Two Late Rebecca McDonnell Points Claimed Intermediate Title For Clanna Gael Fontenoy
Clanna Gael Fontenoy 2-07
By Daire Walsh
A late two point salvo from the magnificent Rebecca McDonnell helped Clanna Gael Fontenoy to secure the Dublin Intermediate Ladies Football Championship title in Lawless Park on Sunday evening.
With just under four minutes remaining in a titanic battle at the Swords venue, the Ringsend outfit found themselves on level terms with southside rivals Cuala.
The prospect of extra-time was looming large as a result, but McDonnell and Clanna Gael had enough in reserve to get themselves over the line.
McDonnell’s final haul of 0-5 made her scorer-in-chief for the victors, while Kate McKenna and Aisling Leonard also aided the Fontenoy cause with goals in each half.
Fresh from helping Dublin to secure a third consecutive All-Ireland SFC crown last Sunday in Croke Park, Jennifer Dunne was at her imperious best for Cuala.
She matched McDonnell’s personal tally and was constant source of inspiration for the Dalkey side over the course of the contest.
With county team-mate Martha Byrne also leading the way in defence, it looked like Cuala might be able to squeeze through on the night.
Clanna Gael simply refused to give in, though, and got their just rewards in a frantic finale.
The two sides had previously met in a Group A encounter in early May – which ended in a hard-earned 2-10 to 1-9 success for Cuala.
Having overcome this disappointment with back-to-back wins over Clann Mhuire and Castleknock, Clanna Gael joined their Dalkey rivals in the last-four of the competition.
Whereas Fontenoy edged out Parnell’s in their semi-final clash at Chanel on September 4 – on a scoreline of 1-12 to 3-5 – Cuala had to wait a fortnight before facing Skerries Harps on the opposite side of the draw.
This was due to the inter-county commitments of Byrne and Dunne, as well as Skerries stalwart Lyndsey Davey.
It was Cuala, of course, who comfortably claimed the spoils at Meadowvale (7-15 to 2-4) – making them favourites to prevail at the expense of Clanna Gael for the second time in 2019.
Yet, under the stewardship of former Mayo footballer Diane O’Hora, Fontenoy have made steady progress as the season has worn on.
The elusive McDonnell broke the deadlock early on with an impressive point, only for Dunne to respond in similar fashion at the far end.
Wing-back Rachel Hartnett then broke forward to kick a fine score off her right foot and following a brief impasse in front of goal, Dunne bagged her second of the half.
Clanna Gael were struggling to curtail the Sky Blues star, who consistently forced their defence on the back-foot with a series of piercing runs.
Just when Cuala appeared to be controlling the tempo of the game, they suffered a significant set-back.
Midfielder McKenna had intended to pick out McDonnell with a precise inside pass on 14 minutes.
Her delivery was overcooked but, on a greasy surface, the ball slipped through the grasp of Cuala custodian Clodagh Sheehan on its way into the back of the net.
After largely dominating the opening quarter, Cuala suddenly found themselves in arrears. This particular Clanna lead proved to be a short-lived one, though.
Off Cuala’s next foray into enemy territory, full-forward Cathy Brock unleashed an unstoppable strike past the stranded Serena Hannon.
A quick-fire Dunne brace – including a routine free – created further daylight between the sides, with the interval fast approaching.
The introduction of Lisa Curtin and Maria O’Dea off the bench added renewed vigour to the Clanna Gael challenge, however, and they ended the opening period in considerable style.
Leonard, Anna O’Donavan and the increasingly-prominent McDonnell raised consecutive white flags to leave O’Hora’s troops a single point adrift (1-5 to 1-4) at the midway stage.
In an attempt to halt the momentum of their Sean Moore Park counterparts, Cuala added Eleanor Moore to their defensive mix on the restart.
This initially had the desire effect as they closed out the Clanna Gael attack in the early minutes of the second period.
That was until a gap finally appeared inside their ’45’ and Leonard delivered a smooth finish into the bottom right-hand corner on 36 minutes.
This threw down the gauntlet to Cuala and while McDonnell once again showcased her unerring accuracy, Grainne O’Driscoll registered points either side of her latest contribution to leave the sides delicately poised inside the final-quarter.
There was little to separate the teams on paper and, when Byrne and Dunne combined for the latter to hit her fifth point, parity had been restored to an already intriguing affair (1-8 to 2-5).
Six minutes from the end of time, Dunne was presented with a golden opportunity to edge Cuala back into the ascendancy.
However, the towering centre-fielder’s difficult free to the left of the uprights drifted marginally wide of the mark – much to the relief of the Clanna Gael faithful. At this juncture, it was impossible to predict who would eventually come out on top.
As it transpired, it was the brilliance of McDonnell that swung the pendulum in the favour of Fontenoy.
Having cut inside off the left-wing to kick an outstanding 57th-minute point, the dynamic half-forward repeated the trick on the hour mark.
This left Cuala needing a goal in stoppage-time to address their deficit.
With time almost up, Sinead Wylde – a regular fixture on the Dublin senior camogie side in 2019 – brilliantly gathered a Dunne free close to the posts.
Her resulting shot flashed off-target, though, consequently opening the door for Clanna Gael Fontenoy to seal a memorable triumph.
Clanna Gael Fontenoy Scorers: Rebecca McDonnell 0-5, Aisling Leonard 1-1, Kate McKenna 1-0, Anne O’Donavan 0-1.
Cuala Scorers: Jennifer Dunne 0-5 (1f), Cathy Brock 1-0, Grainne O’Driscoll 0-2, Rachel Hartnett 0-1.
Clanna Gael Fontenoy: Serena Hannon; Aoife Quinn, Jenny Mannion, Laura Goonan; Susan Vaughan, Marie Twomey, Ella Thiourreiz; Kate McKenna, Anne O’Donavan; Rebecca McDonnell, Aisling Leonard, Rachael Byrne; Hannah Lohan, Sinead O’Sullivan, Niamh McKernan. Subs: Lisa Curtin for Lohan (20), Maria O’Dea for Thiourreiz (22), Ella Darcy for Goonan (43), Marissa O’Callaghan for McKernan (51).
Cuala: Clodagh Sheehan; Cliodhna Kelly, Sinead Murphy, Anna Moran; Rachel Hartnett, Martha Byrne, Eimear Loughlin; Caitriona Murphy, Jennifer Dunne; Ciara McKeown, Grainne O’Driscoll, Blaithlin Lane; Sinead Wylde, Cathy Brock, Jess Tobin. Subs: Eleanor Moore for S Murphy (half-time), Molly Lewis for McKeown (44), Rena Mullally for Byrne (63).
Referee: Jason Buckley (Setanta)
Player of the Match: Kate McKenna (Clanna Gael Fontenoy)