Ballyshannon Ladies had to endure some tense moments in the final minutes before taking Ulster glory against Cavan on Saturday night.
After building up a first half lead, the ‘Shannon girls were pegged back on two occasions in the second half, but they showed amazing spirit in the final minutes as they kept Cavan on the back foot and one particular turnover with six minutes left by No 8 Mairead Carty was a stand-out moment for this reporter.
With Cavan trying to break out from their own ‘22’ Carty was in after a tackle to smother the ball in textbook style, forcing the penalty for holding on.
This was one of a number of exciting moments in the game, many of the others provided by Louise Collins, who must have set a record for line breaks during the game. Collins took the ball up so many times and on each occasion she did so at speed, always breaking the gain line.
Given the conditions on the night, a shower prior to kick-off leaving the conditions slippery. There were further showers during the game, but both sides made light of the difficult conditions.
The ‘Shannon girls were dominant early on, almost permanently camped in the Cavan half. They threatened on a couple of occasions before a break by Brona Carty on 15 minutes brought a penalty for a high tackle. Danika Doherty’s penalty was scuffed a little, but it had inches to spare over the crossbar as the flags went up to signal the lead for Ballyshannon.
Ten minutes later, Ballyshannon looked as if they had a chance to extend the lead when awarded a penalty in a similar position, but this time scrum half Michelle Bowering took it quickly and it paid rich dividends. After a couple of forays, the ball was moved wide and Shauna Goan was stopped just short of the line. Outhalf Siobhan Coughlan was quickly in support, picking up and getting over in the corner. The difficult conversion was missed by Doherty, but ‘Shannon were in a strong position, 8-0 ahead.
Cavan threatened as the half drew to a close, but the ‘Shannon defence held out well with some good last ditch tackling.
However, with only eight minutes of the second half played, Cavan were back in the contest. They had a number of drives which saw Ballyshannon flanker Fodhla Foody sin binned for ten minutes. The attack proved successful with Cathy King getting after a series of penalties close to the ‘Shannon line. The conversion, again from a difficult position, was missed.
Both sides had periods of possession before the moment of the match came with 15 minutes left. ‘Shannon were on the attack, but when Cavan won possession close to their line, the clearing kick was picked up by Jennifer Liston between the ‘22’ and half-way line. She took off on a mazy run and outstripped the Cavan defence before touching down close to the posts - a magnificent try that was worthy of winning any game. Danika Doherty was just wide with the conversion, but ‘Shannon were now 13-5 ahead.
If they thought they would have an easy run-in, then they were mistaken as Cavan pushed forward in waves looking for the score that would bring them back into the contest. And it arrived with six minutes left as they got in for their second try after a sustained attack. The conversion was again missed, but there was now just three points between them again, 13-10.
The ‘Shannon girls were not going to be denied and the final minutes were played in the Cavan half to ease the worries of the anxious supporters before the final whistle sounded and the celebrations could begin.
Ballyshannon: Brona Carty, Yvette Morrow, Louise Collins, Charlene Loughlin, Dearbhla Fox, Lynda Gallagher, Mairead Carty, Michelle Bowering, Siobhan Coughlan, Shauna Goan, Orlaith Sheridan, Danika Doherty, Jennifer Liston, Anna Rafferty. Replacements: Martina McCann, Kathrina Dolan.
Cavan: Caroline O’Reilly, Clodagh Brady, Rosie Morgan, Cristina Brady, Grainne McDermott, Yvonne Courtney, Cathy King, Clare McDermott, Kathleen Dawson, Anna Coyle, Shuana Brady, Aisling Brady, Karen O’Reilly, Gillian Martin, Deirdre O’Reilly. Replacement: Elena Farrell.