MARY Cronin was the star performer at Mobhi Road yesterday afternoon, as Dominican College booked their place in O'Neill's Senior 'D' All-Ireland Championship decider courtesy of a gutsy victory over Loreto College, Mullingar.
DOMINICAN COLLEGE 1-12
LORETO MULLINGAR 1-6
Loreto captain Julie McLoughlin was a thorn in the side of the Dominican rearguard throughout the contest, and with the exception of a long-range pointed free by half-back Fiona Glynn, contributed all of the Westmeath school's final tally.
This wasn't enough to give Róisín Scally's outfit the triumph that they desired, however, and with corner-forward Claire Byrne finding the back of the Loreto net in the 46th minute, Dominican's were able to push on for a memorable success.
The Griffith Avenue outfit had secured the Dublin title with a thrilling 6-2 to 3-5 win over Loreto Beaufort last month, but it was their Lake County opponents who drew first blood in this outing.
Just three minutes into the action, the dynamic McLoughlin split the posts under the pressure, and even though Dominicans responded with impressive scores from half-forward duo Aoife Wade and the aforementioned Cronin, a subsequent brace by McLoughlin offered Loreto a slender advantage.
Rachel Egan levelled matters for a third time courtesy of a 12th minute point, but following a scrappy spell for both teams, the increasingly elusive McLoughlin sparked fresh impetus into the game when she shot brilliantly past Dominican's netminder Ciara Tierney from a right-hand angle eight minutes before the interval.
This was a hammer blow for the north Dubliners so close to the mid-way point, but they quickly restored parity thanks to a trio of successful placed-ball scores by reliable midfielder Niamh Rock.
Indeed, Cronin's second point of the day ensured that they brought a 0-7 to 1-3 cushion into the second period, and although the outstanding McLoughlin immediately cancelled out this buffer after the restart, the pacey Cronin was once again on target from a distance of 40 metres in the 38th minute.
Glynn's terrific pointed free from distance had set-up a nerve-wracking final-quarter, but when Loreto's Meadbh Scally failed to deal with a speculative effort on goal by the industrious Byrne 14 minutes from the end, Dominican suddenly found themselves in the ascendancy.
Thanks to strong defensive work by Niamh Gleeson and Ashley O'Sullivan, Dominicans were able to keep Loreto at bay as the final-whistle approached, and fine scores from Byrne, Wade and Cronin provided significant daylight between the sides.
Loreto finally added their third point of the half via the tireless McLoughlin five into time added on, but thanks to a fifth point for the magnificent Cronin, Dominican's passage to the final was emphatically sealed.
Scorers – Dominican College: M Cronin 0-5, C Byrne 1-1, N Rock 0-3 (3f), A Wade 0-2, R Egan 0-1. Loreto Mullingar: J McLoughlin 1-5 (0-1f), F Glynn 0-1 (f).
DOMINICAN COLLEGE: C Tierney; C Ellis, N Gleeson, H Brunton; A O'Sullivan, R O'Donoghue, B Hennessy; C Murphy, N Rock; A Wade, M Cronin, N Witter; R Egan, N Murphy, C Byrne. Subs: K O'Neill for Hennessy (36), Hennessy for Egan (58), H Carty for C Murphy (60).
LORETO MULLINGAR: M Scally; S Kearney, L Dunne, S McGrath; F Glynn, N Horan, S Coughlan; S McLoughlin, K Heffernan; A Ruane, J McLoughlin, C Kenny; S Maher, O Kelleghan, L Gavigan.
Subs: R Kelly for Maher (h-t), G O'Connor for Kearney (50).
Referee: M Ward (Laois).