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by Gerry O'Sullivan, Leinster PRO

AIB All-Ireland Club Championship, Leinster Senior Final
Thomastown 1-7  St Vincents 0-8
As the clock struck the 63rd minute of this epic encounter, St Vincents were defending with all their might a one point lead.  Thomastown who were in deep trouble when they trailed by 0-8 to 0-3 at the 40th minute mark had inched their way back.  They made one final sally and it looked like intercounty star Shelly Farrell would be the hero (and Player of the Match) when she aimed her shot for the levelling point.  Vincent’s ‘keeper Nicole Burnett did superbly to stop the point but her batted clearance fell to ‘Town’s Catherine Walsh and she turned onto her stronger side to hammer to the net.
The puck-out followed but there wouldn’t be time for a response from St Vincents and for the second year in a row, they have to live with the heartbreak of losing a Leinster final at the death.
When they sit down to analyse the match, they will realise that the game slipped from them not in the 63rd minute but in the final 24 minutes when they failed to add to their 0-8 tally.
Thomastown were met with fierce resistance and passion from the Dublin champions who hit four unanswered points before half-time to lead by 0-6 to 0-3 at the break.
They stretched that lead to 5 thanks to two more placed balls from the excellent Alison Maguire.  But they will also discover that only one other Vincent’s player contributed to the scoring – an outstanding point from Áine Fanning – whereas 5 different players all scored from play for Thomastown.
The first among them was Jenny Reddy in the 4th minute to be followed by Niamh Donnelly who notched the first of four three minutes later.
Thomastown had the aid of the breeze in this half but by the 14th minute, Vincent's outstanding defence was on top and after a free by Alison Maguire, they were off the mark.   A great hook on Sarah O’Donavan handed possession to Sinéad Brennan and the centre forward made no mistake a minute later.
But that would be it from a scoring point of view from the Kilkenny champions.  Playing into the breeze, Vincents took control and after her second point from a free Alison Maguire brought her supporters to their feet with a wonder point near the sideline from play. Vincents were now rampant and their defensive lines particularly the likes of Áine Woods, Deirdre Johnstone and Eimear McCarthy at midfield were hurling a storm.
Indiscretions in the Thomastown defence saw Alison Maguire dish out the punishment with two more pointed frees.  As the short whistle approached Mary Cronin did superbly to recover the ball, pass to Áine Fanning and she nailed a fantastic score. 
At half time Thomastown knew they had a game on their hands and introduced Eimear Farrell and Catherine Walsh – both would have a telling impact on the game and accounted for 1-1 between them
However that impact took time to reveal itself as Vincent’s maintained the momentum that had started before the interval and Alison Maguire with a free and a 45 extended their lead to 0-8 to 0-3.  Their cause wasn’t helped by the loss through injury of pacey forward Claire Donnelly.  Seeing their predicament, the Thomastown players took ownership of the challenge and a point from Niamh Donnelly in the 46th minute gave them hope.
Anna Farrell and Jenny Reddy were coming more and more into the game in the middle of the field and were responsible for the supply to the likes of Eimear Farrell – the youngest of the four sister split the posts in the 50th minute.
Vincents were beginning to feel the strain and such was the dominance of the Thomastown defence in the second half where full-back Ailish Butler nullified the threat of the Vincent’s danger woman Aisling Maher, that in the entire second half Vincents only hit one wide.  The Thomastown ‘keeper Niamh Bolger was never threatened and she had only 3 puck-outs in the second half.
Niamh Donnelly put her name on her third point with a free in the 52nd minute as Vincent’s fought heroically to stem the flow none more so than Eva Maria Elliott whose spectacular catch in the 53rd minute was awesome.  
However they needed someone up front to pull off something – notch a score, earn a free – but it wasn’t happening.  Two monster frees from Alison Maguire landed in the small box but try as they did the final touch was missing.
Another Niamh Donnelly free set the game up for frantic finish in the 57th minute before Catherine Walsh who featured in Kilkenny’s All-Ireland Intermediate win but has had to settle for a place on the bench for recent club games proved the match winner.
Joy and heartbreak in equal measure epitomised the aftermath but what a game!
Thomastown Scorers: Niamh Donnelly (0-4), Catherine Walsh (1-0), Jenny Reddy (0-1), Sinéad Brennan (0-1), Eimear Farrell (0-1)
St. Vincents Scorers: Alison Maguire (0-7), Áine Fanning (0-1)
Thomastown:  Niamh Bolger, Eimear Corr, Ailish Butler, Aoife Holden, Ciara Farrell, Meighan Farrell, Sally Teehan, Jenny
Reddy, Anna Farrell, Sarah Walsh, Sinéad Brennan, Eimear Donnelly, Niamh Donnelly, Shelly Farrell, Joanne Fitzpatrick
Subs: Catherine Walsh for Eimear Donnelly, Eimear Farrell for Fitzpatrick
St Vincents: Nicole Burnett, Ciara O’Leary, Áine Woods, Deirdre Johnstone, Lora Smith, Emma Brennan, Eva Maria Elliott, Eimear McCarthy, Sarah O’Donavan, Claire Donnelly, Áine Fanning, Kate McCarry, Mary Cronin, Aisling Maher, Alison Maguire
Subs: Ellen McGovern for Donnelly (inj), Evelyn Twomey for Cronin, Eimear Brannigan for Maher, Aoife Cullen for Smith
Referee: Alan Lagrue
AIB All-Ireland Club Championship, Leinster Intermediate Final
Myshall 0-11 Shinrone 1-6
The Carlow success story goes on.  Like their neighbours in Kilkenny, success at the county level seems to go hand in hand with club achievements.
