In a brilliant Sean Faherty ladies football final, Na Fianna used the power of goals to do just enough to get the win in a pulsating contest. They only led for seven minutes, but they were the most important ones.
A brilliant display from keeper Alison Leyden was also critical as she made countless stops to keep her side in the game in the first half and then to preserve the lead in the second.
She was joined in the player of the game category by Maire Dargan from Kerry/Donegal. Shaking off leg injuries in the first and second half, she shot 0-9 over the hour and was unmarkable.
They both contributed to a brilliant outing and showed the young girls that annexed the Feile title in Ireland recently what the next step is for them. They were honored at halftime and received a huge cheer from the large crowd on hand.
In the first half it was all Kerry/Donegal. They went into the break with an 0-9 to 0-3 lead, and it could have been more as Dargan crashed a shot of the crossbar and was also denied by Leyden on another goal attempt.
They had the first three points of the game, with Dargan annexing two as she showed her brilliant form. They had three chances on goal 10 minutes in, with Mairead Tennyson hitting Leyden and then kicking wide.
It was a let off for Na Fianna. Kathryn Sullivan had their first point eight minutes in, and they had to wait a further eight for their second.
Dargan in the meantime had added two points while Kelly Roche also had a score, although that came after the ref overruled the umpire.
Na Fianna attacks were being broken up by excellent play from Fiona Ward, Louise Lilly and Niamh Britton, and their attack added points from Tennyson, Roche and Michelle Dowd as the half came to a close.
Na Fianna did have a third point from Brianna Tierney on a lovely run up the middle, but it left the side trailing 0-9 to 0-3 at the interval.
The game changed completely in the first 10 minutes of the second half. While Denise Dunnion had a point one minute in, when Brianna Tierney was fouled for a penalty two minutes later Na Fianna’s Aoife Herbert rifled the ball to the back of the net. She followed with a point from play and the score was now 0-10 to 1-4.
After a Dargan score to again put four between the sides, Emer Considine had a goal reminiscent of Seamus Darby for those with long memories.
Kerry/Donegal went on the attack in the aftermath, but as they crossed the middle of the field Roche was adjudged to have fouled Michelle Brennan off the ball. She was shown a yellow and headed for a 10 minute sin bin. Considine had the sides level a minute later.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, K/D attacked and had two points from Dargan. The second went off the hands of Leyden in a telling fashion.
They also had a screamer from Tennyson go wide while Denise Dunnion had a point attempt come back of the bar.
In a four minute burst Na Fianna made one last burst that effectively won the game for them. Considine had a point to start it on 20 minutes. She followed with another before Ward from K/D received a yellow for a foul wide on the right wing.
Moments later an attack that involved four players ended with Aine Dwyer hitting the back of the net for a 3-7 to 0-13 lead. They were ahead for the first time in the game.
From the kickout they won the ball again and Tierney fired over for the critical two score lead.
Again, despite the numerical disadvantage, Kerry/Donegal put untold pressure on Na Fianna. They had Dargan scores from a free and play while Tennyson again hit the bar with the defense beaten.
With a minute on the clock Leyden made one last brilliant stop to preserve the victory, and time ran out on K/D.
A number of heroes for Na Fianna, but none stood taller than the outstanding keeper Alison Leyden. The number of saves were countless, the handling superb.
Kathryn Sullivan did a lot of good defensive work. Aine Dwyer took her goal well, and Brianna Tierney had an excellent outing -- her running was very hard to handle for the defense.
Eimear Considine and Aoife Herbert played huge parts with the important scores. Considine won a lot of possession.
Kerry/Donegal had their homework done and nearly made it there. Niamh Britton, Michelle McVann and Louise Lilly all had pivotal moments at the back.
Mairead Tennyson had a great outing on the ball, and her runs put the defense back on its heels. Kelly Roche was excellent, with two strong points and a lot of good feeds to Maire Dargan, who was brilliant. The defense tried everything and couldn’t slow her down.
The game was a tremendous one for New York ladies football. With the under 14s watching, nine -- yes NINE –American-born players started, and all played huge parts of the brilliance of the final. Contrast that to the senior men’s championship.
Now that all the sanctions are in, I count McCullough, Molloy, and Huvane starting for their clubs -- feel free to correct me.
There is something drastically wrong with that picture. More Americans started for New York vs. Mayo than are playing in championship now. The board needs to look hard at this.