Ursuline Convent Thurles ended a 20-year wait for Munster Senior Schoolgirls Cup success with a 2-1 win over Crescent College Comprehensive in Loreto Fermoy yesterday.
Crescent, who were gunning for a fifth straight success and a remarkable 10th in 12 years, were unable to get their high-tempo passing game going, as Thurles’s huge work-rate and physicality denied their twin centre midfielders time and space.
Coaches Sandra Rossiter and Eimear Cregan also nailed their offensive tactics, using their taliswoman Caoimhe Perdue to play direct and early to their pacy forwards, exploiting Crescent’s lack of a sweeper.
The clash of styles made for a wide-open, entertaining final, with both goalkeepers busy in the early exchanges, but it was Thurles who broke the deadlock after 14 minutes, Ruth Hassett making gains along the right endline before crossing for Jill Shanahan to get a vital touch at the near post.
Crescent were level within 90 seconds through Munster U18 skipper Niamh O’Keeffe, who finished the season with the admirable record of having scored all six of her school’s goals during their Cup run.
O’Keeffe continued to look the liveliest in front of goal after the break, with Ursulines netminder Rose O’Sullivan doing well to tip over a rising backhand shot.
However, Thurles got the crucial goal, somewhat against the run of play, midway through the half. Hassett was again the provider, picking out Sarah Murphy at the far post to slot home.
Crescent pulled goalkeeper Niamh Keyes off for the final minutes in favour of an extra outfielder, but Thurles successfully kept the Limerick side away from their circle to record a first success since 1997, one all the sweeter having lost the 2013 and 2015 finals to Crescent. Ursulines went on to win the All-Ireland Kate Russell Schoolgirls Championships that year and will hope their time has come again at the tournament in Ulster next month.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s men finished their Tri-Nations clashes in the south of Spain with a 3-3 draw against the hosts, with Lisnagarvey’s Matthew Nelson scoring his first and second international goals.
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