*Newmarket-on-Fergus centre-back Laura McMahon. Photograph: Veronica McMahon
The timely litmus test for both contenders was eventually edged by Newmarket-on-Fergus after firing the last four points to progress to a sixth consecutive Clare senior camogie championship final.
Venue: Fr McNamara Park, Ennis
Far from the clear narrative of last year’s decider in which Scariff-Ogonnelloe deservedly soared to a historic breakthrough crown, in contrast this was a seesaw wrestle for control that could have essentially gone either way.
The goals alone were massive game-changers as Newmarket’s early dominance evaporated with Mairead Scanlan’s remarkable solo goal just in time for the water break that unearthed a seven point turnaround by the break at 1-5 to 0-4.
While just when it appeared that the holders had weathered the inevitable Blue storm thanks to a trio of Scanlan points, Lorraine Bible’s opportunist rebound strike in the 54th minute was the catalyst for Newmarket to utilise their vast experience and grind out victory from the jaws of defeat.
Scariff-Ogonnelloe will be understandably crestfallen to have surrendered their crown but in truth there wasn’t the same spark and buoyancy attached to their title defence as captain Mairead Scanlan’s impressive 1-8 tally demonstated.
Indeed, her rousing goal and a much-needed opening point for her side in the second period were their only scores from play, with a lack of potency from her attacking team-mates ultimately stiffled their progress.
That said, Newmarket were hardly the poster girls of consistency themselves but crucially stuck to their task and once they got the desired shot-in-the-arm of Bible’s late goal, took full advantage of their newfound momentum.
The Blues also started firmly on the frontfoot as despite a tricky crossfield breeze, Aine O’Brien’s radar never wavered with three of a four point blitz to lead by 0-4 to 0-1 by the 13th minute.
Up stepped Mairead Scanlan to alter the early narrative as she collected a Rachel Minogue centre to burst past two defenders and rifle to the right corner of the net to regain parity by the water recess.
Inspired by that score, the champions would seize full control of the second quarter as they not only kept Newmarket scoreless but would tack on four further points of their own, all from placed balls through Scanlan (3) and goalkeeper Aisling Corbett, to take a 1-5 to 0-4 advantage into the interval.
Newmarket regrouped and came out fighting though with a hat-trick of Aine O’Brien frees lowering the arrears to just the minimum by the 37th minute. It was Scanlan that inevitably led the resistence however after a great score from play was accentuated by two more placed balls to restore a four point cushion entering the final quarter.
The introduction of Niki Kaiser and Zoe McInerney did greatly increase the Blues’ threat but it took until the 54th minute for their backlash to materialise after Jenny Kelly’s effort from distance was parried by goalkeeper Corbett, only for Bible to flick the rebound to the net and slash the deficit to just one.
Scanlan did stop the rot with a 35 metre free at 1-9 to 1-7 but by then, the pendulum had swung decisively in Newmarket’s direction as Roisin McMahon and Jenny Kelly eventually tied up the game nearing the hour mark.
Extra-time seemed fairest but Newmarket would dig deepest to create their own destiny as an injury-time brace of frees for Roisin McMahon lifted her side to a remarkable 15th final in 20 years.
Scorers for Newmarket-on-Fergus: Aine O’Brien (0-5f); Roisin McMahon (0-3f); Lorraine Bible (1-0); Clodagh O’Halloran, Carol O’Leary, Jenny Kelly (0-1 each)
Scorers for Scariff-Ogonnelloe: Mairead Scanlan (1-8, 6f, 1’45); Aisling Corbett (0-1f)
1: Ciara McCarthy
2: Aoife Griffin
3: Katie O’Flanagan
4: Aislinn Keogh
5: Aimee McInerney
6: Laura McMaon
7: Tara O’Neill
9: Lorraine Bible
20: Jenny Kelly
13: Clodagh O’Halloran
8: Roisin McMahon
12: Caoimhe Lally
15: AnnMarie Hayes
11: Carol O’Leary
10: Aine O’Brien
29: Niki Kaiser for Hayes (43)
23: Zoe McInerney for Lally (48)
14: Brid Enright for Keogh (56)
1: Aisling Corbett
2: Alison McGee
3: Susan Daly
4: Holly McGee
7: Aisling Corry
6: Ciara Doyle
5: Susan Vaughan
8: Amy Barrett
9: Lynda Daly
12: Jennifer Daly
11: Mairead Scanlan
10: Rachel Minogue
22: Alva Rodgers
13: Aoife Power
14: Marian Rodgers
20: Roisin O’Brien for Corry (38)
19: Cliona McNamara for J. Daly (58)
Referee: Aaron Hogg (Clonlara)