Third time lucky as St. Ibar's end Ferns' reign
IT WAS a case of third time lucky for St. Ibar's/Shelmalier in Hollymount on Saturday last when they came from behind at half-time to edge out holders Ferns St. Aidan's in the delayed Minor camogie Roinn 1 championship final of 2013.
Remarkably this was the third successive meeting of the clubs at this stage of the 12-a-side competition, and the visitors had prevailed in their clashes in 2011 and 2012 in Oylegate and Taghmon respectively.
However, their quest for the three-in-a-row was denied by St. Ibar's/Shelmalier who had won the toss for home venue, and they were completing a treble of their own after capturing Senior and Under-14 championship titles already in 2013.
This was a very tight contest as the scoreline would suggest, and the fact that the home side were more adept at picking off scores from play made all the difference. Just half of their 1-7 tally came from placed balls, with team captain Hazel O'Leary pouncing for the all-important goal midway through the last quarter.
The St. Ibar's/Shelmalier defence was in outstanding form as the entire Ferns tally was confined to points from frees and '30s in contrast, and the superiority of the girls in blue and red ensured that they brought an Under-18 championship title back to Hollymount for the first time since 1998. It was also a historic last-ever 12-a-side game in this grade as Convention before Christmas passed a motion to make Under-18 Roinn 1 15-a-side in 2014.
This final had been called off on December 14 due to the high winds and driving rain which made St. Patrick's Park unplayable. However, the weather Gods were smiling on Saturday morning and the lower pitch in Hollymount lived up to its reputation by being as dry as one could expect after the non-stop rain of recent weeks.
St. Ibar's/Shelmalier were first off the mark when free-taker Róisín Tobin converted a placed ball and added a point from play, but the next four scores went to Ferns as the accurate Emer Nolan pointed three frees and a '30 between the seventh and 19th minutes (0-4 to 0-2).
Tobin and Nolan added further to their tallies from frees before the break, leaving it all to play for with two points between them. Neither team added a score in the third quarter, but Tobin broke the deadlock from a '30 in the 47th minute before Leona Breen cancelled it out immediately with a fine strike from a long-range free (0-6 to 0-4).
The stone-wall defending of St. Ibar's/Shelmalier quintet Ciara Corrigan, Maeve Doyle, Linzi Lanigan, Niamh Walsh and Niamh Doyle gradually frustrated Ferns, and their team's momentum started to build when Tobin sent another free over the bar to narrow the gap to the minimum.
The crucial goal arrived in the 53rd minute when a shot from the right flank by team captain Hazel O'Leary found its way to the corner of the net, although the Over The Water side still had a lot to do as Emer Nolan quickly pulled back a point from a free to make it 1-5 to 0-7.
O'Leary, one of two members of the winning side to play Senior championship camogie already along with Niamh Walsh, was to the fore again when she added a vital point, and Róisín Tobin completed the scoring from a '30 for St. Ibar's/Shelmalier who will only be losing two of their squad of 15 for the 2014 campaign.
Barbara Ryan, Children's Officer of the County Board, was on hand to present the Packy Kelly Memorial Cup to a delighted team captain, Hazel O'Leary.