By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Kilmessan (Meath) 0-9 Clanmaurice (Kerry) 0-5
Kilmessan capitalised on their second bite of the cherry to become AIB All-Ireland Junior Club Camogie champions for the second time after a strong second half performance against a resolute Clanmaurice at Silvermines.
John Watters’ outfit were never in front in the drawn encounter at Crettyard and it took a goal with almost the last act of the game in the third minute of extra time from Aileen Donnelly to secure a replay, four minutes after Aoife Behan had seemed to snatch glory for Clanmaurice in what was a first appearance by a Kerry club in an All-Ireland Camogie Final.
They struggled to break down their gritty opponents on this occasion too but were able to create just a bit more in the second half to edge clear for a deserved victory.
Donnelly earned the AIB Player of the Match award, striking some excellent points from placed balls and showing good leadership, but crucially, Kilmessan had a supporting cast of players able to find the target from play.
That was a luxury that Clanmaurice did not possess and with the brilliant Patrice Diggin nursing a hand injury that may have contributed to her missing a number of placed-ball opportunities that she would normally convert, it was one they needed.
The conditions were much more conducive to a free-flowing game of Camogie than last week, with the sun replacing the howling wind and heavy rain that descended on Crettyard.
Scores were still difficult to come by however, with both sets of defences repeating their superiority over the forward units and Clanmaurice full-back Niamh Leen in particular in Trojan form once more.
Kate Ní Choileáin swooped on a loose ball from a Donnelly delivery to put Kilmessan ahead early on but it was Clanmaurice who appeared to settle better – just as was the case seven days previously – and they responded with three points from Diggin (free), Sadhbh Horgan and Diggin (another free).
Kilmessan gradually eased into proceedings however and two successfully-converted frees by Donnelly brought them level.
Diggin moved Clanmaurice ahead once more from another free but with Alan Doheny just about to blow the short whistle, Maeve O’Leary split the posts to send the teams into the dressing rooms at half time on 0-4 apiece.
Whatever Watters and his fellow mentors said during the interval, it certainly had an impact as Kilmessan resumed with serious intent.
The Meath champions got on the front foot straight away but just as was the case on a number of occasions in the drawn encounter, found Aileen Maunsell refusing to yield easily, the Clanmaurice goalkeeper making two excellent saves.
A brace of pointed frees by Donnelly propelled them into a two-point lead at the three-quarter mark however. In the context of the previous 110 minutes or so of action between these two sides that was a nice advantage.
You expected Clanmaurice to dig deep and Mike Enright’s crew did just that, Diggin making it a one-point tie once more from a free.
But they weren’t to score again. Instead, Donnelly found the target from a difficult free on the left before points from play by Megan Ní Choileáin and Nadine Doyle opened up a four-point margin – the largest there had ever been between the sides.
Still Clanmaurice tried and Diggin forced AnnMarie Dennehy into a splendid save, when a goal would have made it a jittery conclusion.
It wasn’t to be though and their gallant efforts were in vain, with the day belonging to Kilmessan.
SCORERS FOR KILMESSAN: A Donnelly 0-5(fs); K Ní Choileáin, M Thynne, M Ní Choileáin, N Doyle 0-1 each
SCORERS FOR CLANMAURICE: P Diggin 0-4(fs) S Horgan 0-1
KILMESSAN: A M Dennehy, A Walshe, R Kelly, C O’Leary, L O’Neill, A Lynch, T King, S Horan, M O’Leary, K Ní Choileáin, A Donnelly, M Ní Choileáin, K Gorman, M Thynne, L Dennehy. Subs: N Doyle for Gorman (45)
CLANMAURICE: A Maunsell, M Costello, N Leen, T Moran, E Ryall, S Murphy, O Young, P Diggin, L Collins, A Behan, O Dineen, Collins, S Horgan, J Fitzell, J Horgan, A M Leen.
REFEREE: A Doheny (Laois)