Na Fianna 5-10
By Daire Walsh
Na Fianna booked their spot in the Go Ahead Dublin Senior Football Championship decider on Wednesday evening after a strong second half display guided them towards a convincing victory against Clontarf at the National Games Development Centre in Abbotstown.
Just two points in front at the break, the Glasnevin outfit turned on the style after the resumption to reach their second senior final in the space of three years. Laura Grendon helped herself to a brace of goals, while recent All-Ireland winners Hannah Tyrrell, Orla Martin and Emma Deeley also found the net as Na Fianna turned on the style.
Dublin senior footballers past and present were amongst the goals for Clontarf with Sarah McCaffrey and Caoimhe O’Connor (two) on hand to raise green flags. Jackies panellist Niamh Hetherton was also included in the Clontarf ranks, but despite their best endeavours, they couldn’t overcome the challenge of their northside rivals.
Following emphatic victories over Thomas Davis, Cuala, Foxrock/Cabinteely and St Brigid’s, Na Fianna finished at the summit of Group B in the Dublin SFC with a maximum tally of 12 points. Winners of the Dublin, Leinster and All-Ireland intermediate football championship titles in 2018, Clontarf secured runners-up spot behind reigning county champions Kilmacud Crokes in Group A of the senior code.
They did fall short against Crokes at Pairc de Burca on September 13, but triumphs at the expense of Castleknock, St Sylvester’s and Ballyboden St Enda’s ensured their safe passage into the last-four of this year’s SFC.
Although the rain held off for the majority of the contest, the gale force wind that accompanied Storm Agnes to these shores was ever-present for the duration of the action. Nevertheless, Na Fianna did hit the ground running in the early stages with Grendon and Tyrrell both finding the target in quick succession.
Clontarf had a couple of efforts that dropped into the hands of Na Fianna netminder Karen O’Connell, before inside forward Ciara O’Connor converted a free off her left foot on the stroke of 10 minutes. Yet Na Fianna continued to attack with considerable intent and bagged their first goal of the game just shy of the first-quarter mark.
Following one of several surging runs by Dublin midfielder Eilish O’Dowd from deep, Grendon fired home with clinical precision. While this was a set-back for Clontarf, they responded in emphatic style at the opposite end.
McCaffrey registered two goals when the Jackies claimed an All-Ireland senior title at the expense of Mayo in 2017 and she palmed home at the end of an extended move to bring fresh life to the Clontarf challenge. However, Na Fianna didn’t panic and with Leah Caffrey completing a quintet of Dublin stars within their starting line-up, they reinforced their authority on Abbotstown’s pristine all-weather pitch.
O’Dowd and Grendon tagged on some excellent scores for the St Mobhi Road women to ensure there was once again daylight between themselves and their opponents. Clontarf did receive an energy boost courtesy of O’Connor’s superb major on the half-hour mark, which left them just 1-6 to 2-1 in arrears at the break.
The tie appeared to be delicately poised at this point, but it was Na Fianna who came flying out on the traps after the restart. A point each from midfielders O’Dowd and Lucy Collins appeared to settle any nerves they might have been experiencing and when Deeley delivered a quick 1-1 salvo, they were nine points to the good with just 20 minutes remaining on the clock.
Tyrrell had provided assists for a number of scores by opting to take frees quickly, but she subsequently added a placed-ball point as the final-quarter approached. Even though they were now in a comfortable position, Na Fianna maintained their pursuit of additional scores.
Grendon and Martin shook the Clontarf net in the 43rd and 50th minutes respectively, in advance of the ever-reliable Tyrrell coolly slotting a penalty to the bottom left-hand corner in the closing moments.
It had been a difficult second half for Clontarf, but they did sign off the game in good spirits as O’Connor hammered a 25-metre free beyond the reach of O’Connell for her second goal of the proceedings.
Scorers – Na Fianna: Laura Grendon 2-3 (0-1f), Hannah Tyrrell 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), Emma Deeley 1-1, Eilish O’Dowd 0-3, Orla Martin 1-0, Lucy Collins 0-1. Clontarf: Caoimhe O’Connor 2-0 (1-0f), Sarah McCaffrey 1-0, Ciara O’Connor 0-1 (f).
Na Fianna: Karen O’Connell; Sophie Ahern, Niamh Gleeson, Eimear Nolan; Orla Martin, Elyse Jameson-Murphy, Leah Caffrey, Eilish O’Dowd, Lucy Collins; Karla Conway, Aoife Caffrey, Emma Deeley; Aoife Nolan, Hannah Tyrrell, Laura Grendon.
Subs: Jane Daly, Amber Taylor, Ciara Purdy, Claire Kelly, Ellie McAleer, Eva Ahern, Hayley Ward, Liz Murchan, Lucy Ahern, Maria Kinsella, Roisin Baker, Saoirse Fitzgerald.
Clontarf: Carrie O’Connor; Ava Cunningham, Ciara Dunlea, Hannah McLaughlin; Ava McMahon, Kate Fitzgibbon, Sinead Quigley; Niamh Hetherton, Tara Fitzgibbon; Roisin Quigley, Caoimhe O’Connor, Fiona Skelly; Ciara O’Connor, Sarah McCaffrey, Aine Walsh.
Subs: Heather Bolger, Margaret Mohan, Sarah Egan, Ellen Davis, Aoibhe Bell, Eimear Mangan, Katie Connole.
Referee: Finbarr Shanahan (St Margaret’s).
PHOTO – Maurice Grehan/SportClubServices.ie
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