Cora Staunton collected 1-7 as five-time winners Carnacon booked their place in a first All-Ireland ladies senior club final since 2013. The Mayo and Connacht champions made a potentially tricky All-Ireland semi-final against first-time Ulster winners St Macartan’s look relatively straightforward on Sunday, in front of a big crowd at Fr. Hackett Park, Augher.
Carnacon were driven forward by their county stars as Fiona McHale delivered another powerhouse performance at midfield, while Amy Dowling scored 1-3 from play. Carnacon, despite coughing up some chances, were generally tight and compact in a defence led by Martha Carter and Marie Corbett.
And wing-forwards Louise Dowling and Aoife Brennan, who scored a point each, covered every blade of grass as Carnacon set up a December 3 final clash with Cork’s Mourneabbey at Parnell Park.
It’s the first time that the clubs will have met in the senior championship – as Carnacon look to collect a first All-Ireland crown since their last win five years ago. Club captain Staunton may be Australia-bound to prepare for a professional stint with the Greater Western Sydney Giants but the decorated forward will have to put travelling plans on hold for at least another fortnight.
For St Macs, this was a bridge too far but the club managed by former Tyrone All-Ireland winner Ryan McMenamin can still reflect proudly on a landmark season. They registered eight wides in the first half and they proved costly, as Carnacon put increased daylight between the teams as the game wore on.
At half-time, Carnacon led by 1-6 to 0-3 and the goal from McHale in the 16th minute was quite brilliant. McHale picked up possession around midfield and drove at the heart of the St Macs defence, with team-mates making intelligent runs on either side to clear a path.
McHale’s finish was low and decisive and the St Macs luck was summed up in the 28th minute when skipper Joline Donnelly clipped a shot off the upright, across the face of goal and wide.
Indeed, St Macs went without a score from the 15th minute until five minutes into the second half, and Carnacon were well in control by then.
The second Carnacon goal arrived in the 36th minute, as a long-range free from Staunton found the net, before Dowling registered goal number three six minutes later. From there until the finish it was simply a matter of keeping the scoreboard ticking over for Carnacon, as their goalkeeper Michelle Higgins preserved a ‘clean sheet’ with an excellent late save to keep out Lynda Donnelly.
Carnacon: C Staunton 1-7 (1-5f ), A Dowling 1-3, F McHale 1-2, L Dowling & A Brennan 0-1 each.
St Macs: C Maguire 0-3 (2f ), C McCaffrey 0-2 (1f ), N McGirr, L Donnelly & C McQuaid 0-1 each.
Carnacon:M Higgins; S McGing, M Carter, S Larkin; M McGing, M Corbett, D Hughes; F McHale, E Flannery; L Dowling, A Dowling, A Brennan; E Cosgrave, C Staunton, B Bruton. Subs: M Larkin for Bruton (51 ), A McHale for S Larkin (53 ).
St Macs: N McKenna; S McQuaid, M Donnelly, M Treanor; S McCarroll, N McGirr, L Donnelly; M McMenamin, C McQuaid; S McRory, C Maguire, P Donnelly; S McGirr, C McCaffrey, J Donnelly. Subs: T O’Hagan for P Donnelly (45 ), G McKenna for McRory (54 ), K Irvine for S McGirr (56 ).
Ref: C McManus (Meath )