Oulart Made to work for third title
Alan Aherne (2nd October 2005)
Oulart The Ballagh 1-7, St Martins 0-6
Oulart The Ballagh’s control of the WFC Senior Camogie championship continued in Bellefield on Sunday last when they shook off the persistent challenge posed by first time finalists St Martins to claim glory for an impressive third year on the trot.
It was a far from vintage display by the holders in a disappointing game which produced a mere seven scores from play, but they deserve credit for keeping their composure and defending stoutly to retain the title.
And after overcoming this tricky hurdle against a somewhat unknown quantity with four points in reserve, they will now spare no effort in their bid to account for reigning All Ireland champions, Freshford, in the Leinster final on October 23.
It was Oulart The Ballagh’s fifth county decider on the trot, but the first where they didn’t lock horns with old rivals St Ibar’s. A confident and promising St Martin’s side had seen off their Wexford district rivals by the minimum margin in the semi-final, and they approached their debut on the big stage with plenty of optimism.
Oulart The Ballagh were clearly wary of the challenge posed by the underdogs in their first clash in a major game, and they were boosted by the return to action of talented teenager Una Leacy.
The inter-county regular had missed the semi-final with a wrist injury, but she entered the fray at midfield and played a key role in the success, particularly in the second half as she enjoyed a great battle with the giant-hearted Sinead Dempsey.
The best quality camogie was witnessed before the break, but it was dour and dogged thereafter as the middle third of the field became clogged up and a number of stoppages disrupted the flow of the game.
With Ursula Jacob also starting at full-forward after coming off the bench in the semi-final, Oulart The Ballagh were at full strength but fell into early arrears.
Nearly four minutes had elapsed when a throw in 43 metres out broke kindly to 15 year old wing forward Katrina Parrock, and the promising St Martins attacker fired her side into the lead with a sweet point at the town end.
Their advantage was short lived though, as an attempted clearance by Sinead Dempsey was blocked by Una Leacy who gathered the ball and picked off the equaliser.
The reigning champions hit the front in the eleventh minute and were never headed thereafter, with Ursula Jacob’s dangerous free tapped over the bar by county colleague Margaret D’Arcy after a chop on team captain Aisling Moran.
Shortly afterwards a lovely low pass from Una Leacy was gathered by Jacob who finished neatly to make it 0-3 to 0-1, but she was off target from a free before St Martins hit back.
A long-range free from Aine Codd broke around the goalmouth where Katrina Parrock’s initial effort was blocked, but Tina Bergin picked up the pieces and sent over a neat point.
The all-important Oulart The Ballagh goal arrived in the 16th minute. The latest of several accurate deliveries by stylish young wing back Siobhan Cullen was plucked from the air by Ciara Storey and she duly earned a penalty as she turned and prepared to shoot.
Maire O’Connor, Margaret D’Arcy and Katrina Parrock went back on the line to face Ursula Jacob’s pile-driver, and the ace attacker picked her spot in the roof of the net to stretch the Oulart The Ballagh advantage to 1-3 to 0-2.d’
It was a cruel blow for the challengers and D’Arcy was called upon moments later to make an important save and deny Ciara Storey a possible second goal.
Oulart The Ballagh were determined to press home their advantage though, and a Stacey Redmond delivery was was won by Ursula Jacob who pointed from a tight angle in the 19th minute.
St Martins moved Katrina Parrock to the ’40 in a straight swap with team captain Nicola Butler, but their cause wasn’t helped when their marvellous servant at full back, Maire O’Connor, sustained a knee injury moments later.
She seemed set to depart the scene after going down again in the first half added time, but sheer determination ensured that she finished the game – a remarkable 22 years after winning a Junior championship medal at the tender age of 12.
Her sister Aine Codd, was also given a new role in the approach to half time, playing as a sweeper after Tina Bergin was moved from full forward to pick up industrious attacker Diane Ryan.
Codd was on hand to block a goal-scoring attempt by Ciara Storey in the 26th minute, with Ursula Jacob converting the resultant ’45 to leave Oulart The Ballagh with a healthy 1-5 to 0-2 lead.
St Martins did pull a point back after one of their best moves when Muireann McCarthy sprayed a neat cross-field pass into Deirdre Colfer’s corner. Wing forward Orla Power gathered the sliotar seconds later on the run and impressively split the posts to leave five between them at half time.
The score should have filled the newcomers with hope, but their chances were limited after the break as both sides struggled to show the type of form they are capable of.
Just one of the five additional scores recorded came from open play, and St Martins couldn’t fashion a really clear-cut goal chance despite piping their rivals by three points to two.
