Played in soft underfoot conditions that followed the rain that preceded in the build-up to the match, Thomastown and Windgap served up a thrilling and absorbing contest in Ballyhale on Saturday as both clubs went in pursuit of a first senior camogie league title.
The work-rate and commitment from both sides was outstanding, as never more than two points separated the sides.
The goals proved the difference, and also another crucial statistic from the game was the fact that Thomastown’s forwards scored 2-3 from play despite three of their attacking unit failing to register on the scoresheet. The Windgap forwards only registered 0-4 from play over the hour.
Both defences were mainly on top as every score was hard earned. A real heroine for Thomastown was 16-year-old Niamh Donnelly, who scored 1-2 from play, which was something in a match in which forwards found it difficult to shine.
Solid in defence
Chloe Corrway, Aine Manning and Megan Farrell - who produced a scintillating second half display - were solid in the Thomastown defence. Anna Farrell in midfield was dependable on the frees – scored four times including a 45 - and Jenny Reddy sprung to life from a very quiet 45 minutes to score the crucial goal. Afterwards she worked like a trojan back helping the defence, and winning vital possession.
The introduction of Lisa Carey was a masterstroke as it provided the defensive unit with extra protection.
Windgap can take plenty of heart from a magnificent display despite the obvious disappointment of losing.
The defensive unit was magnificent, but none shone brighter than corner-back Julie Walsh, who was imperious.
Despite their best attempts, including the efforts of Denise Gaule and Niamh Phelan, Windgap paid the ultimate price after trying to protect a lead instead of pushing forward. Often during the second half Catherine Foley or Anne-Marie Phelan were isolated as the lone player on the inside line in attack.
Denise Gaule opened the scoring with a pointed free in the second minute from 50 metres before slack defending from Windgap allowed Niamh Donnelly crack home a well taken goal in the 4th minute (1-0 to 0-1).
Windgap replied smartly. They took the lead by the 10th minute with points from a Gaule free, Niamh Phelan and great effort from play by Gaule from near the sideline.
Thomastown regained the initative in the 16th minute with points in quick succession from Anna Farrell (free) after her sister Shelley was fouled before Anna returned the compliment within 30 seconds setting up Shelley to edge Thomastown ahead, 1-2 to 0-4.
Windgap replied again. They were awarded a penalty in the 18th minute. Denise Gaule struck a well driven shot to the bottom left-hand of the corner.
Anna Farrell’s pointed free in the 25th minute was the sole remaining score of the half as Windgap left the field for the rest 1-4 to 1-3 ahead.
Niamh Donnelly pointed the leveller 30 seconds after the restart following a great surging run by Jenny Reddy. The ’Gap responded with points from Denise Gaule and Catherine Foley (1-6 to 1-4).
Anna Farrell pointed a 45 in the 50th minute, and following a barren scoring period, the crucial score came in the 48th minute.
Thomastown launched an attack. A Niamh Donnelly shot was brilliantly saved by Laura Walker before Jenny Reddy drove a low shot home. That gave Thomastown the vital lead, 2-5 to 1-6.
Windgap, to their credit, battled on. Denise Gaule pointed a 45 to narrow the gap.
Niamh Donnelly replied in the 52nd minute to point superbly near the sideline, and that was followed by an equally excellent score by Niamh Phelan in the 54th minute, 2-6 to 1-8.
Anna Farrell pointed a free to conclude the scoring in the 58th minute. Windgap battled gamely to the bitter end to try and manufacture a late goal, but it wasn’t there for them.
The end of the match saw the sad sight of Alison Walsh having to be aided off after picking up what appeared to be a serious injury. It’s such a pity for the 2009 All-Ireland minor winning captain to have suffered another setback.
Let’s hope she makes a speedy recovery.
Scorers: Thomastown – Niamh Donnelly (1-2); Anna Farrell (0-4, three frees, one 45); Jenny Reddy (1-0); Shelley Farrell (0-1). Windgap – Denise Gaule (1-5, 1-0 penalty, 0-3 frees, one 45); Niamh Phelan (0-2); Catherine Foley (0-1).
Thomastown – Grace Clarke, Chloe Corrway, Aine Manning, Nicole Corrway, Megan Farrell, Sarah Walsh, Sally Teehan, Anna Farrell, Aislih Butler, Shelley Farrell, Jenny Reddy, Catriona Treacy(captain), Ciara Farrell, Niamh Donnelly, Catherine Walsh. Sub - Lisa Carey.
Windgap – Laura Walker, Julie Walsh, Alison Walsh, Phena Heffernan, Nicola Moore, Elaine O’Shea, Laura Moore, Suzie Phelan, Lisa Phelan, Eleanor Downey, Catherine Foley, Denise Gaule, Sarah McCarthy, Anne-Marie Phelan, Niamh Phelan. Subs - Niamh Bambrick, Claire Grace.
Referee: John McCormack.