The Loreto Secondary School, Kilkenny, showed nerves of steel when roaring through to an All-Ireland final on Saturday.
The talented Kilkenny girls beat Cross and Passion, Ballycastle in a gripping All-Ireland junior ‘A’ semi-final in the Castlecomer Community Schools grounds.
This was one of those thrilling clashes in which both sets of fans would have been satisfied with a draw.
No one would have complained had a re-match been required, such were the thrills and spills two totally committed teams produced.
After travelled down from the North and pushing the Loreto all the way, and more, it was hard on Ballycastle to give way in the end.
One for history books
This epic encounter was indeed one for the history books and was a great advertisement for schools camogie.
The action swung from end to end as the teams shared 24 scores, but Loreto came out on top in the goals tally, which proved the difference in the end.
At the well-presented Castlecomer Community School venue, it could have been a difficult day for camogie with sticky underfoot conditions and a swirling breeze, but this did not stop either team performing at a very high level.
Ballycastle raced into an early lead, putting up a score of 1-3 inside the opening 10 minutes.
Slow to respond
The Loreto were slow to respond, but respond they did with goals from each member of the full-forward line. Katie Brennan at centre -forward also stepped up to grab another.
In the first half the Antrim side dominated the centre of the field. The Kilkenny girls found it difficult to win any sort of good possession here.
Midfielder Roisin McCormack was supreme, and caused constant problems for the Loreto defence until she eventually ran out of steam nearing the finish. But that wasn’t before she had notched up 1-7.
The score at half-time read 4-3 to 1-6 in favour of the Loreto.
That six point lead some might argue was flattering, because the Loreto had yet to displayed their full potential
The second half was equally action packed. The action really warmed up when the northerners hit a purple patch.
Two well taken goals and a long range point from midfield meant that Ballycastle now held a two point lead.
The Loreto simply let rip. They exhibited the true extent of their character in a hard fought battle and regained the lead.
A stirring rally that realised 1-2 for Rachel and Hannah Kelly meant that the Loreto ran out victors in the end.
The Loreto defensive line was very accomplished in dealing with most trouble that came their way.
Ciara O’Shea was defiant in defence and beat back many Ballycastle attacks. Goalie Hannah Brennan could do little about the three goals that crossed her line. She made some excellent saves, particularly in the dying moments when Ballycastle were chasing a goal.
The midfield changed a lot and had a tough job coping with class opposition.
However, they were always tenacious in the tackle and set up many fine attacks. With limited possession, the forward line was very nproductive, bagging five goals.
The haul justified the saying that goals win games. The Loreto never gave up, and with grit and determination, they deservedly won out in the end.
This was the Loreto’s 12th appearance in an All-Ireland semi-final. They have won seven times while Cross and Passion were making a fourth appearance, having won once before.
SCORERS: Loreto SS - R. Kelly (0-6, three frees); H. Kelly (2-0); S. Fitzgerald, K. Brennan, C. O’Keeffe (1-0 each); C. Dowling (0-1, free). Cross and Passion - R. McCormack (1-7, three points frees); A. Connolly, K.McKendry (1-0 each); C. McCarry (0-2, frees).
Loreto Kilkenny - Hannah Brennan (Young Irelands), Tara Clifford (Dicksboro), Issey Carroll (Dicksboro), Evelyn Phelan (Conahy Shamrocks), Nicole Carter (Young Irelands), Ruth Kent (Danesfort), Ciara O’Shea (Dicksboro), Jane Cass (Dicksboro), Grace O’Donnell (Young Irelands), Caoimhe Dowling, capt (Dicksboro), Katie Brennan (Conahy Shamrocks), Rachel Kelly (James Stephens), Ciara O’Keeffe (Young Irelands), Steffi Fitzgerald (Young Irelands), Hannah Kelly (James Stephens).
Cross and Passion - Aoife McGowan, captain (Ballycastle), Cáití McCaughan (Ballycastle), Ciara Mathers (Ballycastle), Aoife O’Mullan (Loughgiel), Bronagh McKeague (Ballycastle), Catherine McShane (Ballycastle), Fiona McVeigh (Loughgiel), Maeve Kelly (Ballycastle), Róisín McCormick (Loughgiel), Kirsty McKendry (Loughgiel), Méadhbh McCormick (Loughgiel), Anna Connolly (Loughgiel), Ciara Laverty (Loughgiel), Charley McCarry (Loughgiel), Dearbhaile McGill (Dunloy).