Downey heroics wins it for Cuala

by Gazette Reporter
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Cuala 4-12

St Kevin’s Killian’s 4-9

Cóilín Duffy

A late salvo from Mia Downey earned Cuala’s third team the Go-Ahead Ireland Dublin LGFA Junior J Club Championship title following a gripping encounter, which required extra-time before the Dalkey club were crown winners at Fingallians.

The midfielder was in excellent form, grabbing 1-1 deep in the second half of extra-time, bringing her tally to 3-7 overall, and ensuring a three-point victory for her side and silverware.

Earlier Downey had also secured extra-time, with a late pointed free, in a contest where both sides had dominant spells.

A 2012 All-Ireland Junior Club winner with Thomas Davis, Carol O’Donnell was a tour-de-force for St Kevin’s Killians throughout this contest, and she signalled her intent from the off.

After just 30 seconds she registered the first wide of the game, but the captain was a vital playmaker also for the Kilnamanagh/Kingswood based side.

SKK dominated possession in the opening stages and led by 1-3 to 0-1 after 11 minutes.

Indeed after just six minutes they registered four wides and had a point on the board through Amy Connaughton.

They found the net for the first time in the 8th minute, after the ball fell favourably for Clodagh Clarke; with initial good work by players including O’Donnell and Ruby Jane Callery in the build-up.

Cuala responded as they got the ball into their full-forward line for the first time, and following a good passing move Downey converted their first score.

SKK rallied with quick points from Clarke and Cunningham to open up a five-point lead, but Cuala responded well.

Following sustained pressure, Emma Byrne won a 14th minute penalty, and although the initial penalty from Downey was

saved by SKK keeper Emily Noctor, the ball finished in the net.

Within a minute Downey turned provider for Byrne to finish to the net, as Cuala took the lead for the first time to ensure a 2-1 to 1-3 lead.

By the end of the first quarter that advantage had stretched to two points as Orlaith O’Sullivan claimed her first score. But Cuala were held scoreless over the next eight minutes, as SKK moved back on top.

Scores from Clarke, Katie Long and Connaughton pushed them 1-6 to 2-2 ahead.

Cuala levelled the tie through Meadhbh Ní Fheinneadha, but SKK finished the half strongly with a brace of goals.

Firstly Leanne McCarton finished the net, after an excellent burst forward by O’Donnell in the 25th minute. Three minutes later it was Becky Cunningham who finished to the net, as SKK moved six-points clear.

By this stage both sides had also found themselves temporarily reduced to 14 players after Cuala’s Asia Kirwan and SKK’s Amy Connaughton were sent to the sinbin.

Cuala pushed hard before the break and following good work by Kate Brennan to win a free, Ní Fheinneadha converted the resulting placed ball to ensure a 3-6 to 2-4 interval score-line.

In the second half Cuala pushed hard in search of scores.

Emma Byrne opened their second half tally with a point from play 100 seconds after the restart, while a Downey pointed free saw the gap cut to a goal in the 40th minute. Both sides impressed defensively with scores at a premium.

Feinne Condren was among those showing well for SKK, as was Kate Brennan for Cuala.

Both sides had missed chances in the middle third of the second half, the most notable of these a 44th minute goal effort from Ní Fheinneadha which came off the upright.

Cuala continued to press hard and grabbed a trio of points between the 46th and 51st minutes – a Kate Prendergast effort sandwiched with pointed frees from Downey, to level the tie at 2-9 to 3-6.

Both sides had missed chances, including a Connaughton goal effort from SKK which skimmed wide.

Leanne McCarton grabbed a fine point from close range in the 57th minute, when a goal chance was also possibly on the cards.

This effort was amazingly SKK’s only score of the second half, and while it put her side ahead, Cuala dominated possession in the closing stages, with a Downey pointed free late on forcing extra-time.

As they did in first half normal time, SKK pressed hard from the throw-in on the resumption, but a Ruby Jane Callery effort finished in the hands of keeper Cliodhna Gillen.

Cuala grabbed the first point of extra-time through Downey, after a Meadhbh Ní Shiocháin pass; and Downey was also on hand to grab a 69th minute goal – with Caoimhe Dowling the provider, as Cuala moved 3-11 to 3-7 in front.

However, SKK did close the gap to two points by the interval, with injury-time pointed frees from Chloe Conroy.

On the restart SKK pushed hard at the Cuala defence, and while an initial effort from their captain Carol O’Donnell finished wide, they were eventually rewarded for their strong pressure.

O’Donnell was involved, as she sent the ball to Amy Connaughton, whose effort bounced off the crossbar, and eventually came into play, with the umpires adjudging the ball had crossed the line.

This 73rd minute effort put SKK ahead by a point, but they failed to add to their tally – Cuala also failed to score in normal time.

With the game delayed due to an injury to Becky Cunningham, there was still plenty of injury-time to come, and this was where Cuala capitalised.

In the 82nd minute they regained the lead, after a wonderful team move which involved Doireann Ní Lafáin, Edel Keating and Ní Fheinneadha, before Downey palmed the ball to net.

This really lifted Cuala, and they followed up with a late Downey point, with the final whistle sounding on the resulting kick-out, to ensure a pitch invasion by the substitutes, and joyous scenes at the final whistle.

After the game Dublin LGFA PRO Linda Walsh presented the Cup to Cuala joint captains Edel Keating and Jo McNaughton.

St. Killians/Kevin’s midfielder Carol O’Donnell was presented with the Go-Ahead Ireland Player of the Match award.

PHOTO – – Maurice Grehan/

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