victory.
Gailltír ended the Clonduff reign thanks to goals at the start of each half by the excellent Annie Fitzgerald and Anne Corcoran.
Clonduff responded well to Fitzgerald’s first-minute major with six points from Paula O’Hagan and another from Sara Louise Graffin but Trish Jackman, Áine Lyng, Fitzgerald and Corcoran scored at the other end to leave the sides deadlocked 1-4 to 0-7.
Corcoran’s goal arrived three minutes after the restart and the Déise girls edged further ahead thanks to points from Fitzgerald and her cousin Aoife to book their return to Croke Park at the expense of their Down tormentors of 12 months ago.
St. Rynagh’s and Carnmore served up a thriller and it was the Galwegians who started the more confidently into the wind, Lorraine Crowe in particular having a big impact. Siobhán Flannery was a big scoring threat for the Offaly champions at the other end and she finished the first half with seven points, while Helen Dolan’s goal was what separated them at the change of ends, when it was 1-9 to 0-9.
It was nip and tuck again in the second half in terms of points but when the tremendous Flannery planted a penalty for a three-pointers nine minutes from time, there was no way back for Carnmore.