More to come from “mentality monsters”

By Kevin Egan 

GRANMORE manager, Connor Devlin believes that his team can be a force at intermediate level in the very near future, stating that he felt there was no limit to what his group could achieve in the aftermath of their seven-point win over Athleague on Saturday securing the 2023 AIB All-Ireland Junior Club Championship title on a scoreline of 3-9 to 2-5.

“I would never put any limitations on that group of girls there, they’re mentality monsters and they just relish competition. They were never meant to get out of Armagh this year but I think they’re well fit for intermediate and I think they would be challenging for honours if they went up” said a beaming Devlin.

Rachael Merry will take a lot of the plaudits after racking up 2-7 over the course of the contest, including two outstanding second-half points from the sideline and a goal at a crucial stage in the game, but it was Granemore’s fantastic defensive work in the first half that laid the platform for their famous victory. They held a 1-5 to 0-1 advantage at the interval, building on the boost of a fortunate goal from Merry to open the scoring.

“We had analysed Athleague over this past few weeks and the big thing was that we had to match their workrate and intensity. It was never going to be a free-flowing game, we had to match them on that front and if we did that, we felt that we had enough to win out,” Devlin added.

Rebecca Brennan was the sole scorer for Athleague in the opening half as Granemore got plenty of bodies around the ball in every sector of the pitch, greatly curtailing the Roscommon side. Still ,they needed a fantastic save from goalkeeper and captain Ciarraí Devlin to deny Rachel Fitzmaurice, because once the second half got under way, Athleague found another gear.

“Going in at half-time, we didn’t feel like we had the job done and as it transpired, they got the first two scores of the second half to put us under pressure. Every time we thought we were getting away, they responded with a goal or a couple of scores, so it took the full 60 minutes to get the job done” Devlin said.

Once the game restarted, points from Kelley Hopkins and Fitzmaurice were followed by a wonderful team goal, rifled to the top corner of the net from Tara Naughton.

The response from Granemore was exactly what was needed, and it was their full-forward talisman who delivered the goods.

Fiadhna Loughran had a simple chance for a point from the right corner but sensing opportunity, placed Merry on the edge of the square. The Armagh star controlled deftly before unleashing an unstoppable shot on the turn into the roof of the net, sparking delirious celebrations.

Athleague continued to battle. Hopkins goaled from a penalty and converted a free to reduce the gap to three but Corinna Doyle came up with a Christmas cracker of a goal to seal it, taking possession some 60 metres out from the Athleague goal and powering forward, before cutting in onto her right to slam the decisive score.

“We just didn’t perform in the first half” was the simple summary of the Athleague manager, Galway inter-county hurling referee Liam Gordon.

“When you’re down seven points in a game like this, an All-Ireland final, then weather comes into it as well, you start to feel the pressure of the occasion, so a lot of things come into play. We were playing catch-up and we just didn’t have enough.

“We did rally in the second half really well and I’m very proud of the girls and the way they responded, but the first half was the killer. Granemore got their purple patch and they punished us really well, they got some scores, but it was poor play on our behalf too. We had one or two chances and didn’t take them, we didn’t use the breeze which was a bit of a factor. Overall we just didn’t do enough” he conceded.

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