Athleague retain their title as Dominic’s fall short again

Senior Camogie Championship Final

Athleague 0-8 St. Dominic’s 0-4

Try as they might in Ballyforan last Saturday, a young St. Dominic’s team just couldn’t exact revenge for last year’s final defeat as defending champions Athleague made it back-to-back senior camogie titles in efficient, if not spectacular fashion.

The going was heavy, heavy to yielding in places, which resulted in a scrappy spectacle at times between the two thoroughbreds on the Roscommon camogie circuit.

  And while the Knockcroghery side battled gamely throughout, Athleague captain Niamh Conway was already rehearsing her entertaining speech by the time Kelley Hopkins smashed over her fourth placed ball of the afternoon in second-half injury-time.

Speaking at the final whistle, Athleague manager, Liam Gordon, said his charges were fully prepared for what lay ahead of them last weekend.

“We knew coming into the game that it was going to be a dog fight this time of year with the rain that fell during the week and that it was going to come down to thin margins,” he said.

“We won the toss and had the breeze at our backs and we tried to get a few scores early. We had some bad wides and some bad decision making but these things happen”.

  It was player of the match, Laura Fleming, who made the early running for the defending champions. Her powerful surges from midfield yielded two points in the opening exchanges but St. Dominic’s responded on both occasions via two Niamh Fitzgerald frees. Tara Naughton’s late point was all that separated the sides at the interval as Athleague led 0-3 0-2.

A second-half improvement pleased Athleague manager Gordon: “The wind died down which helped us a small bit and we were more composed in our striking and shooting and getting the ball into scoring zones. Even though that didn’t really relate to the scoreboard, we still managed to come out on the right side”.

The second half opened with a moment of improvised inspiration from Tara Naughton as she kicked a point to keep Athleague on the front foot. Kelley Hopkins quickly followed that score up with a long-range free and a ’45.

The St. Dominic’s’ resistance was led by Niamh Watson, who struck their only point from play, and a Niamh Fitzgerald free but by now Hopkins had found her range and she added two more frees to keep John Benton’s side at arm’s length.

Best for Athleague were Laura Fleming, Chloe Whyte-Lennon, Tara Naughton, and Rachel Fitzmaurice while for St. Dominic’s, there were a number of impressive performers, not least Rachel Dolan, Joanne Beattie, captain Áine O’Meara and Eimear McNally.

It’s on now to the Connacht Championship final for Liam Gordon and his Athleague side, but not before a well-deserved break.

“We’re playing Clarinbridge in the Connacht final in the first week of December so we are looking forward to that. We’ll try and settle down now after this result and drive on,” Liam said.

  “The girls need a break because they’ve been going constantly with the football and the camogie and now they’re back in school and working – a lot of them are teachers too so it’s been hard going for them. They’re coming from all over the country for training on Tuesday or Wednesday and Friday nights as well, which is tough on them.

“Most of them are young girls and then there are three girls with kids which is hard going as well. It’s a massive commitment so they have to be respected. We’ll give them the week off to chill out and recuperate and then we’ll go again,” he concluded.

There’s no doubt the champions had upped the ante after the break and while five points was still a modest return, they once again restricted Dominic’s to just two. The winning margin might also have been even wider, if not for Dominic’s’ netminder Caroline Connaughton, who pulled off a stunning save to deny Elaine Daly a green flag.

All in all, a satisfactory performance from Athleague, who retain their title, and a sense of déjà vu for Dominic’s, who fall at the final hurdle for the second year in a row.