London’s Tara make it 12-in-a-row but it’s more final heartache for Manchester’s Fullen Gaels
By Damian Dolan
Tara claimed their 12th consecutive senior title at a rain-drenched Pairc na hEireann, but only after a thrilling 1-9 to 1-7 victory over Fullen Gaels, as the Manchester side came agonisingly close to securing their first-ever senior championship.
Few of Tara’s previous 11 titles have been harder one.
Sinead Convery’s goal in added time looked to have delivered the breakthrough for Fullen, in last year’s delayed final.
It was a lead they held for barely a minute, though, as the holders called on all of their experience, with Claire Ryan rattling off three unanswered frees on the bounce to ensure the trophy remains in London.
A tough one to take for Fullen, who’d also pushed Tara all the way in the 2019 final. Just five points separated the sides that day, while four points was the difference in the 2019 group stage.
Last Saturday, Tara’s margin of victory was a mere two points. Fullen are getting closer, but that will have been of little consolation last Saturday to Pio McCarthy’s side.
If nothing else, though, Saturday’s thriller has served to whett the appetite for this year’s championship, and another potential rematch in October’s final.
Although others will hope to have a say, on this evidence Tara-Fullen Part IV can’t come soon enough, and that can only be good for camogie in Britain.
With the rain chucking it down in Birmingham, Katie McMahon gave Fullen the lead in the third minute with a typically bursting run, only for Fiona Morrissey to restore parity.
The outstanding Sarah Fahy (free) put the Lancashire side back in front.
The Manchester team had settled the quicker. Swarming around the Tara player in possession, their work-rate was making life hard for the Londoners.
In the Tara goal, Helen Murphy was looking very assured, while Lucy Hawkes and Eadaoin Murphy were enjoying a battle royal.
At centre back, Laura Connolly was already showing well, and would continue to have an outstanding game, while Claire Flynn came up with one crucial interception.
Fullen’s Tigerish start brought another free for the excellent Fahy to despatch, while Ryan was struggling to find her radar at the other end.
Slowly, the champions began to assert themselves, but turning a sustained period of pressure into points proved problematic. Fullen tried to ride out the storm.
With Tara on top, Morrissey had a fleeting sight of goal only to be crowded out, but Tessa Crowley fired over.
Fahy’s free was well beaten out by Helen Murphy, but when the ball eventually found its way back to Fahy she made no mistake at the second time of asking (0-4 to 0-2 to Fullen).
As half-time approached, Tara began to find their range.
Ryan (free) and Nessa Dolan pointed – the latter from Connolly’s surging run – and Fullen were lucky to survive one goalmouth scramble. Fiona Chawke eventually came away with it to the relief of her side.
A Morrissey point in added time put Tara 0-5 to 0-4 up at the break, although in the halves’ final moments Meadhbh Buckley hit the Fullen crossbar and Crowley the post.
Sinead Tuohy’s score in the opening minute of the second half tied things up, but two minutes later a Ryan free from distance sailed into the Fullen net. Tara led 1-5 to 0-5.
Katie McMahon nearly responded for Fullen, but for a crucial hook by Connolly. Fahy’s free ensured Fullen didn’t leave emptyhanded, though.
Fahy and Rachael O’Toole were enjoying fantastic games for Fullen, while full back Ciara Mannion was growing more and more into the match and cleaning up everything at the back.
A Ryan (free) left a goal between the sides (1-6 to 0-6) and it was Tara’s turn to survive a goalmouth scramble.
Convery did superbly to point after being picked out at the far post, and only some desperate Tara defence forced Touhy to shoot wide with the Tara goal under serious threat.
Going into the final ten minutes it remained all to play for.
Fullen threw everything at the champions and their efforts paid off as the game slipped into added time, when Convery deftly flicked the ball over the head of Helen Murphy and into the net.
The Fullen bench erupted. They led 1-7 to 1-6 and could almost touch the trophy.
But Tara aren’t champions for nothing and they brought all of their experience to bear in the minutes that remained, with the tension now palatable.
Saoirse Glynn’s run won a free, just as she looked in on goal, and Ryan did the rest to level things up.
A minute later Ryan added another free – this time a superb effort from the sideline – and Tara were back in front.
When Glynn won another free, Ryan stepped up to leave Fullen needing a goal. They desperately went in search of another major, but couldn’t conjure one.
Tara could finally celebrate, but it had been a mightily close-run thing.
For Helen Murphy an 11th senior title, Joni Traynor a tenth, Lucy Hawkes and Fiona Morrissey their eighth.
Junior champions as recent as 2017 and intermediate winners in 2018, Fullen have now pushed the champions close in two senior finals. Only founded in 2011, they will no doubt be back again later this year.
Tara: Helen Murphy; Claire Flynn, Lucy Hawkes, Aoife Flynn; Claire Enright, Laura Connolly, Aoife O’Meara; Tessa Crowley (0-1), Aoife Carroll; Nessa Dolan, Meadhbh Buckley, Claire Ryan; Paula Dunne, Fiona Morrissey (0-2), Saoirse Glynn. Subs: Emma Hogan, Joni Traynor, Mary Desmond, Megan McGuire, Rachael Mulryan, Zoe McShane, Rebekah Tunstead, Kathleen O’Keeffe, Caoimhe Rogan, Cara McCanny, Lisa Fox, Shannon McPartland.
Fullen Gaels: Ariane Purcell; Linda McCarthy, Ciara Mannion, Tara McElvaney; Ellis Ennis, Anne Marie Guinan, Fiona Chawke; Sarah Fahy (0-4, 3f), Rachael O’Toole; Michelle Buckley, Katie McMahon (0-1), Danielle Powell; Sinead Tuohy (0-1), Eadaoin Murphy, Sinead Convery (1-1). Subs: Rose McCarthy, Carole Ryan, Laura Rigney, Kelly McCormack, Michelle Rodgers, Aisling Walsh, Nicole Smyth.
Referee: Kelvin Magee.