*Photograph: Joe Buckley
Inagh-Kilnamona stormed back to the summit of Clare Camogie after a blissfully clincial performance garnered a fourth McMahon Cup in five seasons in Fr. McNamara Park on Saturday afternoon.
Venue: Fr McNamara Park, Ennis
It was a near flawless display, with every single player contributing to their biggest ever final victory as aside from the first five minutes of each half, Inagh-Kilnamona dominated possession, the breaks and most importantly the scoreboard to ruthlessly keep their foot on their arch-rivals’ throats.
The scoring statistics alone tell their own tale as all but four points of Inagh-Kilnamona’s bountiful 2-17 total stemmed from play whereas all but three of the Blues’ scores came from placed balls.
The chief conductors of Inagh-Kilnamona’s command performance were the central axis of captain Clare Hehir, Fiona Lafferty, substitute Aoife Keane and in particular the inspirational Andrea O’Keeffe who was seemingly everywhere in an impactful roaming role. However, as much as it was the stuff of dreams for Inagh-Kilnamona, Newmarket’s sixth successive final appearance couldn’t have been any more nightmarish as they just couldn’t reach the heights of previous displays or years.
Perhaps they simply weren’t let though as while the Blues started in determined fashion against the conditions, crucially they failed to make it count on the scoreboard as eight early efforts at the posts yielded nothing. Three drifted wide, two dropped short, Tierna Hegarty superbly blocked an Aine O’Brien effort for a point while two further glorious goals chances were both frustratingly repelled. First, Sinead Quinn expertly inflicted a timely flick as Roisin McMahon was about to pull the trigger while a subsequent Carol O’Leary handpassed attempt was batted away by onrushing goalkeeper Rebecca Keating.
Having proven their defensive mettle, Inagh-Kilnamona’s attacking division soon made their mark up the other end as final debutant Danielle Griffin, Fiona Lafferty, Andrea O’Keeffe and Amy Keating punished the Blues’ profligacy before adding a timely goal just before the water break.
It stemmed from a Clare Hehir delivery over the top to Andrea O’Keeffe who duly centred for Claire Commane to flick to the roof of the net and cement a 1-4 to 0-0 first quarter advantage.
Not even the welcome recess could spark a shell-shocked Newmarket info life as it would take a full 26 minutes for Roisin McMahon to finally open their account with a 40 metre free. By then, Inagh-Kilnamona had only strengthened their hand with the introduction of county senior Aoife Keane who would be one of her side’s seven first half scorers on their way to a handsome 1-9 to 0-1 interval cushion. Aoibhín Ryan (2), Danielle Griffin and Amy Keating were the others to top up the 2016-18 champions’ tally by the midway mark.
The only way was up for Newmarket and they inevitably rallied, even getting the perfect restart when an AnnMarie Hayes point was quickly followed by a much-needed goal in the 32nd minute. Laura McMahon’s free from halfway appeared to go all the way to the net, thanks in the main to Carol O’Leary’s presence around the square. But even that slice of fortune couldn’t alter the narrative of these sides’ fifth final meeting in six seasons.
The goal was actually wiped out by the two-thirds mark as frees from Amy Keating and Clare Hehir sandwiched an Andrea O’Keeffe point at 1-12 to 1-02. Back came the Blues with four of the next five, three from Roisin McMahon placed balls, to lower the arrears to seven but despite a goalmouth scramble, the 2015 winners couldn’t obtain the goal they so badly craved at that critical juncture.
Instead, Inagh-Kilnamona remained composed, and through the almost innate understanding between Aoife Keane and Andrea O’Keeffe from puck-outs, turned the screw decisively in the final ten minutes with a 1-4 unanswered burst for glory.
A brace of points for Aoibhin Ryan and one for Amy Keating were fittingly accentuated by 1-1 from the irrepressible O’Keeffe, with her cool finish for a 54th minute clinching goal epitomising the kingpins’ relentless hour.
Having been dethroned at the semi-final stage in 2019, Inagh-Kilnamona tightened their grip on the McMahon Cup once more with a fourth crown in five years, with all four wins coming at the expense of Newmarket who in fact were heartbreakingly made to suffer their fifth consecutive final reverse.
This defeat though, particularly its manner, will unquestionably will be the most difficult pill to swallow as while pride and character alone will see them regroup and bounce back, on this occasion at least, they can have no complaints.
In contrast, being Inagh-Kilnamona’s most comprehensive final display, what will be most heartening for Eugene Foudy and his backroom team is that their conveyor belt of young talent shows no sign of drying up as teenage newcomers Tierna Hegarty and Danielle Griffin impressively performed like grizzled veterans. So added to their undoubted leadership core, a concerted Munster charge could well be on the cards. That’s for another day though as Inagh-Kilnamona deservedly celebrate their return to the top with a timely statement of intent for a sparkling new decade.
Scorers for Inagh-Kilnamona: Andrea O’Keeffe (1-4); Amy Keating (4f), Aoibhin Ryan (0-4 each); Claire Commane (1-0); Danielle Griffin (0-2); Fiona Lafferty, Aoife Keane, Clare Hehir (f) (0-1 each)
Scorers for Newmarket-on-Fergus: Roisin McMahon (0-4f); Laura McMahon (1-0f); AnnMarie Hayes, Carol O’Leary, Zoe McInerney (0-1 each)
1: Rebecca Keating
2: Laoise Ryan
3: Sinead Quinn
4: Michelle Mescall
5: Tierna Hegarty
6: Clare Hehir (Captain)
7: Teresa O’Keeffe
8: Fiona Lafferty
9: Sinead Power
13: Danielle Griffin
10: Andrea O’Keeffe
12: Jane Fitzgerald
11: Claire Commane
14: Amy Keating
15: Aoibhin Ryan
17: Aoife Keane for Fitzgerald (23)
19: Cathy Cullinan for Power (54)
23: Sinead O’Loughlin for Commane (57)
16: Chloe Foudy for Mescall (60)
18: Hazel O’Connor for A. Ryan (60)
1: Ciara McCarthy
2: Aoife Griffin
3: Katie O’Flanagan
4: Aislinn Keogh
5: Aimee McInerney (Captain)
6: Laura McMahon
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 Kelly (28)
23: Zoe McInerney for O’Brien (39)
14: Brid Enright for Lally (51)
17: Aoife Crimmins for Keogh (59, inj)
18: Kaci Toomey for O’Leary (60)
Referee: Ger Hoey (Killanena)