By Daragh Ó Conchúir
The Ashbourne Cup final has produced its share of drama of the years and the 2016 renewal added its own chapter with a breathtaking conclusion to a wonderful game in Gort.
It took an injury time goal from their Tipperary hat-trick hero Sarah Fryday to give last year’s beaten finalists, University of Limerick their sixth title and in the process, deny University College Cork their 33rd, but first since 2002 on a 3-12 to 4-7 scoreline.
It looked like the Mardyke contingent might have snatched the honours themselves when turning a six-point deficit around to lead by two after a very late goal from their own hat-trick star, Cork All Star Katrina Mackey.
The conclusion was typical of the ebb and flow of the decider, played in hailstones and sunshine.
UL were favourites, having gained revenge on Waterford IT for last year’s defeat in the semi-final. They went two points clear early on but UCC thundered into life a goal from the ever-threatening Mackey.
Unperturbed, UL bounced back with a goal from of their own though from Fryday and a point from Kerry sharpshooter, Patrice Diggin to extend their lead to four. UCC halved that by the interval and the spoils were still up for grabs, 1-5 to 1-3.
The margin was still two when Fryday struck for her second goal in the 44th minute and another point from player of the match Diggin put six between them.
Back came UCC once more, with another Cork panellist, Hannah Looney with a goal 11 minutes from time.
The drama was heightened when Mackey found the net once more and the sides were level with five minutes remaining.
UL edged a couple of points clear once more thanks to Diggin but the skull and crossbones got their noses in front for the first time, and apparently with impeccable timing, when Mackey registered her third goal.
But that was reckon without the desire and character of the Laura McMahon-captained side, and Fryday snatched the honours with the game’s final act.
Earlier in the day, Cork IT won the Purcell Cup, defeating Maynooth University 1-12 to 0-4. Points from Wexford player Linda Bolger and Cork underage star Michelle Murphy helped establish a five-point interval lead (0-8 to 0-3). Bolger continued to find the target and it was comfortable in the end.
The proceedings at Gort got under way early in the morning with Trinity winning the Fr Meachair Cup by 1-10 to 0-8, at the expense of Athlone IT.
The sides were deadlocked at half time (0-7 to 1-4) but with the defence holding firm and Dublin forward, Aisling Maher keeping the scoreboard ticking over, it was Trinity’s day.