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Castlegar win All-Ireland Intermediate Club Semi-Final Replay

posted 11 Feb 2013, 02:55 by Unknown user
Castlegar 1-7 Ballycran 2-1 

Sunday, 10th February 2013 

Darren Kelly in Casement Park

If Castlegar are crowned All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Champions, it will be a victory for determination, resilience and belief. In a game no less compelling than the entertaining encounter witnessed in the Duggan Park seven days earlier, the Galway city side kept producing answers when asked and tested by their opponents, eventually breaking Ballycran’s spirit and booking their place in the decider against Rower Inistioge from Kilkenny.

The scoring was low but this replay never failed to maintain both sets of supporters in Belfast last Sunday and while there were many long periods without the umpires reach for the flags, the anticipation over who would strike the next blow left spectators intrigued as every twist unfolded.

No doubt, Castlegar like doing things the hard way. They allowed Ballycran complete control in the drawn match and were lucky to trail by only three points at half-time before Naomi Morgan nearly finished them with her second half goal. From somewhere, they found the fight as Aislinn Connolly levelled in injury time before putting themselves in a winning position. They couldn’t afford their opponents the same luxury again and they weren’t ready to do so.

There were concerns over whether they had the legs again a week later but Lorraine Keane’s battle hardened charges were up for the challenge and took the opening salvo in the fifth minute when Connolly sent over a free. Already, the visitors were getting plenty of possession and the returning Maria Corcoran was making her presence felt.

Katie Connell made it 0-2 to 0-0 in the 13th minute but Castlegar could have been further ahead as Tara Connolly and Ruth Flaherty both were denied green flags by the side netting. After 16 minutes, Castlegar only had a two point cushion despite owning the sliothar and were made pay when Brid McGourty struck a major to give Ballycran the lead.

The tide seemed to turn but Castlegar wouldn’t relent. Maintaining their push with Donna Burke superb at full back with Elaine Murphy, Ruth Flaherty and Connolly covering plenty of ground around the middle, they equalised in the 19th minute when Connolly sent over a second before another put Castlegar 0-4 to 1-0 in front.

Still points were at a premium with Ballycran defenders Michelle Dorrian, Jennie Fowler and Sabrina McCullough doing as much for the Down team and at the other end on 26 minutes, blood sub Deirdre Savage found a second goal to restore the Ulster champions’ supremacy.

This semi-final was in the melting pot and Castlegar’s challenge could have faded if they didn’t rescue something from the opening 30 minutes. Connolly reduced arrears to the minimum before they finally found that deserved goal. Starting with Karen Murphy in defence, Elaine Murphy sent the ball to Connell on the left wing. Instinctly, she delivered high towards the danger area where Corcoran created the space, shook off her marker to strike low to the net and Castlegar led 1-5 to 2-0 at half-time.

If the previous week was the barometer of what to expect, Ballycran were expected to open up in the second half but couldn’t break down their opponents during the third quarter. Laura Hughes and Deirdre Savage should have done better when they were put through on goal on the three quarter mark but Elaine Murphy threw her body on the line when a certain major looked inevitable.

The mix of tennis volleys and ground strokes on the heavy ground seemed to be heading to deadlock before Connolly split the posts in the 47th minute for a three point advantage. Castlegar had worked hard and weathered the storm; Ballycran’s hearts appeared broken.

The final 10 minutes featured some indiscipline from the Down team who eventually lost centre forward Nicola Braniff to a double yellow card and they only managed a Catherine McGourty free in the second half. Connolly sent over the final point to restore Castlegar’s three point lead but even though the game was far from won with nearly six minutes of injury time played, even the home support knew the game was up.

Not fancied against Eyrecourt or Portumna in the county championship or to get past Ballycran here, Castlegar now contest an All-Ireland final against Kilkenny opposition. While it's hard to gauge how strong Rower Inistioge will be at this stage, there is no doubt after a three week break, the Galway champions won’t give up on their All-Ireland dreams until the final whistle is blown. And that desire could just secure them the Holy Grail.

Burke was the standout defender over the 60 minutes, Elaine Murphy and Connolly covered much ground not just in the middle third while Flaherty and Corcoran led the charge in attack. Castlegar’s All-Ireland final is on the weekend of March 3rd.

Castlegar: E. Concannon; K. Murphy, D. Burke, L. Farragher; S. Jacobsen, C. Lee, O. Keane; E. Murphy, A. Connolly (0-6, five frees); T. Connolly, R. Flaherty, S. Kelly; M. Farragher, M. Corcoran (1-0), K. Connell (0-1). Subs used: E. Murphy for T. Connolly (44 mins), K. Noone for Connell (56 mins).

Ballycran: C. McCarthy; N. Mallon, M. Dorrian, E. Keith; J. Fowler, B. McGrattan, S. McCullough; C. McGourty (0-1, free), C. Clarke; B. McGourty (1-0), N. Braniff, N. Morgan; A. McCarthy, L. Hughes, J. McHugh. Subs used: D. Savage (1-0) for Morgan (HT), N. Torpey for B. McGourty (50 mins)

Referee: D. Ryan (Dublin)