HEARTACHE and devastation were all that the girls from the Rower-Inistioge felt after their dreams of lifting the intermediate club camogie All-Ireland title ended in disappointment.
The Kilkenny club were outdone by a five-star performance from Aislinn Connolly, who dragged Galway outfit Castlegar across the line after a dogged battle in Ashbourne on Saturday afternoon.
Hopes were high that the Rower-Inistioge could become the first Kilkenny club to win the All-Ireland intermediate crown following their successes in Leinster and the All-Ireland semi-final. It wasn’t to be, as Castlegar ground out the result in a game where scores often proved difficult to come by.
Galway inter-county senior Aislinn Connolly was the difference, as she contributed all bar one point of her side’s total score.
Connolly’s free-taking was below par early on, but she shrugged off that rustiness to prove significant in Castlegar’s victory.
Rower-Inistioge’s defence had conceded just an average of 1-1 from play since the county final, and while they defended resolutely last Saturday - often under the most intense pressure - they conceded a sufficient amount of frees that proved costly.
A Katie Connell point from play around the 50th minute mark was Castlegar’s sole scoring contribution outside Connolly, as Rower-Inistioge will unquestionably look back on this final with regrets.
However, no one could dispute Castlegar’s victory as they were the better team over the hour. They should been further ahead than their 1-4 to 1-3 advantage before the end of the third quarter.
They shot four wides during the opening 10 minutes of the second-half, a period in which they had owned possession without getting their reward on the scoreboard.
No-one could fault the work-rate, commitment and effort of the Rower contingent but it was a frustrating afternoon for their forwards, who were often starved of possession by a determined Castlegar defence.
A Lizzie Lyng goal in the 12th minute after she was put through by Catriona Ryan got the Rower-Inistioge up and running. Tagging on points from a Kelly Hamilton free and Catriona Ryan, they appeared to be motoring well as they opened up a four point gap (1-2 to 0-1).
However, the Castlegar response wasn’t long in coming. Connolly narrowed the gap when she goaled from a free, then chipped in with a pointed free and a 45 to ease her side back into the lead approaching the end of first half normal time.
The Rower weren’t finished yet, however. Hamilton held her nerve to convert an injury-time free, splitting the posts to leave the sides all square at the interval (1-3 to 1-3).
Castlegar dominated the third quarter, but for all their hard work they scored just a single Aislinn Connolly free for their efforts.
That hesitancy in front of the posts was met with relief from the Rower-Inistioge, who took it as a sign to kick on. They enjoyed a purple patch after that, Hamilton rattling off three frees inside five minutes as the Kilkenny girls regained the lead with 10 minutes left on the clock (1-6 to 1-4).
Two points to the good nearing the business end of a low-scoring game, it appeared as if the Rower were in the driving seat. However, Castlegar responded. Two points in as many minutes from a Connolly free and the lively Katie Connell quickly drew them level.
With Connolly leading the way, Castlegar were always the more likely to get the next score. So it proved, as the game’s best performer pointed a free to push her side back in front five minutes from time.
When Connolly added another point in the second minute of injury-time that proved to be the clinching score. Despite their courageous efforts, battling to the final whistle, the Rower came up agonisingly short.
Centre-back Kelly Hamilton gave an inspired display for the Rower. She did her utmost to lead the way forward, while the full-back line of Jane Cullen, Eimear Lyng and Becky Dempsey were excellent during the second half.
Briona Langton became more prominent during the second half, doing her bit to help her defence. However, with Castlegar enjoying the majority of possession throughout, it was always more than likely that they would get enough scores to emerge victorious.
SCORERS: Castlegar - Aislinn Connolly (1-7, 1-4 frees, 0-1 45), Katie Connell (0-1). Rower-Inistioge - Kelly Hamilton (0-5, all frees), Lizzie Lyng (1-0), Catriona Ryan (0-1).
Rower-Inistioge - Emma Kavanagh, Jane Cullen, Eimear Lyng, Becky Dempsey, Emma Hynes, Kelly Hamilton, Ciara Lyng, Aine Gannon, Briona Langton, Sarah O’Mahoney, Lizzie Lyng, Bridin White, Christine Lyng, Catriona Ryan, Aoife Lyng. Sub: Tara Kennedy for White.
Castlegar - Eva Concannon, Karen Murphy, Donna Burke, Louise Farragher, Sinead Jacobsen, Catriona Lee, Orlaith Keane, Elaine Murphy, Aislinn Connolly, Tara Connolly, Ruth Flaherty, Sara Kelly, Katie Connell, Maria Corcoran, Marion Farragher.
Referee - Mike O’Kelly(Cork).