Having played with the aid of the slight breeze, Myshall held a two points lead at the half-way mark.  Given the form of Michaela Morkan, who was inspiring at centre back, Shinrone would have been justified in thinking that this was a winnable game.  While the result was in doubt right to the finish, the Myshall girls did not relent in the second period and put four telling points with their first half total of 7 to hold on for a deserved win.
Not for the first time Ciara Quirk was the “go-to” girl and she rarely disappoints.  Before the 5th minute had been reached, the full forward had three points to her name – two from frees.  It could have been more but for a fine save by Fiona McLeish in the Shinrone goal from Marian Doyle.
Having weathered the early storm, Shinrone found their groove following a neat point by Gráinne Egan in the 10th minute.   The Offaly champs also were unlucky not to goal when Christine Cleary’s shot rebounded of the cross-bar.  As it was Michaela Morkan cut the gap to the minimum with a pointed free in the 11th minute.
The quality of the blocking and hooking was superb from both sides and one could not but admire the determination, skill and passion – “Our Game, Our Passion” was never more in evidence.
Showing their worth, Myshall came charging back and Fiona McLeish was once again called into action to deflect over the bar a goal bound shot from Emma Coogan.  Fiona, whose two daughters Kerry and Leona also lined out in the Shinrone colours also denied Ciara Quirke in the 19th minute.  But by that stage Olivia Jordan, the holder of 24 senior Carlow championships had added a great score.
While the flow was end to end, Shinrone were finding it difficult to create the chances and were left to rely on Michaela Morkan largely from frees to mount a scoring challenge.  And Michaela didn’t disappoint with two more expertly dispatched frees.
Her next point though was simply out of the top drawer.  Winning a high ball in her own half, she made a 30m burst to hammer the ball between the sticks for the leveller despite a brave challenge from a Myshall defender.  Both girls collided in a mighty clash – back up the got and resumed duty without a blink of hesitation.  Gripping stuff.
But throughout the game Myshall had that ability to respond and in the last minute Ali Ruschitzko and Ciara Quirk notched two telling points that gave them a small but a vital margin going to the dressing rooms.
Now that they had the slight breeze, one would have expected Shinrone to push forward.  That’s exactly what happened and in the 34th minute Michaela Morkan nailed another free.
But when the challenge was at its highest – Kate Nolan stood up and began to lord matters at centre back.  Her long range free found its way to Marian Doyle and the former Carlow Player of the Year did her 2016 cause no harm with a fine point.
Breege Nolan had also been introduced to join with her sister, Kate. Shinrone were fighting for everything and it took a great clearance from Michelle Nolan to stem a dangerous moment.   The youngest player on the Shinrone squad – Kate Bergin was also now sampling life at the top end and more than held her own.
The next score would be important and it fell to Ciara Quirke whose accuracy is rarely off the radar.  Three points to the good now and the battle intensified without either side making any further impact on the scoreboard for the next 11 minutes. Shinrone’s Kelly Sammon put in a super hook on Ali Ruschitzko and Myshall’s Tara Wilson was first to a dangerous ball.  You dared not take your eyes off the action!
While the scores had temporarily dried up, this was a bigger problem for Shinrone and the challenge grew in the 53rd minute when Ali Ruschitzko added another smashing point to make it a gap of four.
Could Shinrone do anything about their predicament?  Answer introduce Katie Bourke whose first touch was to pull the ball out of the clouds, pass to the incoming Marion Crean and the former Offaly captain goaled with a shot off her left side.  A point between the sides and five minutes of normal time left.   Was there another score left in them?  Answer no, but Ali Ruschitzko was able to clinch victory for Myshall with her third point – a very important contribution to the final result.
In essence that was the difference – five of the starting 6 forwards in the Myshall team scored from play. Shinrone’s tally was one.
Myshall: Joanne Joyce, Pamela Whelan, Niamh Quirke, Michelle Nolan, Tara Wilson, Kate Nolan, Mairéad Doyle, Ciara Mullins, Leann Nolan, Olivia Jordan (0-1), Fiona Jordan, Marian Doyle (0-1), Emma Coogan (0-1), Ciara Quirke (0-5), Ali Ruschitzko (0-3).
Subs:  Breege Nolan for Fiona Jordan
Shinrone: Fiona McLeish, Leona McLeish, Kate Aherne, Sarah Cleary, Maeve Gleeson, Michaela Morkan (0-5), Mary Cordial, Kelly Sammon, Marion Crean (1-0), Christine Cleary, Caroline Cahalan, Gráinne Egan (0-1), Michelle Davis, Kerry McLeish, Clodagh Love
Subs: Kate Bergin for Love; Katie Bourke for McLeish, Emer Reynolds for Davis
Referee:  Jenny Byrne

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