Saturday 25 November 2017

Oulart lose grip on crown

AT THE end of the day Oulart-The Ballagh didn't lose their All-Ireland Senior club camogie crown in a woeful first-half when they were held scoreless as their Cork opponents racked up 1-10.

The hosts lost their title on Sunday afternoon last in the first ten minutes of the second-half. Just when the local team needed a fast start with a dying wind at their backs, Milford added the only two scores of the period, opening up a 1-12 to nil lead after 42 minutes.

In a spell when the muted home support needed to get behind their team, when the underdogs needed to be put under pressure and have their will tested, it just didn't happen. Oulart-The Ballagh could never shake the disjointed play that blighted the first-half and it just left them with too much to do when a spirited Milford finally tired in the final quarter.

That doesn't take away from a truly horrific first-half. It was played exclusively in the Oulart-The Ballagh half of the field, to such an extent that the home side failed to have a shot at the target of any description.

If Milford held all the aces in the opening 30 minutes, their opponents possessed a pair of spades. Spades that seemed collectively attached to their boots which left them digging in with every stride and moving a step slower all over the heavy pitch.

The visitors looked dangerous from the off as they registered early scores from Emer Watson and Marie O'Neill (two). In between the O'Neill double, Milford almost grabbed the first goal only for Deirdre O'Reilly to pull wide when under pressure from Helena Jacob.

There was no such respite in the 13th minute when O'Neill's shot was saved by Jacob and Regina Curtin followed in and pulled to the empty net. The goal galvanised an already fiery Milford side as they went 1-4 to nil up with a second Watson point in the 15th minute.

A few stoppages dampened the building momentum momentarily, but six points in the final four minutes of normal time, plus five of added time, with Aine Watson and O'Neill grabbing a brace apiece, put Milford in the driving seat.

Big changes were needed at half-time and the first came when the scoreboard operator removed the scores from the board. It certainly didn't give the home side any added confidence as Milford started the second period the way they ended the first.

Maria Watson clipped over inside 60 seconds and, with Oulart-The Ballagh struggling to get a grip in the middle third of the field, Emer Watson added her fourth point (1-12 to nil).

The incredible intensity that the Munster champions played with in the opening half couldn't last forever and Oulart-The Ballagh's first score, in the 42nd minute, was the start of that dip.

Jacob added a '45 and a nice effort from play to her opener to close the gap to twelve (1-12 to 0-3). Another dead-ball double from the multiple All Star finally gave the champions a little belief, a feeling that grew further four minutes from time with Oulart-The Ballagh's only goal.

Una Leacy's long ball came at Rebecca Finn on a low, powerful arc, and she could only bat it in the direction of Aishling Moran who fired to the net from six yards out.

Another Jacob free left six between the sides heading into the last three minutes, and when Leacy was hauled down baring in on goal she was given the chance to pull her side within three entering the last few minutes. However, the forward's free rose high and flew over the bar and with it Oulart-The Ballagh hopes of a successful defence ended as Milford advanced to face Killimor in the March 2 decider.

New Ross Standard

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