A superb late rally ensured the County Ladies Minor Championship came back to the Cathedral town after a considerable absence, on Saturday last at a wet and windswept Tri a Lough, Fanad.
St. Eunan’s 3-7
St. Michael’s 3-1
The game, originally down for Termon was changed at almost the last minute much to the annoyance of both sets of fans.
St. Eunan’s playing into a very strong wind, started the brighter with full forward Niamh McMenamin registering their first point after five minutes, followed up by a fine point from vice-captain Aisling Breen on 10 mins.
It stayed like that until the 23rd minute when Lauren Harper pointed for Eunan’s on the 23rd minute to leave the score at St. Eunan’s 0-3 St. Michael’s 0-0. Although Michael’s had a strong wind at their backs, a combination of wides and some excellent defending from the Eunan’s back six led by the brilliant Kaneshia McKinney, kept them from registering until the 29th minute when Evelyn McGinley sent over a fine point to cut the deficit to two.
One minute later, McGinley was brought down inside the Eunan’s penalty area and referee Kieran McShea had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Aine Coll stepped up and put the ball past the Eunan’s ‘keeper Laura Crawford to give St. Michael’s a one point lead. Amazingly, Evelyn McGinley then had the ball in the back of the Eunan’s net from the kick-out to leave St. Michael’s leading 2-01 to 0-03 at the break.
The second half started with County star Rose Boyle pointing again for St. Eunan’s aided by the strong breeze, with McMenamin following up with her second point and Eunan’s fifth.
This was the catalyst for a period of sustained Eunan’s pressure, but Eunan’s found their efforts thwarted by the resilience of Maria Carr in midfield and Marion Doherty in the forward line. Halfway through the second half St. Michael’s dealt St. Eunan’s a sucker blow when Aine Coll again found the net against the run of play.
Instead of letting their heads drop St. Eunan’s, led by a midfield pairing of Lauren O’ Connell and Sadhbha Medler carried on applying the pressure and 2 points by Medler left it a three point game.
The goal of the game came from Centre half forward Sinead Hession who picked up a high ball into the area and unleashed a rocket on the turn that gave St. Michael’s keeper Mary B. O’Donnell no chance. Soon after, substitute Sinead Dunne found the net with a low shot into the corner and all of a sudden Eunan’s had their tails up and really applied the pressure. Hession gained possession from the kick-out and placed a beautiful shot out of the reach of O’ Donnell to give Eunan’s a six point lead and effectively end St. Michael’s hopes of capturing the crown.
The final whistle brought scenes of unbridled joy and ecstasy from the Eunan’s camp as the players embraced and celebrated a victory that was very hard earned.
St. Eunan’s manager Alan O’Connell paid tribute to his charges after the game. “While the conditions were never going to lend themselves to the playing of attractive football that both ourselves and Michael’s are capable of, we always thought that the team that got stuck in and didn’t give in would win out in the end.
“Fair play to St. Michael’s, we were almost cruising in the first half and the two goals really brought us down to earth with a bump. The penalty rocked us and we lost the concentration for the second one and St. Michael’s punished us.
“I told them at half time not to panic, stick to the plan, and the scores would come….and thankfully they did. We never dropped our heads and were always willing to go at them and it paid off. In the last four years this team has reached two County semi-finals and two finals and we’ve never won any of them, indeed St. Michael’s beat us two years ago in the Under 16 final.
“It’s not a case of getting revenge, it’s more a case of sticking at it and the rewards will come. I have to compliment this team for its dogged determination after getting so many knock-backs. This win today really makes it all worthwhile. Every player here today has suffered heartbreak on the pitch over the years and to see them so happy here really does your heart good.”
This win is the second Eunan’s ladies title of the week, with the Under 16s claiming the crown with a win over Naomh Mhuire last Tuesday.