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Cuala 3-15

Lucan Sarsfields 3-09

By Daire Walsh

A powerful first-half performance paid dividends for Cuala at Fingallians GAA last Friday evening, when the Dalkey club secured the Dublin Junior ‘A’ Ladies Football Championship title with a well-deserved victory over Lucan Sarsfields.

Jennifer Dunne and Eimear Loughlin were in fine form throughout for Cuala, and even though Lucan attempted a gallant fightback in the final-quarter, John McKeown’s charges claimed their first-ever title at this grade.

Lucan were winners of this competition in 2002 (they also contested the 2012 decider with Thomas Davis), and after dominating possession during the early stages, they opened the scoring with a successful second-minute free from Aoife McKearney.

Indeed, they created a number of opportunities inside the opening 10 minutes of play, but ultimately couldn’t build a bigger gap between the sides. Following a fine run through the heart of the Lucan defence, Hannah O’Dea restored parity to the proceeded, and the first goal of the game arrived in the 11th-minute.

Corner-forward Lasariona Huggard found herself in an advanced position on the right-hand side, and her subsequent shot at goal drifted into the bottom corner of Susan Scully’s net. This was a significant set-back for Lucan after their positive start to the action, and with centre-forward Dunne opening her account from the next attack, it was beginning to look quite ominous for Paul Quinn’s side.

By contrast, Cuala were now playing with a great deal of confidence, and another speculative effort by midfielder Loughlin led to a second goal at the end of the opening quarter. While there was still plenty of time for Lucan to work their way back in contention, they were struggling to get quality ball into their forward line, and were constantly forced on the back-foot by the impressive Cuala

Dunne was in blistering form on the ’40’, and she hit another haul of 0-5 to increase their lead to all of 14 points. Blaithin Lane and Ciara McKeown were also on target during a strong period for Cuala, and although their scoring sequence was interrupted by a stoppage-time point from Lucan’s Emma Flanagan, they brought a seemingly insurmountable 2-9 to 0-2 cushion into the break.

En route to the final, Lucan’s only defeat in the championship was a 12-point group stage loss (2-16 to 2-4) to Cuala on May 17th, but despite showing tremendous spirit to record five straight triumphs since that game, it was difficult to see how they were going to rein in the challenge of a rampant Cuala.

In fact, the Hyde Park brigade reinforced their superiority within 60 seconds of the restart. Grainne O’Driscoll was introduced at half-time along with Cara Sullivan, and she fired to roof of the Lucan net at the end of an incisive attacking move.

She also raised a white flag on 35 minutes – just moments after Loughlin split the posts – and at this point it was quickly turning into a damage limitation exercise for Lucan. Yet, they were starting to make greater inroads inside the Cuala half, and a brilliant three-pointer by McKearney provided them with some degree of solace.

There were no reason for Cuala to panic, though, and with their team captain Siobhan Ni Cheallaigh added to their full-forward line instead of Huggard, they were on the hunt for further scores.

Dunne and Loughlin enhanced their own personal tallies, but a determined Lucan responded with points from Patricia Gordon and Laura Quinn at the opposite end of the field. Dunne converted frees in the 45th and 50th minutes, but sandwiched in between these scores was Lucan’s second goal of the night.

The lively Flanagan (an accountant by trade) tried her luck from distance, and Cuala netminder Caoimhe O’Carroll couldn’t prevent the green flag from being raised once again. The Lucan performance levels were certainly improving as the half developed, and when a Katie Wisdom point from close-range was complimented by McKearney’s second goal, their deficit had been reduced to 10 points.

Lucan continued to take the game to Cuala as the final whistle approached, and unanswered scores by Mairi Moynihan (two), Flanagan and Quinn meant that they had registered 1-5 without reply in the closing stages.

This wasn’t enough to spoil Cuala’s party, however, and they finished with six points to spare over their 12th Lock counterparts.

Scorers for Cuala: Jennifer Dunne 0-8 (6f), Eimear Loughlin 1-3, Grainne O’Driscoll 1-1, Lasariona Huggard 1-0, Hannah O’Dea, Ciara McKeown, Blaithin Lane 0-1 each.

Scorers for Lucan Sarsfields: Aoife McKearney 2-1, Emma Flanagan 1-2 (0-1f), Mairi Moynihan (f), Laura Quinn 0-2 each, Patricia Gordon, Katie Wisdom 0-1 each.

CUALA: Caoimhe O’Carroll; Anna Moran, Ruth Moran, Leonie Buckley; Jess Tobin, Martha Byrne, Cliodhna Kelly; Hannah O’Dea, Eimear Loughlin; Ciara McKeown, Jennifer Dunne, Billie Kate Huggard; Lasariona Huggard, Sinead Murphy, Blaithin Lane. Subs: Clodagh Sheehan, Siobhan Ni Cheallaigh, Cara Sullivan, Caitriona Murphy, Orla McMahon, Rebecca Meaney, Eleanor Moore, Sinead Wylde, Grainne O’Driscoll, Amy Donnelly, Ciara Byrne, Niamh Collopy, Aishling Ruigrok, Emma O’Connor.

LUCAN SARSFIELDS: Susan Scully; Tracey Burke, Patricia Gordon, Avril Quinn; Claire Rigney, Orlaith McKelvey, Sabrina Maloney; Sarah Maloney, Mairi Moynihan; Laura Quinn, Ciara McNamara, Aoife McKearney; Katie Wisdom, Michelle Kelly, Emma Flanagan. Subs: Caroline Geraghty, Sinead O’Keefe, Ashling Clarke, Laura Flanagan, Meabh Dowler, Ali Twomey, Aine Ni Chleirigh, Leanne Behan, Kate Whyte, Emma O’Flynn.