Words by Daire Walsh
A late two-point salvo from the magnificent Rebecca McDonnell helped Clanna Gael Fontenoy to secure the Dublin Intermediate Ladies Football Championship title in Lawless Park on Sunday.
With under four minutes remaining in Swords, the sides were level and extra-time was looming large. McDonnell and Clanna Gael had enough, however, in reserve to get themselves over the line.
McDonnell’s final haul of 0-5 made her scorer-in-chief for the victors, while Kate McKenna and Aisling Leonard also aided the Fontenoy cause with goals in each half.
Fresh from helping Dublin to secure a third consecutive All-Ireland SFC crown, meanwhile, Jennifer Dunne was at her imperious best for Cuala.
She matched McDonnell’s personal tally and was constant source of inspiration for the Dalkey side.
The two sides had previously met in a Group A encounter in early May – which ended in a hard-earned 2-10 to 1-9 success for Cuala.
Yet, under the stewardship of former Mayo footballer Diane O’Hora, Fontenoy have made steady progress as the season has worn on and they turned things around.
The elusive McDonnell broke the deadlock with an impressive score, only for Dunne to respond in similar fashion as the docklands side struggled to contain the Sky Blues star.
But Clanna Gael pegged them back when midfielder McKenna had intended to pick out McDonnell with a precise inside pass on 14 minutes. Her delivery was overcooked but, on a greasy surface, the ball slipped through the grasp of Cuala custodian Clodagh Sheehan and into the goal.
Cuala soon replied with full-forward Cathy Brock unleashing an unstoppable strike past the stranded Serena Hannon.
A quick-fire Dunne brace created further daylight with the interval fast approaching.
But Clanna Gael, with the introduction of Lisa Curtin and Maria O’Dea off the bench, ended the opening period in style.
Leonard, Anna O’Donovan and McDonnell raised consecutive white flags, to leave O’Hora’s troops a single point adrift (1-5 to 1-4) at the midway stage.
It remained like this until Leonard delivered a smooth finish into the bottom right-hand corner on 36 minutes.
This threw down the gauntlet to Cuala and, while McDonnell once again showcased her unerring accuracy, Grainne O’Driscoll registered points either side to leave the sides delicately poised.
When Byrne and Dunne combined for the latter to hit her fifth point, parity had been restored (1-8 to 2-5) with six minutes to go.
Both sides had their chances with a tricky Dunne free drifting left of the uprights before McDonnell swung the pendulum her side’s way.
She cut inside off the left-wing to kick an outstanding 57th-minute point and the dynamic half-forward repeated the trick on the hour mark for the defining score.