Tesco All-Ireland Ladies Football club championship final – Inch Rovers (Cork) 0-9 Carnacon (Mayo) 0-7

Tesco All-Ireland Ladies Football club championship final

Inch Rovers (Cork) 0-9 Carnacon (Mayo) 0-7

by Jackie Cahill at Leahy Park, Cashel

CORK dual star Mary O’Connor kicked five points as Inch Rovers were crowned Tesco All-Ireland Ladies senior club football champions for the very first time on Sunday.

O’Connor led the scoring charge at Cashel’s Leahy Park as Rovers finally got one over on Mayo kingpins Carnacon, in the third All-Ireland final meeting between the two teams in just four seasons.

Rovers had suffered big-day heartbreak against Carnacon in 2007 and 2008 but despite registering a massive tally of 14 wides, the team operating out of Killeagh GAA club would not be denied on this occasion.

With the breeze at their backs in the opening half, Rovers established a 0-6 to 0-3 half-time lead and they more than matched Carnacon in the second half to secure the Dolores Tyrrell Memorial Cup.

Cork defender Angela Walsh enjoyed a ding-dong battle with Carnacon’s Mayo county star Cora Staunton and this duel would go a long way towards deciding the outcome of the game.

Staunton hit 0-5, including three frees, over the course of the game but Walsh can look back on her display with a considerable degree of satisfaction as Staunton was unable to wreak a massive amount of havoc.

With just seconds remaining, Carnacon were reduced to 14 players when another of the team’s county stars, Martha Carter, received a yellow card from referee Joe Murray.

The game was gone from Carnacon by then and the final whistle sparked jubilant scenes from Inch Rovers, who follow in the footsteps of previous Cork winners Newtownshandrum, Watergrasshill, St Enda’s and Donoughmore.

This was Carnacon’s fourth final appearance in five years and while the Westerners had some real class in their team, Inch Rovers displayed the greater hunger from the first whistle.

Scores were hard to come by, however, on a bitterly cold afternoon although the Leahy Park sod held up extremely well after the tie was switched from Banagher.

Two O’Connor frees sandwiched a fine Jessica O’Shea point from play to hand Rovers a 0-3 to 0-0 lead after 17 minutes of playing time.

Michelle McGing landed the first Carnacon point in the 19th minute but O’Connor responded with two superb points from play off her trusty left boot, as Rovers surged 0-5 to 0-1 clear.

Staunton, extremely quiet until then and on the receiving end of some intense Rovers tackling whenever she got possession of the ball, kicked two quickfire frees to keep Carnacon in touch.

That Staunton brace brought Carnacon back to within two points of a wasteful Inch Rovers, who racked up six of their 14 wides in the first half, before Amy O’Shea, a late replacement for Fiona Neville, pointed for Rovers.

A three-point half-time lead was a precarious position for Rovers having played with the wind advantage but it would prove enough as the new champions decided that attack was the best form of defence in the second half.

Anne-Marie Walsh was in superb form at left half back for Rovers, bombing forward time and time again from defence to assist a hard-working Rovers midfield and attack.

In the centre of the park, Annie Walsh pulled the strings with a powerful display and she kicked the opening point of the second half, three minutes after the restart, as Rovers moved 0-7 to 0-3 in front.

Staunton responded with a 35th point for Carnacon but Tipperary native Jill Horan kicked arguably the score of the game in the 38th minute.

The Premier County camogie star picked up possession 45 yards from goal, knifed through the Carnacon defence and landed a superb point into the breeze.

Now four points down, Carnacon were in big trouble and their attempts to get back into the game became increasingly desperate.

Staunton landed a free before registering her team’s very first wide of the day, with eight minutes of normal time remaining.

At the other end, Inch Rovers were ruining some good approach play with wasteful finishing and Staunton could have made them pay in the 52nd minute, shooting straight at Rovers captain and goalkeeper Gearoidin Kearney.

O’Connor (free) and Staunton traded points as Rovers held a 0-9 to 0-6 advantage, which was almost wiped out by Michelle McGing in the 60th minute.

Midfielder McGing let fly with a fine shot from 20 metres but Kearney produced a fine save to preserve her ‘clean sheet.’

Aoife Brennan completed the scoring as Carnacon kept pushing but time ran out for the three-time winners as Inch Rovers celebrated a famous win.

Scorers for Carnacon: C Staunton 0-5 (3f), M McGing & A Brennan 0-1 each.

Scorers for Inch Rovers: M O’Connor 0-5 (3f), J O’Shea, Annie Walsh, J Horan & A O’Shea 0-1 each.

CARNACON: M Higgins; N Hurst, C McGing, S McGing; M Corbett, A Loftus, N Tierney; C Egan, M McGing; N Beegan, C Staunton, M Carter; A Brennan, F McHale, D Hughes.

Sub: E Flannery for Beegan (47).

INCH ROVERS: G Kearney; M Kennedy, Angela Walsh, J Duffy; D O’Shea, S Smiddy, A.M. Walsh; O Cotter, Annie Walsh; J O’Shea, C Keohane, S Harrington; A O’Shea, M O’Connor, J Horan.

Subs: C Walsh for Kennedy (56), F Neville for Harrington (60+3).

Referee: J Murray (Dublin).