Assumption into All-Ireland final

Assumption into All-Ireland final

7 February 2024

ALTHOUGH Saturday was in many ways a journey into the unknown for the juniors from Assumption Ballynahinch, they were able to draw on their experience in the Sevens championship earlier in the season when they beat Heywood from Laois. 

They were also playing on their chosen home ground the immaculate surface in Fontenoy Park in Liatroim and they settled into this All-Ireland semi-final much better than visitors Presentation Secondary School from Killina in Offaly.

Although the teams swopped points in the early stages and both Sarah Costello and Sarah O’Rourke looked dangerous in their breaks from half-back and midfield, respectively, the ball stuck in Assumption’s half-forward line and they were able to keep the pressure on throughout the first half.

Assumption missed a few chances over the opening 19 minutes until Dáire O’Shea, playing on her home pitch, picked up a clearance and side-stepped a couple of tackles before firing low to the net. After that there was only going to be one winner.

Aoife Gilmore hit the first score in the fourth minute. Although Grace Waters responded with a point for the Leinster champions, Gilmore and Caileigh McConnell (twice) hit the target to open a gap that should have been a lot bigger. 

Ella Cantwell in goals brought off an excellent save from Orla Owens and there were a couple of weak shots wide of the target.

Nevertheless, Assumption’s confidence grew after O’Shea’s 19th minute strike and the same player tagged on two more points while Alannah McKay’s first stretched the lead to 1-7 to 0-1.

Killina earned a couple of frees in added time to reduce the deficit but Assumption were first out of the blocks after the break with another point from Alannah McKay. 

Although Ballynahinch were fortunate when a free from Sarah Costello flew centimetres over the crossbar, at the other end Caileigh McConnell swept a loose ball to the net in the next attack and then set up Orla Owens for a point. 

Killina were struggling at this stage but their goalie Cantwell brought off another two fine saves midway through the half. 

However, two excellent points from McConnell and Gilmore further stretched Ballynahinch’s lead.

Killina might have had a goal after 47 minutes when Kate Arnold got clear, but pressure from Erin Douglas and Caoimhe Mulholland and a good stop from Ruby Burns turned the effort away for a 45.

During the last ten minutes Orla Owens grabbed a third goal when Alannah McKay’s shot came off a post and wasn’t cleared. 

Fittingly player of the match Aoife Gilmore completed a comprehensive victory with her fourth point of the game in the 59th minute.

Assumption will face either Galway side Calasanctus College Oranmore or John the Baptist from Hospital in Limerick in the final on March 2.

Assumption: R Burns; C Burns, E Douglas, C Mulholland; E Daly, E McCabe (capt), S Rice; D O’Shea (1-2, 1f), R Savage; A McKay (0-2), C McConnell (1-3), A Gilmore (0-4); L Braniff (0-1), O Owens (1-1), A Henderson.

Subs: O Roddy for R Burns (49), L Doyle for C McConnell (54), L McEvoy for D O’Shea (56), R Scott for A Henderson (58), C McKinney for Erin Daly (58).

Killina: E Cantwell; C Nugent, K Hannon, C Casey; A Doyle, S Costello (0-3, 2f), S Minnock; S O’Rourke (0-1f), G Scully; M McDonagh, G Waters (0-1), A O’Brien; G Rigney, K Arnold, M Coll.

Subs: G McLoughney for G Rigney (h-t), K Brady for M McDonagh (46), A Dolan for S Minnock (54), S Ninan for M Coll (54), M McDonnell for C Nugent (54).

Referee: O Elliott (Antrim).