With frozen pitches playing havoc with fixtures throughout the month of January it looked like the annual Dowd Cup weekend may be in jeopardy, but thankfully due to the co-operation of the participating teams the preliminary fixtures took place and the weekend went off without a hitch on 29th & 30th January in UUJ.
Six counties and three colleges battled throughout January for semi-final spots with UUJ, QUB, Down and Monaghan qualifying for weekend action at the end of the month. In the colleges section UUJ looked particularly strong throughout the group stages and it was Monaghan who shone through in the counties, so it was no surprise to see both reach the final having disposed of Down and QUB in their respective semi-final games. UUJ eased through their semi-final, but it took a strong second half performance by the Farney girls to overcome the challenge of Queens to set up an exciting final.
The final was a tight affair from start to finish, the lead exchanging hands five times, as the defences on both sides ruled, but it was five consecutive points from the eventual winners in the final quarter of the game that proved crucial. They trailed by two with 15 minutes left, and in the end, two points from 17-year-old Caoimhe Mohan in the dying minutes of normal time finally gave Monaghan some breathing space as time ran out for UUJ.
UUJ raced into a two point lead by the sixth minute, Adele Gallagher opening the scoring and Sinead Fegan doubling that lead. A point from a free off the boot Catriona McConnell in the 9th minute put Monaghan on the scoreboard. Monaghan were soon in the lead, however, when McConnell blasted to the back of the net from the penalty spot after Ciara McAnespie, through on goal, was brought down by UUJ goalkeeper Emma Kelly. A converted free from Gallagher and a point apiece from play from Aoife McDonell and Rachel Fulton put the holders back in front by the 24th minute. At that point of the game, Monaghan goalkeeper Edel Corrigan pulled off a fine save from Lorraine Heavron, that could well have changed the course of the game had gone in, but it was Monaghan that held the half-time advantage 1-3 to 0-5 with a point from Ellen McCarron and Isobel Kieran.
The lead exchanged hands four minutes after the restart when Aoife McDonnell got on the end of a rebound from a superb McCarron save to deny Heavron and the holders were now 1-5 to 1-3 in front. In a hard fought game, referee Eileen Jones, ended up sending four players, two from each side, to the sin bin for 10 minutes for separate incidents. Monaghan were first reduced to 14 players when Ellen McCarron was yellow carded in the 9th minute, followed a minute later by Sinead Fegan for UUJ. Three minutes later and Isobel Kieran joined her team-mate and in the 19th minute, Maria Donnelly saw the game take a 13-a-side dimension. Monaghan reduced the deficit to a single point with a McConnell free in between the last two sin-binnings and it was another McConnell free in the 20th minute that leveled the scores. Then came another three in a row from the county side, that point from player of the match McNally in the 22nd minute and two from Mohan in the last two minutes of normal time. There were seven minutes of added time, in which UUJ managed to reduce the gap to the minimum, with Fegan and Heavron raising the white flag, but the goal they needed didn’t come and it was Monaghan who held on on a scoreline of 1-8 to 1-7.
Meanwhile in the McNally Plate competition St Mary’s easily saw off the challenges of all their opposition throughout all stages of the competition to meet UUJ 2 in the final. Excellent displays from Rebecca McCrory, Rachel McKenna, Laura McCreesh and player of the match Emma Hegarty, to name a few meant they lifted the title for the second year running in what was quite a one sided affair.
Before announcing the recipients of the McKeever Sports All Star team, Hugh Devenney (Ulster Ladies President) commended Sheena Tally, Ulster GAA Ladies Football Development Officer on her excellent organisation of the competition and thanked Padraic McKeever from McKeever Sports on their continued sponsorship of the event. The 2011 McKeever Sports All Star team is as follows:
1 – Edel Corrigan – Monaghan
2 – Isobel Kierans – Monaghan
3 – Cathy Carey – UUJ
4 – Christina Reilly – Monaghan
5 – Sinead Fegan – UUJ
6 – Neamh Woods – UUJ
7 – Sharon Courtney – Monaghan
8 – Laura McCreesh – St Mary’s
9 – Sarah Donnelly – QUB
10 – Emma Hegarty – St Mary’s
11 – Rachel Fulton – UUJ
12 – Therese McNally – Monaghan
13 – Caoimhe Mohan – Monaghan
14 – Aoife McDonnell – UUJ
15 – Catriona McConnell – Monaghan