Ulster heartbreak for Steelstown as Kinawley crowned Intermediate champions
Ulster Intermediate Ladies Football Championship Final
Kinawly 1-08, Steelstown Brian Ogs 1-07
It was Ulster Championship heartbreak for Steelstown Ladies as Fermanagh champions, Kinawley grabbed the provincial glory thanks to Roisin O'Reilly's injury time point in a thrilling Intermediate final in Augher on Saturday.
O'Reilly's 62nd minute score capped an incredible fightback from the Erne County club who found themselves six points down three minutes into the second half of a game Steelstown controlled for long periods. However, driven on by captain and talisman, Joanne Doonan, Kinawly held Steelstown scoreless for 31 second half minutes and slowly chipped away at the Brian Ogs' advantage, drawing level with seven minutes remaining.
In a dramatic finale, both sides had chances to win a game no side deserved to lose but in what was their fourth Intermediate final, the experience of three previous defeats, two of which were by a single point, proved just enough to edge Kinawley over the line. For Steelstown, it was a story over 'what if'.
What if both Orlagh McGeough and Aoife Collins had been available? What if the Brian Ogs had accepted one of four clear goal chances? What if they had held out longer after establishing control with 1-01 at the beginning of the second half? What if a harsh second half yellow card for corner-back Enya Doherty had not gone against them?
All questions that will be running through Steelstown heads but knowing the character of this squad, they will undoubtedly be used as fuel to return to the provincial stage in 2022 and go one step further. Ironically, the new champions provide the perfect example of persistence for Steelstown to draw on. This was Kinawley's day but the race is far from run for this Steelstown group.
Finals at this level are usually decided in the fine margins and in this case, the finest. On a difficult pitch and with both teams tiring following herculean efforts, it was the class of Doonan and O'Reilly who decided it.
After a lighting fast start to the second half, Steelstown thereafter struggled to get decent ball into full forward Leah McGonagle who looked to have the beating of the Kinawley defence. Even at the other end, Aoife McGough did a superb marking job on Doonan but it's difficult to keep a player of that calibre quiet for 60 plus minutes. Each of the Kinawley player's scores, including her pivotal goal and the point that levelled at 1-07 each with seven minutes left, was off the highest quality.
That equaliser set the stage. Eimear O'Doherty and McGonagle both saw shots drift agonisingly wide, as did Aine McGovern for Kinawley. Even after O'Reilly strode forward to split the posts with a majestic winner, Steelstown had time to save themselves but couldn't work a shooting position as Kinawley defended for their lives to ensure there would be no fourth final defeat.
Ironically Steelstown had probably the game's best player in Ella Rose Sainsbury, the young half forward showing experience beyond her years as she knitted play together and linked attack and defence. Emma Doherty and Ciara McGurk was their usual excellent selves while Megan Devine's strong running from deep was a constant weapon for the Brian Ogs.
The difference was they never quite translated that control and possession into the scores they deserved. Turning around at half-time with a fully deserved but narrow 0-6 to 0-4 lead, Steelstown sprang to life in the opening minutes of the second half and looked to have one hand on he cup.
Only 36 seconds after the break, McGurk skipped past two Kinawley challenges to fire a low shot against the post. She still had time though to regather and feed McGonagle who made no mistake with her low finish to the net.
It got even better seconds later when McGonagle this time fired over a brilliant point to stretch the lead to 1-07 to 0-04 but that 33rd minute score would be Steelstown's last of the game.
The lead may still have been enough had Doonan not breathed new life into her team with a superb opportunistic goal out of nothing only five minutes after that McGonagle point. There seemed nothing on when she picked up possession on the right, and McGough gave her precious little to work with, but she still managed to engineer enough room to fire an audacious low finish in off the far post.
Within seconds, Steelstown half-back Enya O'Doherty was heading for the 'sin bin' after a controversial yellow card and the Brian Ogs never quite recovered from those game-changing 120 seconds.
There was no great Kinawley eruption, rather a sustained tightening of the Fermanagh grip that seized control of a midfield Steelstown had previously dominated and negated the threat of McGonagle. It could have gone either way and we would have had worthy champions. Nerves were evident, on and off the pitch, but with all around her searching for composure, O'Reilly hit a score she will never forget. Indeed, no one in Kinawly will.
It was tough on Steelstown but these players won't be down for long. Expect to hear more from this side. This wasn't the end, just a painful step forward on the road to their next success.
Steelstown Brian Ogs: Leah McGonagle (1-1), Megan Devine (0-2), Eimear O'Doherty (0-2), Emma Doherty (0-1, 1f), Ella Rose Sainsbury (0-1),
Kinawley scorers: Joanne Doonan (1-4, 1f), Roisin O'Reilly (0-2), Keelan Murphy (0-1), Aine McGovern (0-1)
Steelstown Brian Ogs: Rugain Doherty, Orlaith McGough, Aoife McGough, Niamh Friel, Enya Doherty, Kathryn Canavan, Lea Casey, Niamh Gilmore, Emma Doherty, Eimear O'Doherty, Ciara McGurk, Ella Rose Sainsbury, Megan Devine, Leah McGonagle, Dara McKeever. (Subs) Laura Henderson for L Casey, 45mins;
Yellow Card: Enya Doherty, 39mins.
Kinawly (Fermanagh): Donna Owens, Corinne Breen, Erin Murphy, Katie Donnelly, Eimear Keenan, Courteney Murphy, Caragh Leonard, Roisin O'Reilly, Aine McGovern, Megan Murphy, Aine Haren, Keelan Murphy, Aine McManus, Joanne Doonan, Niamh McManus. (Subs) Shauna Melanaphy for A Haren, 41mins; Laura Doonan for A McManus, 41mins.
Referee: Shaun McLaughlin (Donegal)