IN a month when St Ciaran’s College from Ballygawley are holding a special 50th Anniversary celebration event, their U20 ladies football team made sure that some up-to-date silverware would add an extra gleam to the school’s trophy cabinet.
St Ciaran’s took home the Ulster U-20 title on Saturday following an excellent team display against Our Lady’s of Castleblayney at Emyvale. Our Lady’s provided stern opposition but St Ciaran’s responded admirably to the challenge and clinched a memorable victory in the second month of 2017.
Our Lady’s started well and chalked up the first two points of the contest via a brace of Jayne Drury frees but St Ciaran’s soon settled down to their task.
They did fluff some scoring chances on a day when the Ballygawley side’s wide count went into the mid-teens.
That wide tally is something to work on for an impending All-Ireland semi-final but St Ciaran’s still harvested a string of fine points plus a superb goal near the finish too as Maria Canavan and Chloe McCaffrey led the line tellingly, ably assisted by Michaela Moore and company.
A couple of earlier goal openings for the Tyrone team fell short but St Ciaran’s stayed in an attacking frame of mind throughout the contest.
Maria Canavan opened the St Ciaran’s account with a seventh-minute free and Chloe McCaffrey hoisted over a booming equaliser. They rattled off a further five straight points to take a 0-7 to 0-2 lead heading into the final five minutes of the half – Canavan (0-3), Shauna Stevenson and McCaffrey all on target.
Our Lady’s were being thwarted by well-drilled St Ciaran’s defence and midfield with Cloideach Donaghy, Orla Mulgrew and Shannon Stevenson showing plenty of resolve.
The Monaghan side, though, did breakthrough on 27 minutes for a well-taken Erin Hamill goal and when Jayne Drury tapped over a point, Our Lady’s reached the break just one adrift of St Ciaran’s, 0-7 to 1-3.
St Ciaran’s were quick to re-assert their earlier impetus once the second half got underway.
Emma McKenna was joining the fray effectively and Maria Canavan and Chloe McCaffrey sent over two points each. Both sides actually had goals ruled out in this phase of play, St Ciaran’s penalised after a free was adjudged to have been taken too quickly and Our Lady’s for a square ball infringement.
The pressure continued to come from St Ciaran’s as Canavan angled over another well-judged score and McCaffrey then left three players wrong-footed before belting over a score that put seven points between the sides.
Maria Canavan’s clever use of possession saw her fist over a St Ciaran’s point while Chloe McCaffrey and Bronagh McAleer landed perfectly placed points as St Ciaran’s moved stylishly closer to the destination of an Ulster crown.
Our Lady’s battled on bravely and Erin Hamill managed to pull back 1-1, including a 55th minute goal.
The Monaghan side pressed for more but Maria Canavan was in defence to block down a goal effort before a St Ciaran’s breakaway move released Chloe McCaffrey and she linked with Bronagh McAleer before rattling the net.
St Ciaran’s ’keeper Darcy Byrne also produced a great save as a Sorcha McCague free for Our Lady’s completed the scoring exchanges.
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Tyrone have underlined their All Ireland credentials by crushing Down in Sunday's Ulster Championship Final