Cavan are the Sean Faherty Champions for the 15th time in the history of the tournament but it took three brilliantly saves from player of the game Nora Kilkenny to get them there. With the game sitting precariously on the edge with 7 minutes gone in the second half, she denied Marie Dargan with an outstanding diving save to preserve a four point lead and followed it three minutes later with another excellent save from the same player.
It was a crucial time and the young keeper followed in the footsteps of last year’s player of the game, Alison Leyden of Na Fianna by showing that the keeper position is a critical one. Scores were at a premium in the second half; Cavan had gone in at the break 1-07 to 1-03 ahead and extended it to 2-08 to 2-05 before the storming last few minutes when Cavan again went four ahead before KD had a consolation goal with the last kick of the game.
Kerry/Donegal had a dream start as they had 1-01 in the first ten minutes. The point came from an Eilis Gannon free four minutes in, and they followed with a goal from Gannon when she got her fist to they end of a dropping ball and changed the direction of its flight giving Nora Kilkenny no chance. Cavan did have a brilliant opportunity at the other end when Catriona Rafferty rifled a shot of the crossbar before it was cleared to safety. Shortly after the KD goal, Cavan did break into the game with a Fiona Skelly point when she sauntered into attack and drove over. Emma Clarke had joined the fray at this juncture and she already started to have an effect. Alisha Jordon had a point from play when she won the kick out and soloed forward before Clarke set Kate Byrne free with a delightful pass and the midfielder from Meath finished beautifully low to the net. Clarke followed with a point to extend their advantage to 1-03 to 1-01 and Collette McGoldrick received a yellow for her second heavy challenge on 16 minutes. KD did follow with an Eilis Gannon free but then Cavan added three consecutive scores as they used the extra player to advantage. Jordon Murphy, and sub Tina Lenihan. With time winding down both sides added to their totals to leave Cavan four ahead 1-07 to 1-03.
Both sides had wides to open the second half with Cavan guilty of some easy misses from frees and play in very scorable positions. Emma Clarke finally had their first score of the half, six minutes in when she pointed a free when Vivienne McCormack was fouled. KD stormed down the field in the aftermath and set up a brilliant goal chance. The ball was worked into Marie Dargan from Eilis Gannon, and the full forward finally broke the shackles of Aoife O’Rourke to head for goal. Her waist high shot was brilliantly parried to safety however by the diving Nora Kilkenny. Within minutes Kerry/Donegal were at it again with another bonifide goal chance. Again it was Dargan bearing down on goal but her low shot was again saved by Kilkenny. The losers did follow up with an Eilis Gannon point seconds later before she had a second chance goal to pull her side within one at 1-08 to 2-04 with 17 minutes left on the clock. It was tied up with fourteen left when Marie Dargan drove a sideline from the left wing, approximately 30 yards out cleanly overt the black spot in what was a sublime effort. All to play for, it was Cavan who made the first push for success. Viv McCormack made a run up the center and laid off to Fiona Skelly who continued as the crow flies motoring for goal. She got a deceptive shot off from the twenty meter line that flew all the way to the net. Both sides had chances in the next seven minutes but excellent defending by Amanda McGovern and Naimh Britton at the KD end nullified a number of Cavan chances while Caitlin Hynes and the outstanding O’Rourke thwarted four KD attacks with interceptions and staunch defending. Denise Dunnion had a screamer of a point with four minutes left but it was cancelled out by a Sarah Murphy drive at the other end with seconds. With time ticking down, Alisha Jordon gave her side a four point cushion with a left foot gem. Cavan attempted to run the clock down when they won the kick out but the ball was intercepted by Kerry/Donegal. They tore forward with Ellen Cleary finishing a four player move with a low drive to the net. It was the last kick of the game however as the buzzer sounded and Cavan had survived.
So Cavan are the champions again, they have a number of players to thank. Highest on the list is Nora Kilkenny, without her saves the game is completely different. An outstanding performance, she also found her players time and again with short and long kick outs in an MVP performance. Aoife O’Rourke had a terrific outing particularly in the first half, two county players going head to head she won the duel despite Dargans chances in the second half. Caroline McBrien did very well on a dangerous opponent while Mary Naughton had some vital contributions. Very aggressive to the ball, it counted. Fiona Skelly had another excellent outing going forward, her goal was a gem while her runs further out the field helped to aleave pressure and put KD on the defensive. Kate Byrne and Vivienne McCormack both had valuable contributions at different times. Byrne in the first half had some timely catches and movement of the ball while McCormack linked well with the defenders coming out and her strong running caused panic and havoc. Up front the shackles were put on Cavan, especially in the second half. Sarah Murphy finished strong, while Alisha Jordon was the best of the division, the subs contributed which was a big help. Kerry/Donegal will be devastated by the second year in a row loss. They were a huge part of a very entertaining game. Naimh Britton and Amanda McGovern did very well in the full back line while Ellen Cleary was excellent in the center. Catriona Brady did a lot of positives especially in the resurgence with her passing a telling factor. Elis Gannon was terrific and is a deadly ball carrier and distributor. Marie Dargan was held in check for the most part and still could have had a brace of goals.