Fantastic Carrickcruppen crowned champions
Thursday, August 29th, 2013
CARRICKCRUPPEN 2-11 CLANN EIREANN 1-8
Richard Bullick at the Athletic Grounds.
Player of the Match Marian McGuinness wore the broadest smile in the Athletic Grounds on Sunday night as Carrickcruppen claimed their second county title by beating Clann Eireann.
The characteristically cheery county player remembers being distraught standing on the same pitch last September after her team had been beaten by the Lurgan club, but this time there was a happy ending.
“I’ve never felt as awful after a game as last season’s semi-final when we lost an eight point lead and my sin-binning at an important time directly contributed to that, but this time it’s a fantastic feeling,” she beamed, clutching her award.
“So this is especially sweet and we couldn’t be more delighted. Everyone has worked so hard to get back and go one better this year and I think we’ve really earned this success.”
If this was a redemptive victory for McGuinness, it also constituted the perfect tonic for iconic captain Caroline O’Hanlon, who bounced back from blaming herself for Armagh’s recent near miss against All Ireland champions Cork with yet another commanding display.
She has skippered Carrickcruppen’s adult ladies team since its inception nearly a decade ago and had previously led them to an historic hat-trick of Junior, Intermediate and Senior county titles, but her hunger for fresh success was palpable in the lead-up to this final.
O’Hanlon’s contribution to this triumph went way beyond the typically imperious performance on the field, with her recruitment of former Armagh joint manager Lorraine McCaffrey and Fionnuala McAtamney last month being a master-stroke.
“Our new management team has only been in place for about six weeks but they’ve been brilliant and can take a lot of credit for our composed performance under pressure,” said O’Hanlon.
“We’ve lost leads against Clann Eireann in recent years but this time we stayed strong even when their penalty could have brought back bad memories. It could have changed the game but we responded perfectly and really pushed on in the final 10 minutes. Likewise we reacted well when we’d a player in the sin-bin earlier.
“There was massive motivation to get over the line this time and we came into the match confident that our best would be good enough. Although we lost to them the past two years, I believe we’re a better team now than when we won our first title in 2010.”
O’Hanlon had scored 1-6 that day and a hat-trick of goals in the following final but this time the chief scoreboard contributor was teenager Natasha Lennon, who refused to be bullied by a cynical Clann Eireann team.
They had two players sin-binned in the second half for taking out O’Hanlon and McGuinness and former Armagh full back Laura Brown got a straight red after shamefully losing the plot in the closing seconds.
Champions in five out of the last six seasons, the Lurgan club ultimately let themselves down with unacceptably childish conduct but their bad behaviour couldn’t spoil the Carrickcruppen party.
O’Hanlon’s side had impressively maintained discipline in the face of repeated provocation and their leader’s dignity in still seeking out opposing players to shake hands before joining her side’s celebrations was a contrasting illustration of the class act she is.
For all she has achieved at higher levels in ladies Gaelic and international netball, Carrickcruppen has a special place in O’Hanlon’s heart and there was a warm embrace with her father Charles, who won the county title with the Camlough club more than half a century ago.
“Nothing can mean more than this and the fact our Under 14 girls won their county title too today will make it a special celebration. It’s a wonderful family club and I’m proud we’ve delivered some silverware in return for the hard work which has gone into the ladies side.”
O’Hanlon herself has been a hugely significant factor in Cruppen’s rise to the top but on the evening there were any number of less heralded heroes who stood up to be counted alongside the excellent county contingent in a true team effort.
Armagh skipper Mags McAlinden gave the outgoing champions a first minute lead but early runs from McGuinness and O’Hanlon, the latter ended illegally, set the tone and ‘Cruppen were only behind for four minutes in this match.
After Rebecca O’Reilly’s equalising strike, her captain’s first free nudged her side into the lead and although the Lurgan lot replied, Megan Cinnamond put ‘Cruppen back in front when Brown pulled down O’Hanlon.
Clann Eireann drew level with the free which accompanied a harsh sin-binning for Amy Hughes but O’Hanlon’s second free nudged her team back in front and they hit an impressive purple patch, culminating in Lennon’s 19th minute goal.
Perfectly weighted balls from O’Hanlon twice put full forward Caoimhe Murray into goal-threatening positions but ‘Cruppen settled for a further point from Lennon, cancelling out another by McAlinden, to go in four ahead.
The lead increased courtesy of points from Lennon, Cinnamond and Aoife McCullough in the first eight minutes of the second half but Clann Eireann responded with the Henderson sisters registering three of the next four scores, the exception being a superb point by O’Hanlon.
A crunching hit from Carrickcruppen goalkeeper Niamh Finnegan gave Clann Eireann a penalty in the 56th minute which Sinead McCleary converted, but Murray soon hit the net at the other end and Caitlin Malone had the last word with a point in injury-time.
CARRICKCRUPPEN: N Finnegan; A Doran, R O’Reilly (0-1), A Hughes; K Garvey, M McGuinness, N Lennon (1-3); C Malone (0-1), C O’Hanlon (capt; 0-3, 2f); M Cinnamond (0-2, 2f), D Wright, S Finnegan; A McCullough (0-1), C Murray (1-0), R McCullough. Subs – A Carr for Wright (51 mins).
CLANN EIREANN: C McAlinden; L McAreavey, L Brown, S Bell; R McKeever, S McConville, G McAlinden (capt); S McCleary (1-0, pen), N Henderson (0-1); E Maye, C McDaid, N McDaid (0-1); C McCambridge, M McAlinden (0-2), A Henderson (0-3, 1f). Subs – N Coleman for Maye (26), A McConville for G McAlinden (27), J Henderson (0-1) for N McDaid (44), O Donnelly for McAreavey (48), M Hoye for C McDaid (51).
Referee: S O’Neill (Portadown).
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