Gala All-Ireland Junior Camogie Final replay
Roscommon 1-7 Armagh 0-7
At last! After the heart-break of last year’s agonising one-point loss to Meath in the final at the same venue, Roscommon staged a storming second half display to wrestle the Nancy Murray Cup from the clutches of Armagh in this thrilling final replay played in Drumlane, County Cavan last Sunday.
The strong wind and squally showers militated against good camogie but both sides battled fiercely throughout and the big crowd were treated to a match that was on a knife-edge until the final whistle.
Roscommon played against the elements in the first half and Kelly Hopkins played at full-forward because of injury. The Roscommon management decided to bring back Annette McGeeney to patrol the area in front of the full-back line. It meant that Roscommon were a little short up front in that first half but the tactic worked because the Armagh danger-woman Collette McSorley was restricted to long-range shots at goal and placed balls in the first half.
Then in the second period when McGeeney returned to the attack Roscommon were much more potent and were able to get the scores to take the title – although in the final analysis the goal that Roscommon got in first half injury-time from Claire Curley, which reduced the margin to one point, was crucial.
Gertie Dowd started in place of Sinead O’Brien on the Roscommon team and Armagh dominated possession in the opening twenty minutes with the aid of the elements. Bernie Murray and Niamh McGowan were in control at midfield and they provided plenty of ball for the Armagh attack.
However Roscommon were determined to restrict the Armagh attack and they did that. Marie Glennon, Niamh Connolly, Catriona Morris, Donna Kelly and Annette McGeeney repelled attack after attack from the Orchard County girls.
In the 7th minute Armagh danger-woman Collette McSorley opened the scoring with a 25-metre free after she herself was fouled and four minutes later the same player was on target with a ’45. Roscommon were making little impact up front but they were keeping Armagh at bay. McSorley was on target again from another ‘45 after 16 minutes and two minutes later it was 0-4 to 0-0 when McSorley scored a 20-metre free.
In the 19th minute the margin was five with another placed ball conversion from McSorley but gradually Roscommon were getting into the game and in the last ten minutes of the first half Roscommon secured a foothold, especially at midfield, where Niamh Coyle began to exert her influence.
In the 23rd minute Gertie Dowd had a great chance of a Roscommon goal but her first-time pull was deflected out for a 45 and Kelly Hopkins opened Roscommon’s scoring with a superb strike. However the score that made all the difference came in first-half injury-time just when it looked as though Roscommon were going to go in four points adrift.
Roscommon staged one late attack before the half-time whistle. Kelly Hopkins, Catriona Regan and Cait Kenny were involved before the ball was put out for a ’45. Kelly Hopkins’ shot dropped short but Claire Curley was quickest to react and she fired home a superb shot from close range to leave the half-time score: Armagh 0-5 Roscommon 1-1.
Roscommon fans roared their team off the field for the break and with the elements at their backs in the second half it was looking good for Roscommon. However Armagh fought like tigers in that second period and it was only in the final two minutes that Roscommon pulled away to win the title.
McSorley extended Armagh’s lead with a super 45-metre strike after two minutes but Roscommon were now playing well. Niamh Coyle, Donna Kelly Catriona Regan and Annette McGeeney were superb as Roscommon fought for that elusive title. In the 5th minute Cait Kenny struck a super point from 40 metres to narrow the gap and three minutes later Niamh Coyle burst through to level the scores with a lovely point from all of 50 metres out.
It was frantic stuff now as every ball was contested as if it was the final ball of the game. Kelly Hopkins edged Roscommon ahead with a free in the 13th minute but Armagh were not going to lie down. The exchanges were fiercely contested and it was ten minutes before there was another score.
In the 23rd minute, Orchard midfielder Bernie Murray levelled the scores again with a fantastic point from 40 metres and with less than six minutes to go it was level-pegging: Roscommon 1-4 Armagh 0-7.
Then in the 25th minute Catriona Regan scored a majestic point from 25 metres to nudge Roscommon ahead. But Roscommon could not get the insurance point and there was always the possibility that Armagh could break away and get a winning goal. The tension was unbearable as the game entered injury-time.
However Roscommon sealed their win in added time with two wonderful points from Annette McGeeney. She first struck in the 31st minute from 25 metres after a searing run and then a minute later McGeeney was on target again with a similar score to extend Roscommon’s lead to three.
Two minutes later the final whistle sounded and the hundreds of Roscommon supporters who had made the long journey swarmed on to the field to acclaim their heroes. It was a hard-earned but well-merited title win and all 26 players on the Roscommon panel played their part in this victory. However on the day Niamh Connolly, Donna Kelly, Niamh Coyle, Annette McGeeney, Catriona Regan Claire Curley and Kelly Hopkins were most prominent.
I was there last year to witness the devastation amongst the Roscommon players as the final was lost by only one point to Meath at the same venue. It was great to be there to see the tears of joy as the Nancy Murray Cup was presented to team captain Donna Kelly. Well done to all concerned.
Roscommon: Caroline Connaughton; Marie Glennon, Niamh Connolly, Catriona Morris; Catherine Rogerson, Donna Kelly (capt.), Grainne Egan; Patricia Lennon, Niamh Coyle (0-1); Gertie Dowd, Annette McGeeney (0-2), Catriona Regan (0-1); Cait Kenny (0-1), Kelly Hopkins (0-2), Claire Curley (1-0). Subs: Sinead O’Brien for Dowd, Carmel Killeen for Rogerson.
Armagh: Colleen Comiskey; Bronagh Keenan, Ann McGuigan, Patrice Murphy; Emma Farrell, Laura Gribben, Caoimhe McKenna; Bernie Murray (0-1), Niamh McKeon; Ciara Donnelly, Grainne Kelly, Joanne Mallon (capt); Cathy Smith, Collette McSorley (0-5), Paula McMahon. Subs: Micheala King for Mallon.
Referee: Karl O’Brien (Dublin).
Player of the Match
Annette McGeeney (Roscommon)
There were many heroic performances on the day. For Armagh, Laura Gribben, Bernie Murray and the supremely talented Collette McSorely were all excellent. For Roscommon, Marie Glennon, Donna Kelly, Catriona Regan, Claire Curley and Kelly Hopkins were all excellent in a great team effort. Niamh Coyle was outstanding at midfield – but just pipping her is Annette McGeeney, who was a powerhouse throughout. She played in defence in the first half and broke up one Armagh attack after another. Then in the second half she led the Roscommon attack and scored two crucial points before the end of the game. A fantastic performance.