Emma Duffy reports from Croke Park
TIPPERARY CAPPED A remarkable year with a three-point win over Tyrone in the TG4 All-Ireland ladies intermediate final as they were crowned champions in Croke Park.
Cahir dual star Aisling McCarthy was among those to shine in a Player of the Match-winning display as Shane Ronayne’s side added the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup to their Munster title and Division 3 Lidl Ladies National League crown in an unbeaten year.
It was a hard-hitting, physical affair in front of a colourful Croke Park as a dominant first half from Tipperary saw them over the line.
There was an explosive start to the game — Tyrone looking threatening through their first attack from the throw-in, with Tipperary goalkeeper Lauren Fitzpatrick getting a taste of the action early to deny Lycrecia Quinn.
The first score didn’t come until the sixth minute — Hawkeye was previously turned to but deemed a Tyrone effort wide — as Tipperary intercepted around the middle and Gillian O’Brien split the posts.
McCarthy followed up with a free, the first of her 1-4 tally. Red Hand corner forward Niamh O’Neill pulled off a big effort to inspire the Ulster side and keep them in touch shortly after.
Cahir’s Roisin Howard impressed throughout, and opened her account after fetching a pin-point ball from Laura Dillon and doing well to find space and raise a white flag.
It was Tyrone who hit the first goal of the game as Gráinne Rafferty and O’Neill linked up nicely, before the former cooly slotted home in the 16th minute.
At the other end, Howard stood up with an immediate pointed-reply, before an error in the Tyrone defence was capitalised on — McCarthy with the final say as she lobbed the ball beautifully into the net 11 minutes from half-time.
With a fire in their belly, the Munster champions pushed on and it looked like they were about to double their goal returns but Shannon Lynch pulled off an impressive save to keep Gillian O’Brien at bay.
O’Brien, who hit 1-7 in their semi-final win over Meath, kicked high and over the bar to extend Tipp’s lead while their defence, marshalled by captain Samantha Lambert at centre-half back and assisted by Jennifer Grant as sweeper, dominated.
As half-time approached, Niamh O’Neill’s rocket whistled wide, with an effort soon after dropping into Fitzpatrick’s hands epitomising Tyrone’s lull.
19-year-old Tipperary prodigy Aishling Moloney was kept quiet for much of the first half but soon found herself in on goal. She showed cleverness when she ran into trouble there, laying it off to Mairead Morrissey who fisted over the bar
Elsewhere, Begley converted a straight-forward free-kick to make it 1-7 to 1-2 going into the break as the hooter sounded.
Moloney — who intercepted vitally on several occasions as she tracked into defence — set the tone for the second half, with an inspirational score from distance before Emma Jane Gervin cancelled it out at the other end, and added a second.
O’Brien and Morrissey tagged on more scores before Maria Canavan announced her arrival from the bench with a well-taken free, while Begley added another to put four between the sides yet again.
Chloe McCaffery — another Tyrone substitute — produced a huge individual score to lift the spirits and cut the defecit to three. Tipp midfielder McCarthy was on song with her frees throughout, kicking two into Hill 16 as Shane Ronayne’s side roared on.
Canavan converted another free as Tyrone drove on in the dying minutes, Begley then swinging for a fine score to leave three in it with just one minute on the clock.
It was Tipp’s day however with Moloney, showing fierce composure to hold onto the ball in the corner as the hooter sounded to massive roars from the crowd.
Scorers for Tipperary: Aisling McCarthy (1-4, 4f), Roisin Howard (0-2), Gillian O’Brien (0-4), Aishling Moloney (0-1), Mairéad Morrissey (0-2)
Scorers for Tyrone: Niamh O’Neill (0-1), Gráinne Rafferty (1-0), Gemma Begley (0-4, 3f), Emma Jane Gervin (0-2), Maria Canavan (0-2, 2f), Chloe McCaffery (0-1)
1. Lauren Fitzpatrick (Ballymacarbry)
2. Siobhán Condon (Aherlow)
3. Maria Curley (Templemore)
4. Emma Buckley (Cahir)
5. Bríd Condon (Aherlow)
6. Samantha Lambert (Ardfinnan) – captain
7. Laura Dillon (Ardfinnan)
8. Aisling McCarthy (Cahir)
9. Jennifer Grant (Brian Borus)
10. Niamh Longergan (Moyle Rovers)
11. Mairéad Morrissey (Brian Borus)
12. Aisling Moloney (Cahir)
13. Róisín Howard (Cahir)
14. Gillian O’Brien (Moyle Rovers)
15. Orla O’Dwyer (Boherlahan)
Caoimhe Condon for Niamh Lonergan (48)
Catherina Walsh for Róisín Howard (56)
1. Shannon Lynch (Mná Na Deirge)
2. Emma Brennan (Trillick)
3. Emma Mulgrew (Cill Íseal)
4. Caoileann Conway (Sperrin Óg)
5. Neamh Woods (Drumragh) – captain
6. Shannon Cunningham (Errigal Ciarán)
7. Christiane Hunter (Omagh St Enda’s)
8. Méabh Mallon (Aodh Ruadh)
9. Emma Jane Gervin (Aodh Ruadh)
10. Niamh Hughes (Aodh Ruadh)
11. Lycrecia Quinn (Errigal Ciarán)
12. Áine Canavan (Errigal Ciarán)
13. Niamh O’Neill (Sperrin Óg)
14. Gemma Begley (An Charraig Mhór)
15. Gráinne Rafferty (Cill Íseal)
Niamh McGirr for Caoileann Conway (21)
Maria Canavan for Gráinne Rafferty (37)
Emma Hegarty for Áine Cnavan (37)
Chloe McCaffery for Lycrecia Quinn (41)
Referee: Garryowen McMahon (Mayo)
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