By Coilín Duffy
Na Brídeoga finished strongly to claim All-Ireland honours – in just the second year of the Junior ‘B’ competition — with a hard-earned four-point win over Denn yesterday in dry but cold conditions in Athleague.
Goals were key, as both sides offered up a keenly-contested, gripping encounter, played in front of a large crowd.
Denn started well and opened the scoring after just 20 seconds through an Emer Tierney point score from play, but the Cavan outfit took another 30 minutes to add to their tally as Na Brídeoga came good.
Fergal Delaney’s charges equalised in the fourth minute thanks to an Erin Murray score from play, despite a crowded defence.
Meabh Delaney put Na Brídeoga ahead in the ninth minute, after an Orna Hession goal effort was sent out for a ’45, which Delaney converted.
Both sides were guilty of missed chances over the next quarter-hour, but there were also some great defensive displays on both teams, with the likes of Erin Murray, Aoife Doherty, and Mairead Mooney showing well for Na Brídeoga.
Na Brídeoga’s wides tally stood at four before they again came good on the scoreboard.
Sixteen-year-old Meabh Delaney ended a 17-minute deadlock with a well-drilled free, and then a second Erin Murray point, following a fine solo run, put her side 0-4 to 0-1 ahead after 25 and a half minutes.
Áine Charlton was showing tremendously throughout the field for Na Brídeoga, but Denn claimed a much-needed score when free-taker Shanise Fitzsimons landed her first point, 19 seconds into injury time.
Na Brídeoga dominated possession in injury time, and although Meabh Delaney fired wide in the 32nd minute, they came good once more. Áine Charlton put in a good block on an Emer Tierney effort before good teamwork resulted in Orna Hession providing the final pass to Meabh Delaney. Delaney fired the final score of the half with a well-struck effort, as her side took a 0-5 to 0-2 interval lead.
Denn fought back on the restart with the first three attacks, but this only resulted in a point from Fitzsimons, despite all of their early efforts.
Orna Hession cancelled this out with a score from play for Na Brídeoga five minutes into the second half, before substitute Niamh Greally found the net with her first touch after good work in the build-up by Mairead Charlton.
Denn weren’t found wanting and came good once again, scoring 1-2 unanswered.
The Cavan side, managed by Mark McEntee, showed composure, with Shanise Fitzsimons and Casey Maher landing a point each, before they claimed their only goal of the contest.
Hannah Fitzsimons found the net from a long-range free, as they levelled the tie at 1-6 apiece with exactly 15 minutes of normal time remaining.
Na Brídeoga responded strongly, as Meabh Delaney landed a free of her own to the net in the 48th minute to hand her side a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Orna Hession extended the lead to four points with her second point of the game soon after, but Denn never gave up.
Player of the Match Shanise Fitzsimons landed three pointed frees in a row to cut the gap to the minimum, with a little over two minutes of normal time remaining.
Na Brídeoga once again rose to the challenge, with Erin Murray finding the net, after a well-struck sideline cut just as injury time began.
Three minutes of injury time followed, but Na Brídeoga stood firm.
Scenes of unbridled joy followed the full-time whistle, before team captain Eleanor Harrison lifted the cup.
The bonfires were blazing in East Mayo last night for the second time in a week, after Tooreen’s hurlers took Connacht intermediate honours at the same venue seven days before.
After the game, Na Brídeoga captain Eleanor Harrison was presented with the cup by Geraldine McGrath, vice-chairperson of the Camogie Association.
Scorers – Na Brideoga: Meabh Delaney 1-3 (0-1 ’45, 1f), Erin Murray 1-2, Niamh Greally 1-0, Orna Hession 0-2.
Denn: Shanise Fitzsimons 0-7 (5f), Casey Maher and Hannah Fitzsimons (f) 1-0 each, Emer Tierney 0-1.
Na Brideoga: Ruth Crowley; Rachel Lyons, Amy Mulkeen, Shauna Golden; Gráinne Delaney, Ciara Delaney, Aoife Doherty; Meabh Delaney, Áine Charlton; Mairéad Mooney, Eleanor Harrison, Erin Murray; Edel Fitzmaurice, Mairéad Charlton, Orna Hession. Subs: Niamh Greally (for Fitzmaurice 36), Siobhán Mooney (for Hession 60+2).
Denn: Amy Kerrigan; Aoife O’Reilly, Sinéad Reilly, Aisling Collins; Jasmine Brady, Nomonde Majola, Maeve O’Reilly; Emer Tierney, Hannah Fitzsimons; Rebecca Fitzsimons, Shanise Fitzsimons, Sophie Slowey; Maggie Galligan, Daria Kaledek, Casey Maher. Subs: Mia Hughes (for Galligan 23), Megan Brady (for Kaledek 23), Deirdre Reilly (for M O’Reilly 54), Sarah Curran (for Maher 56).
REF: Mike Ryan (Galway).