Kate Thompson stepped up with the winning score two minutes from time as Salthill-Knocknacarra edged out O’Dwyers and booked their place in the currentaccount.ie All-Ireland Junior Club Championship Final at the Prairie in Salthill.
It was a day of contrasting weather conditions as blue skies and the sun greeted the teams during the opening 30 minutes before the clouds burst, the wind intensified, and the rain drenched the players.
Salthill-Knocknacarra kicked 19 wides over the hour and they will need to address that before the decider. Three misses came from their first three attacks and it was the visitors who opened the scoring.
O’Dwyers often struggled to move the ball out of defence but when they opened up play in the middle third, they were dangerous as Elsa Kearney and Alana Kelly put them two up.
Lauren O’Donnell replied for Salthill-Knocknacarra but with Shannon Richardson and Kelly tallying, O’Dwyers were 0-4 to 0-1 ahead on 10 minutes.
Thompson got her first point 60 seconds later but the Galway side needed an injection that came when O’Donnell, moments after forcing a save from goalkeeper Niamh Kirby, struck Salthill-Knocknacarra’s goal, hitting the roof of the net.
Laura Kelly stretched their lead before Kearney replied for O’Dwyers. A Kelly free had the hosts leading 1-4 to 0-5 on 20 minutes.
O’Dwyers were testing the opposing defence and eventually got a breakthrough before half-time.
Holly O’Rourke won possession in her own full-back line, starting a move that involved Aoife Curran and Amy Gibbons. Richardson raided when given the ball, striking low into the goal and O’Dwyers led 1-5 to 1-4 at half-time.
While rain was always a worry, nobody expected the elements to turn so severely during the second period. Both teams struggled with their shooting before Thompson stepped up on 41 minutes with the equaliser for Salthill-Knocknacarra.
Kirby produced another save from Alyssa Manley before O’Donnell set up Kelly to put the Connacht side in front.
However, O’Dwyer’s still had something left in the tank as Katie McCabe converted one from distance with 10 minutes remaining. Gibbons also found the target but her score was disallowed for over-carrying.
Supporters ran for cover as the weather turned nasty and one big score was bound to be the winner. It came on 58 minutes as Thompson kept her cool to split the posts and send Salthill-Knocknacarra into the final.