A whooping 2-3 in the closing quarter, to Mullagh’s paltry two points, was pivotal to Ardrahan writing another new chapter in the history of Galway camogie and, more importantly, seeing off the challenge of overwhelming favourites Mullagh in Loughrea on Sunday.
Given the way Ardrahan, who had defeated reigning champions Killimor in the semi-final, went about winning this county title, you would wonder how the pundits got it so wrong. Ardrahan, when they opened up, were awesome in securing a first ever Galway senior championship.
An explosive closing quarter exemplified this. Having seen their four point interval lead wiped out in the third quarter by a resurgent Mullagh, Ardrahan pinned back the ears again and took flight with two fine points from Keelin O’Shaughnessy and a free from the ultra-dependable Rebecca Hennelly.
A placed ball from Rachel Monaghan had kept her struggling side in touch but when Ardrahan ghosted in for their second goal, to take a 2-8 to 1-6 lead, the Mullagh challenge was crippled irrevocably. That 56th minute goal was simply sublime.
It came from a surging run from Denise Diviney – a player of the match contender who was a late addition to the starting line-up after missing the semi-final through injury – and her clinical effort on the run gave a fully stretched Catriona Daly no chance in the Mullagh goals. Top corner. Top class.
Within minutes, Ardrahan had the deal signed, sealed and delivered when they struck for their third – this time a Hennelly sideline cut causing the Mullagh rearguard all sorts of problems and when they failed to clear substitute Cliodhna Walsh pounced on the loose ball to net.
What was interesting was that the three goals came from the two players – Diviney and Walsh – who had battled it out for the right corner forward position. That both players netted underlined the quality Ardrahan had in their ranks.
The final score was registered by Mullagh and, in many respects, it was a great irony that it came from a Rachel Monaghan placed ball. Usually a reliable freetaker, it was a miserable afternoon for the unfortunate teenager.
Following three wides and a saved effort in the first period, at a time when Mullagh should have put more scores on the board, Monaghan’s freetaking duties were subsequently handed over to Sarah Dervan, Cathy Bowes and Sinead Cahalan – one long range effort – before Monaghan was handed back the responsibility late on.
In truth, despite Dervan and Bowes both landing frees, Monaghan, arguably, should have been put back on the dead balls once she netted Mullagh’s goal two minutes after the break. By this stage, her confidence would have been back up and Mullagh needed her to return to form.
Monaghan’s goal came from a Dervan clearance which was collected by Aoife Donohue who, in turn, played in the sharpshooter. Although Ardrahan custodian Roisin Gardiner got her body behind it, the sliotar still managed to worm its way to the net.
It certainly was a tonic for Monaghan and Mullagh and over the third quarter Declan Hardiman’s charges looked as if they were about to turn the screw on Ardrahan. However, a couple of wides and a plethora of efforts falling short into Gardiner’s hands hurt them badly.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.