Ursulines Thurles, with former Irish international captain Eimear Cregan patrolling the sideline, were looking for a first title in 16 years in a novel all-North Munster final, but they found Crescent netminder Hickey in unforgiving mood. The Dooradoyle school, with coach Ollie O’Connor in his 10th year at the helm, took their chances with aplomb, helped by good fortune, to atone for last year’s penalty strokes defeat to Bandon Grammar.
Crescent got the perfect start when Irish U18 Clodagh Moloney’s short corner bash found its way to the backboard off a defensive stick just four minutes in. But Ursulines, with Ireland U16 Edel Nyland in flying form, came roaring back and could have had an equaliser midway through the half. Eimear Herlihy did have the ball in the net from close range but a short corner had been blown to Ursulines’ dismay. Hickey then began her tour de force with saves off a slew of corners from Nyland, Darielle Ronan and Becky Danaher, daughter of former Irish rugby international Philip.
That trio, plus skipper Orla Lynch and Kate Crotty, drove Ursulines on and the Tipperary school were unlucky as Crotty’s beautiful reverse-stick cross missed a plethora of sticks looking for a goal-bound touch shortly before half-time.
Crescent then hit them with two sucker punches early in the second half, one a goal for the ages, another owing to luck.
The first saw Michelle Barrett’s crashed free brilliantly deflected to the far top corner by outstanding 14-year-old Aebhfinn Bourke. Less than a minute later, Ursulines’ Maria Kinane did brilliantly to take a goalbound Ciara Leahy shot off the line, only to see her clearance hit the back of unsighted goalkeeper Sylvia O’Donnell and go in for an unfortunate own goal.
There were still 20 minutes remaining for Ursulines to pull it out of the fire, and Nyland gave them hope when she beat three tacklers and arrowed a tracer into the far bottom corner. They pushed hard for a second, with Nyland snatching at a shot when clean through after winning the ball in the press, but again the irrepressible Hickey was to the fore, making a double save from Danaher to see her side home safely.
URSULINES THURLES: S O’Donnell (GK); O Lynch (capt), A McGrath, E Nyland, E Herlihy, C Murtagh, C O’Dwyer, J Murphy, A Crotty, D Ronan, M Kinane, A Phelan, K Crotty, B Danaher, R Hodgins, R Dowling.
CRESCENT: E Hickey (GK), C Moloney, C Coffey, N Power, M Mawhinney, S O’Hanrahan (capt), M Barrett, S Woods, R Harbison, J O’Malley, C Leahy, J Lyddy (GK), A Dinneen, C Monaghan, A Bourke, Aisling Horan, A Ryan, Anna Horan.
Umpires: J Beamish & P Oakley