Liberty Gaels 2-8 Annie Moore’s 2-4. Liberty Gaels girls are the New York Junior camogie champions for the second year in a row.
In stifling heat they defeated Annie Moore's in Sunday’s final at Gaelic Park with the game going down to the wire.
It took a late burst of 1-1 to finally seal the win, but they were made to work all the way by a resolute Moore's team. Offaly native Dolores Kelly hit the net with the crucial score to seal the victory with eight minutes left.
Annie Moore's had qualified for the final courtesy of topping the regular-season league. Liberty Gaels defeated Philadelphia in the semifinal, 5-11 to 0-4, to stake their spot in the decider.
When Cathal Freeman fired the ball in to start proceedings, both sides were ready to stake their claim to the silverware. The sides swapped points to open the game before Katrina McCormack added a second for Liberty Gaels. It was to prove to be a site that the crowd would see time and again during the hour as McCormack played a player of the game part in the victory.
Gaels had three further attacks come to naught as tough defending by Jennifer Moran and Serena Walsh repealed attacks, while two wides also did not help the scoreboard.
Twelve minutes in, Annie Moore's took the lead and it happened in dramatic fashion. Winning a free approximately 45 meters from the Gaels goal, management called center back Brenda Crowe to take it. Her long drive found its way through a nest of bodies and into the top left corner of the net to give her side a 1-1 to 0-2 advantage. In a tight game, it could have proved a huge momentum changer.
Meabh McDaid had to quell two further attacks by clearing her lines when long balls found their way to the small square. Liberty Gaels battled back into the contest, however, and a further score by McCormack narrowed the gap.
Colleen McCullough was introduced off the bench for the Gaels, and in the first minutes after her introduction she proved devastating. With 10 minutes left in the half, a long ball was driven into the Moore's square.
When it hit the ground, McCullough got the vital touch to direct it to the back of the net. She followed with a point from play to extend the lead to 1-4 to 1-1 at the break but could be deemed very unlucky when she got a touch to another high ball into the danger area. She redirected it with a sublime touch but it whistled wide of the net. So close to a goal of the year contender.
The second half continued as the first had ended, with tight marking, hard battling and pure heart on both sides as the teams knew that they only had 30 minutes left to try and annex the title.
McCormack added a point from play, and a free to the Gaels total, but Crowe stepped up to the plate for her side and fired over two frees to keep them within shouting distance.
The game had a couple of stoppages due to injuries from overzealous tackles, but nothing was malicious as both sides gave everything as time ticked on.
McDaid stepped forward to take a long-range free for the Gaels. However, on the end of it, Lauryn Hollywood was denied by the battling defense.
With less than a quarter of the game left, Liberty Gaels had a long-range effort fly in the direction of the posts. Both VAR and Hawkeye could have been used to determine the outcome; the managements both had their opinions.
But the standing crowd had the best view, and the groan from the Moore's supporters and the cheer from the Gaels followers told its own tale.
Annie Moore's responded to the score in the best possible way. They worked the ball out of the defense with a fluid passing move, before Katherine Brady soloed in on goal at the offensive end. She found the back of the net despite the best efforts of McDaid in the Liberty goal. The lead was down to one.
The championship moments were upon us. Who would make the final surge over the line, or would the sides end level in the tremendous heat and have to play extra time?
The outstanding McCormack and Michelle Hackett were having none of it. Both grabbed the game by its neck and stormed forward.
A clearance from the back found McCormack. She carried the ball forward and then fired into the danger area. Kelly was lurking and she got the vital touch to propel the ball to the back of the net.
Not as dramatic, perhaps, as her fellow Offaly native Seamus Darby, when he stopped the five in a row, but a tremendously important moment in a New York final. The Gaels repelled further attacks from Annie Moore's as time wound down, and the winners were on the attack when the final whistle sounded loudly around the Mecca.
The determination shown by both sides is to be commended. They left it all out on the field. No quarter asked or given.
The winners had a host of stars starting with the keeper Meabh McDaid. Calming and collected, with long puck outs and frees, she also got on a lot of balls that found its way into the danger zone. Elle McKenna, Lucy Heinla and Niamh Coleman stood out at the back with determined displays.
Colo Taskowitz added another dimension when she was relocated there in the second half, Her long clearances had the desired effect. Michelle Hackett played a captain’s part with an outstanding display of heart and grit in the middle of the park. Despite a knock on the leg that resembled a huge golf ball, she never left the field in a brilliant hour. Her partner Suzanne Horan was very effective by her side.
Katrina McCormack was outstanding up front, six points from frees and play, a titan contribution. Lauryn Hollywood was a powerhouse in open play, Colleen McCullough a revelation off the bench. Put simply, she did something positive with the ball every time she touched it.
Despite playing against her daughter Brenda Crowe, and the feelings that roll with it, Dolores Kelly had a big impact on the game. Not least of was the goal that made the victory certain.
Annie Moore's contributed tremendously to the contest. Serena Walsh, Jennifer Moran, and Crowe battled throughout at the back. The free taking of Crowe was outstanding and kept her side in the contest, not just in front of goal but also further out the field. Ciara O'Reilly, the roving number nine, gave the winners many difficulties, her runs had a marked effect. Katherine Brady when she arrived off the bench was prominent and her goal crucial.
Both sides now move on the North American championships in Virginia next weekend.