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Victory snatched from Wicklow’s grasp in Nancy Murray Cup final

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The Wicklow team stands for the National Anthem before the Tyrone versus Wicklow Nancy Murray Cup final at Inniskeen Grattans GAA grounds on Saturday. Photos: Dave Barrett.

The Wicklow team stands for the National Anthem before the Tyrone versus Wicklow Nancy Murray Cup final at Inniskeen Grattans GAA grounds on Saturday. Photos: Dave Barrett.

Aoife Keddy heads goalwards.

Aoife Keddy heads goalwards.

Shannagh Goetelen on the run from midfield.

Shannagh Goetelen on the run from midfield.

Laura Hogan on the attack.

Laura Hogan on the attack.

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The Wicklow team stands for the National Anthem before the Tyrone versus Wicklow Nancy Murray Cup final at Inniskeen Grattans GAA grounds on Saturday. Photos: Dave Barrett.

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Tyrone 3-10 Wicklow 3-9

A stunned silence and sense of utter disbelief befell the Wicklow supporters at Inniskeen Grattans GAA Club in the seconds following Sally McCann’s match-winning goal for Tyrone with more or less the last puck of a thoroughly entertaining Nancy Murray Cup final on Saturday afternoon.

The how’s and why’s of this heartbreaking defeat for the team who were without a shadow of a doubt the better of the two for much of this game will be explored at length by the handful of loyal Garden County supporters who made the journey up to the Monaghan venue, but few could have foreseen the coughing up of the nine-point advantage they held five minutes into the second half when Ciara Byrne’s effort flew in over Norah Ward’s head.

In the remaining 25 minutes Tyrone would score 3-4 while Sean Fleming’s side would manage only three points and with each passing minute you felt that the Red Hand side were moving into the position where they could swoop late to spoil what was looking like a comfortable Wicklow win.

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It’s as if the nine-point advantage came at exactly the wrong time. Perhaps it brought a sense of comfort or ease in the minds of the Wicklow players, perhaps it blunted the edge that had put them in the relatively commanding position early in the second half, albeit having left a considerable tally behind them in the opening half.

Wicklow lost at least 11 balls to Tyrone players over the course of that second half as they worked their way out from their savagely hard-working defence and were blocked twice by the feverish Tyrone backs with player of the match Regan Fay outstanding in terms of hunting and foraging.

And it had looked so different after that first half. An early Shannagh Goetelen goal from a shot that flew in over Norah Ward’s head got Sean Fleming’s side up and running after three minutes but Cara Little replied with a point.

Laura Manley got on the end of a fine move all the way from Jessica Driver in the Wicklow goal to point, and the excellent Faye Corrigan made it 1-2 to 0-1 after seven minutes of hard, honest hurling on the patchy, bobbly pitch in Iniskeen.

Two of Wicklow’s 12 wides in this game arrived after Tyrone’s second point, that from Gráinne McDonald, but Laura Manley hit back with a free she won herself to leave it 1-3 to 0-2 after 14 minutes.

Fay’s first for Tyrone left a goal between the sides but that should have been six when Laura Manley picked out Laura Hogan with an exquisite pass only for the Knockananna star to hook her shot and record another wide with only Ward to beat.

There was a decent spell for Tyrone following that miss as they added two points to cut the lead to one but a wicked score from Laura Hogan, a second from Sophie Bermingham and a goal from the Kiltegan player left Wicklow sitting pretty at 2-5 to 0-5 with 24 gone.

A pointed Fay free and a superb score from the very productive Ciara Byrne left it 2-6 to 0-6 at the break with Tyrone having the breeze in the second half.

Ciara Byrne’s goal looked to be a nail in Tyrone’s coffin but, crucially, Wicklow would hit three wides in the next few minutes while Tyrone would pick off three points to leave them just six behind with 10 gone in the second half.

Sean Fleming opted to freshen things up, sending in Aoife Connolly for the battling and busy Aoife Keddy but when a long Wicklow ball inside was lost, Tyrone countered swiftly and Cara Little finished home to the back of Jessica Driver’s net to make it a nervy 3-6 to 1-9 with plenty of time remaining.

