By Daire Walsh

A stoppage-time point from midfielder Emer Kelly proved to be the difference between the teams in Skerries Harps GAA on Wednesday evening, when Clanna Gael Fontenoy B edged a tense New Ireland Assurance Junior E Club Championship decider against Castleknock B.

After Castleknock substitute Ciara Murray, and Clanna Gael attacker Marie Alice Cleary, traded goals in the final-quarter, it looked like the sides would prove to be inseparable at the end of the contest. However, Kelly was on hand to split the posts for the Fontenoy girls three minutes into time added on, and this was enough to secure the silverware at the expense of their determined Somerton Park counterparts.

Playing in breezy but, dry conditions in Skerries, it was the aforementioned Cleary who broke the deadlock with a well-worked point from play after three minutes. This was quickly supplemented by a left-footed effort courtesy of inside forward Emma Sayers, as Clanna Gael aimed to create an early platform.

Castleknock were taking their time to settle into the tempo of the play, but they finally opened their account with a sixth-minute point by corner-forward Suzanne McCarthy. This reduced their deficit to a minimum during the early exchanges, but they suffered a set-back on the stroke of ten minutes.

Castleknock netminder Rachel Slater couldn’t hold onto a dangerous long-range free by Faun Duggan, and the industrious Cleary was in the right place to palm home the opening goal of the game. Cleary was exerting an influence for Clanna Gael in the first-quarter, but centre-forward Anne O’Donovan was also proving to be a prominent figure in their attack.

She added her name to the scoresheet in the 13th-minute, and despite conceding a point to Castleknock’s Claire Murray, Clanna Gael responded with a placed-ball contribution from Duggan. The Dublin 4 outfit were creating significant daylight between themselves and Castleknock, before their opponents responded with a 21st-minute three-pointer of their own.

Dearbhla Monaghan found McCarthy with a sharp inside pass, and she coolly shot beyond the reach of helpless Fontenoy ‘keeper Gillian Boyle. This was precisely the kind of tonic that Castleknock were looking for heading towards half-time, but there was enough time for Clanna Gael to make an impact prior to the interval. They were awarded a penalty on 27 minutes, after Castleknock’s Slater had foot-blocked a goal-bound Catherine Smith effort.

Although Sayers finished off the rebound, referee Peter Trimble signalled for a spot-kick, and also issued a yellow-card to Slater. This meant that centre-back Julie Rodgers was forced to take over in goal during her ten-minute absence, but Rodgers stepped up to the mark by turned away Duggan’s subsequent 11-metre strike.

This was a massive boost for Castleknock who, despite having to deal with a numerical disadvantage, managed to narrow the gap with a late first-half point from Claire Murray.

This ensured that Clanna Gael’s lead had been reduced to one point (1-04 to 1-03) for the start of the second-half, but thanks to scores by Cleary and substitute Ruth Shaw, Fontenoy built some much-needed momentum upon the resumption.

Cleary’s point ended a lengthy barren spell for Clanna Gael, but they had to wait a full 20 minutes before adding to Shaw’s contribution from play. In the direct aftermath of Slater’s return for Castleknock, Clanna Gael’s O’Donovan was sent to the sin-bin for an off-the-ball incident, and they certainly missed her dynamic presence in this pivotal juncture.

Monaghan had earlier narrowed the gap with a point, but it was substitute Ciara Murray who ultimately moved Castleknock into the ascendancy for the very first time.

Four minutes after her introduction, she received the ball in an advanced position, and her low shot slipped through the fingertips of Boyle and into the net. Castleknock now sensed that they were firmly in contention for top honours, and following points by Emma Finney and Ciara Murray, they led 2-06 to 1-06 with just ten minutes of normal time remaining.

The onus was now on Clanna Gael to search for scores, but they were given a lifeline in the form of a second penalty on 52 minutes. Cleary stepped forward to the spot on this occasion, and she clinically recorded her second goal of the tie.

This set-up a nerve-wracking finale, and after some missed opportunities by both sides, Ciara Murray moved Castleknock with an expertly-converted free. Clanna Gael didn’t allow their heads to drop, however, and the excellent O’Donovan raced through the heart of the opposition defence to level matters once more on the stroke of 60 minutes.

The game was ebbing and flowing at a ferocious pace by this point, but after much persistence, it was Fontenoy was reclaimed the lead through the right-foot of Kelly. There was enough time for Castleknock to forge a final attack, but when Clanna Gael Fontenoy cleared their lines, they had sealed a dramatic triumph.

Scorers – Clanna Gael Fontenoy B: Marie Alice Cleary 2-02 (1-00 pen), Anne O’Donovan 0-02, Faun Duggan (f), Emer Kelly, Emma Sayers, Ruth Shaw 0-01 each.

Castleknock B: Ciara Murray 1-02 (0-02f), Suzanne McCarthy 1-01, Claire Murray 0-02 (2f), Emma Finney, Dearbhla Monaghan 0-01 each.

CLANNA GAEL FONTENOY B: Gillian Boyle; Aine Barrett, Aine McKenna, Anna Stevenson; Amy Rintoul, Emma O’Dell, Emma Brown; Emer Kelly, Lisa Maughan; Marie Alice Cleary, Anne O’Donovan, Faun Duggan; Nuala McMahon, Catherine Smith, Emma Sayers.

SUBS: Helen Barron for Barrett, Blathnaid McNamara for Stevenson, Ruth Shaw for Sayers (all half-time), Rebecca Byrne for C Smith (50), Jessica McDonnell for McMahon (59).

CASTLEKNOCK B: Rachel Slater; Eleanor Kiernan, Lelia Ryan, Niamh Rafferty; Sarah Byrne, Julie Rodgers, Rioghan Ni Lorcain; Molly O’Neill, Niamh Mulroney; Orla Kindlon, Claire Murray, Aoife Delaney; Emma Finney, Dearbhla Monaghan, Suzanne McCarthy.

SUBS: Claire Nulty for Ryan (20), Karla Whelan for Claire Murray (38), Ciara Murray for McCarthy (42), Mairead Griffin for Kindlon (46), Aisling Andrews for Finney (48).

Referee: Peter Trimble (Trinity Gaels).