O’Hanlon leads Carrickcruppen into Ulster semis

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Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
Community, Sport

CARRICKCRUPPEN 3-15 NEWTOWNBUTLER 0-8

Richard Bullick at Lowe’s Lane.

Caroline O’Hanlon produced another dominant display

Carrickcruppen will host Termon of Donegal on Sunday (2pm) with a place in the Ulster Senior Club Championship final at stake after a confident demolition of Fermanagh champions Newtownbutler.

The Armagh champions withstood two sinbinnings to record a convincing victory though manager Lorraine McCaffrey is still demanding more from her talented team and believes they can raise the bar again.

This weekend’s opponents scored seven goals in winning away to Cavan champions Lacken in the quarter-finals but will hardly relish the long trip to Lowe’s Lane to face an increasingly confident Carrickcruppen.

Cruppen’s iconic captain Caroline O’Hanlon typically called the shots all afternoon, from before her majestic third minute goal through to the 15 minutes she spent after the final whistle intently tending to a stricken opponent in her professional capacity.

The Daisy Hill Hospital doctor was called upon to examine a Newtownbutler player who was in evident distress after an accidental knee in the lower back, but by then O’Hanlon’s other work was satisfactorily completed.

Captain throughout Carrickcruppen’s history as an adult ladies side, the double All Star had calmed any nerves her team may have been feeling coming into this important match with an early goal.

She might have had a free in the very first minute after running hard at the visitors’ defence but the Newtownbutler rearguard couldn’t lay a finger on O’Hanlon soon afterwards as she gave ‘Cruppen the perfect start.

Taking a perfectly weighted pass over her shoulder, the Armagh great displayed ice cool composure as she strode towards goal before picking her spot and ruthlessly burying the ball in the back of the net.

The visiting ‘keeper couldn’t have done much more on that occasion but got her team into trouble several times in the first half with weak kick-outs to ‘Cruppen players and delayed efforts which fell foul of the referee.

Caitlin Malone, who was a significant figure for her side, set Natasha Lennon up from one of the former but she scuffed an attempted shot and had earlier missed a free from out on the left before fellow half forward Megan Cinnamond raised the home team’s first white flag with a point from play.

Cinnamond added a seventh minute free and although the visitors responded with their first two points from centre half forward Rose Mullally, even those were punctuated with a confidently driven point by the talented Aoife McCullough.

Carrickcruppen struck twice in the 11th minute, Lennon cutting in from the left for a confident finish and full forward Caoimhe Murray turning neatly to blast over from a quickly-taken O’Hanlon free.

O’Hanlon hit the post following a free played to her by Cinnamond but the latter landed the next free and the skipper nervelessly slammed home a penalty awarded when the busily impressive Murray was rugby-tackled by a desperate defender.

That put McCaffrey’s side 10 points up by the quarter hour mark and although Cinnamond’s next free hit the post on an afternoon the woodwork repeatedly denied ‘Cruppen, she soon sent one over after O’Hanlon had rewarded McCullough’s hard work on the right with an emphatic point from play.

A great run by imposing wing back Rebecca O’Reilly narrowly failed to bring a deserved point and both teams missed frees after the visitors had lost a player to the sin bin, though both Cinnamond and Lennon – the latter for a stupid push when her team were already a player down – were to see yellow before the end of the half.

The bustling Aoife McCullough kicked her second point after approach play involving O’Reilly and Dearbhla Wright and Newtownbutler had to be brave in punching clear under the onrushing O’Hanlon’s nose before the Fermanagh side knocked over an injury-time free to trail by 12 at the interval.

‘Cruppen had been playing down the slope helped by whatever breeze there was so, with two extra players, Newtownbutler sensed a window of opportunity at the start of the second half and immediately posted a point but ultimately couldn’t make much inroads.

The hosts showed considerable composure in weathering the storm and, when they got going again, Newtownbutler’s two points were cancelled out by scores from O’Reilly and Aoife McCullough, both instigated by the increasingly commanding O’Hanlon.

Full of running, the Carrickcruppen captain often looked like she had the ball on a string and tormented opponents with her characteristic combination of physically imposing play and deft footwork.

Wright, the youngest player on the team at only 16, hit the near post going for goal and Lennon pushed one wide after a short free from O’Hanlon but Cinnamond cancelled out Newtownbutler’s sixth point of the match.

Lennon cut in to rifle over a fiercely-struck point and a few minutes later clinically finished to the net after a good run from the eye-catching Cinnamond, though the half forward’s next effort did go wide.

Home ‘keeper Niamh Finnegan had to be alert late on to deny Newtownbutler a goal and, although the visitors scored two consolation points in injury-time, ‘Cruppen posted a couple of their own in between.

Wright did very well after a Cinnamond run to win a free which the latter converted to take her tally to six points and, fittingly, Carrickcruppen’s last score was an imperious point by that woman O’Hanlon following a superb run.

Considering what was at stake and the gap of six weeks since their last competitive match, this was a pleasingly assured, accomplished display by ‘Cruppen, reflected in the impressive scoreline though McCaffrey felt their attacking lost shape at times.

The manager knows ‘Cruppen need their most disciplined performance against Termon and is also looking for an increase in intensity as her team target a first ever appearance in the Ulster senior showpiece.

As always, O’Hanlon will be the key figure for Carrickcruppen but it is the increasing strength elsewhere which is fueling hopes that the Camlough club can make history on Sunday, with young defender Kerry Garvey among the new names who are stepping up impressively.


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