Where Wicklow were losing balls at one end of the field, Lisa Hogan, Jade Byrne, Casey Kelly and Alice Mulhall were working like trojans to thwart Tyrone at the other end, but eventually the pressure would tell.

The Garden County lost a ball to Reagan Fay. She fired long to Sally McCann and the ball was in the back of the net with 18 gone. Sides level.

Wicklow attack. Laura Manley, now operating at full-forward, has her shot blocked by Tyrone full-back Cathy Jordan. Manley fires over the resulting 45 but she records a wide moments later when she was surely fouled along the endline.

Superb work from Casey Kelly under a Tyrone puck-out earns Wicklow a 45 but another wayward effort is recorded. Sarah Byrne’s sweet score after 22 pushed Sean Fleming’s side back in front.

Over the next few passages of play Wicklow coughed up at least five balls to Tyrone players but when Laura Manley fought tooth and nail to get the chance for another point, the lead was out to two with only seconds remaining in the three minutes of added time.

Tyrone would have one last attack. Reagen Fay storms through the middle. Eventually, Siobhán Donnelly finds Sally McCann and the ball is rifled home to the back of the net. Jessica Driver takes the puck-out and the final whistle sounds. The Tyrone players and supporters are delirious. Wicklow players collapse to the ground. The supporters are stunned.

How did that happen, seemed to be the question on everybody’s lips.

Fair enough if a team played poorly or didn’t turn up you could understand a defeat, but with superb performances from the majority of players and following a game of a standard that seemed way beyond the Nancy Murray Cup level, that Wicklow had managed to lose this final was a tough one to take.

The defence was immense for the most part, Lisa Hogan particularly determined and brave. Shannagh Goetelen was looking a cert for the player of the match if Wicklow had won, Jessie Byrne hungry as always, Sarah Byrne busy, Ciara Byrne inspired in the first half, Laura Manley leading by example as always, Laura Hogan dangerous throughout, Faye Corrigan relentless and Aoife Keddy catching the eye. Throw in fine showings from Jessica Driver, Jade Byrne, Casey Kelly, Alice Mulhall and Ciara Kelly and the defeat seems even harder to explain.

But Tyrone hung on in there. They didn’t fold when they fell nine points down. They worked relentlessly, mopping up the stray Wicklow balls, and being driven on by the classy Reagan Fay and the very impressive Kaitlin Gallagher while inside they had forwards who could hurl with the proper delivery.

And when the chances came, they took more of them than Wicklow did. It’s as simple as that.

Wicklow: Jessie Driver (Glenealy); Jade Byrne (Kilcoole), Lisa Hogan (Glenealy), Casey Kelly (Donard-The Glen); Alice Mulhall (Knockananna), Shannagh Goetelen (1-1) (Knockananna), Ciara Kelly (Kilcoole); Jessie Byrne (Knockananna), Sarah Byrne (0-1) (Knockananna); Ciara Byrne (1-1) (Knockananna), Laura Manley (0-4, 1f, 1 45) (Glenealy), Faye Corrigan (1-1) (Kiltegan); Aoife Keddy (Kilcoole), Laura Hogan (0-1) (Knockananna), Sophie Bermingham (1-1) (Kiltegan). Subs: Aoife Connolly for A Keddy (40), Maire Deegan for A Mulhall (46), Jessica Maxwell for C Byrne (59).

Tyrone: Norah Ward; Orla Coyle, Cathy Jordan, Una McCann; Bronagh Barker, Áine McNulty, Nicola McKiver; Aoife Teague, Siobhan Donnelly; Kaitlin Gallagher (0-2), Gráinne McDonald (0-1), Reagan Fay (0-5, 3f, 1 45); Róisin O’Neill McKee (0-1), Sally McCann (2-0), Cara Little (1-1). Subs: Leanne McKernan for N McKiver (40), Aoife McDonald for B Barker (54).

Referee: Paul O’Neill (Antrim)


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