In many respects it was a mirror image of the problems faced by the county Senior team earlier this year in converting possession into scores. While this year defenders are plentiful in Wexford, forwards capable of doing regular damage are in much short supply.
St Martins sent Katrina Parrock into full forward in a bid to unlock the Oulart The Ballagh defence, but that was always going to be a tall order considering Helena Jacob was free in that department.
Coleen Atkinson held her ground when Tina Bergin ventured outfield, and she picked up Parrock on the restart while her right corner back mopped up a lot of loose balls.
Further congestion was brought to the middle third when Ciara Storey drifted out there early in the last quarter, with Oulart The Ballagh having to defend doggedly as they didn’t score in the final 20 minutes.
St Martin’s managed to eat into that five point lead early in the new half when Karen Atkinson was penalised for over carrying and Miriam Lambert converted the resultant free (1-5 to 0-4).
Oulart The Ballagh hit back in the 37th minute when Ursula Jacob was fouled and duly pointed the placed ball, while she also played a part in their last score. Another free from the left wing was only partially cleared, and Una Leacy made space on the strong solo run before splitting the posts for the second time.
Aine Codd was instructed to go for goal from a free in the 41st minute when it might have been wiser to opt for a point, and her head high shot effort was stopped and cleared.
However a pointed ’45 from Miriam Lambert kept St Martin’s in the hunt, but their best efforts were repeatedly thwarted by a rock solid Oulart The Ballagh defence.
A Lambert free came back off the post after 51 minutes and Katrina Parrock and Nicola Butler were denied in the follow up, while substitute Louise Fanning sent a ground stroke wide 60 seconds later.
Ursula Jacob was brought out to the ’40 as the holders tried to win some badly needed possession, while Mary Leacy made a vital catch when Miriam Lambert landed another free into the goalmouth.
St Martins made several positional changes in a last ditch bid to turn the game around, moving Aine Codd first to midfield and later to full forward. They also brought Margaret D’Arcy out of the goal and introduced Triona Doyle between the posts at the death, but the four plus minutes of added time only yielded one consolation point from a Miriam Lambert free.
The experience of being champions clearly helped Oulart The Ballagh as they withstood the best that the saints could throw at them, with their defence deserving most of the plaudits.
The excellent first touch and neat clearances of teenage winger Siobhan Cullen caught the eye. She was a deserving winner of the Player of the Match award, performing her duties without any fanfare but always looking composed on the ball.
All of her colleagues at the back could be happy with their day’s work, while Una Leacy and Ursula Jacob received lots of support further afield from Caroline Murphy, Diane Ryan and Ciara Storey.
Having lost to Freshford in the replayed final of 2003 and last year’s penultimate round, Oulart The Ballagh will relish the prospect of getting another crack at the Kilkenny Champions.
And it will take a very good team to knock them off their pedestal in Wexford when one considers their dominance of the underage scene in recent years.
Still, St Martin’s have taken an important step in the right direction, and they need only look at the path taken by their conquerors as the incentive for the future.
Oulart The Ballagh lost two finals before winning their first, so the message to the ladies from Piercestown and Murrintown is clear, keep believing, re-double their efforts, and that day in the sun mightn’t be too far away.
County Chairman Larry Dunne did the honours at the after-match presentation, handing over the Packie Kelly Memorial Cup to Oulart The Ballagh captain Aisling Moran, and the player of the match award to Siobhan Cullen.
Oulart The Ballagh: Fiona Dunne, Helena Jacob, Coleen Atkinson, Karen Atkinson, Stacey Redmond, Mary Leacy, Siobhan Cullen, Aishling Moran (Capt), Una Leacy (0-2), Sharon Kehoe, Diane Ryan, Caroline Murphy, Ciara Storey, Ursula Jacob (1-5), Emma Moran. Subs: Ciara Scallan for E Moran. Claire Sinnott, Stacey Kehoe, Elizabeth Murphy, Kerrie Dunne, Christine Fortune, Caroline Fortune, Catriona Fortune, Hannah Doran, Shelley Kehoe, Donna Kirwan.
St Martins: Margaret D’Arcy, Ciara Quigley, Maire O’Connor, Tara Kehoe, Noeleen Lambert, Aine Codd, Muireann McCarthy, Sinead Dempsey, Avril Boland, Orla Power (0-1), Nicola Butler (Capt), Katrina Parrock (0-1), Deirdre Colfer, Tina Bergin (0-1), Miriam Lambert (0-3). Subs: Louise Fanning for D Colfer, Fiona Toomey for N Butler, Triona Doyle for O Power. Helen Boggan, Tracy Browne, Kate Devereux, Trish Gahan, Ann Marie Lambert, Alma Radford, Jenny Rowe, Lisa Rowe, Amy Ryan.