Dublin v Clare
Dublin 3-11 Clare 1-14
Parnells GAA club was awash with smiling Dublin faces after seeing their team capture both points in the opening game of the Liberty Assurance All-Ireland Championship for the first time in some years.
The sod was splattered with wet patches after the heavy overnight rain. But once referee Owen Elliott cleared the pitch to play, it was all systems go.
With the stiff breeze (Dublin elected to play into the breeze) at their back Clare were first to break and full-forward Niamh O’Dea gave an immediate statement of her quality with a fine point after 14 seconds.
But Dublin hit a crucial purple patch between the 5 th and 8 th minutes saw then reap a vital 1-2. The first was a point from Emma Flanagan followed by a sweet Ali Twomey point that began when goalkeeper Faye McCarthy found Eve O’Brien, she fed Eimear McCarthy and the next ball was laid off to Siobhan Kehoe for the final telling pass. Dublin came bursting back again when Hannah Hegarty had a go, her shot was partially blocked but it fell into the hand of Siobhan Keogh and she netted. Dublin were in front with 8 minutes gone and Eimear McCarthy and Ellen McGovern were winning good possession around the middle of the field.
Back came Niamh O’Dea for a Clare point almost immediately before a long range free for Clare was touched home by Chloe Morey in the 10 th minute. Two more points from the ever-threatening Niamh O’Dea put Clare back in the driving seat made even more comfortable by a super catch and point by Orla Devitt. 17 minutes gone and Clare were on a roll. O’Dea was bearing down on goal again a minute later but a super flick by Eve O’Brien saved the day.
The Dublin management responded with a telling switch. Miriam Twomey has played in many positions for Dublin but never at full-back but her pace would match that of Niamh O’Dea. With Gráinne Quinn sitting in front of the full-back Dublin stopped the problem and O’Dea would not score again.
Dublin didn’t add much to their tally in that closing quarter with only well struck point from a free by Aisling Maher momentarily halting the Clare roar. But the Banner girls hit two more points through Chloe Morey and Andrea O’Keeffe to move 1-7 to 1-3 clear by the break.
As the scores dried up for Niamh O’Dea, Clare turned more and more to the accurate stick of Chloe Morey to fill the gap. This she did in style in the second with a six out of six tally from frees, the first of which extended Clare’s lead to 5 points after only 51 seconds of the second period.
Miriam Twomey was now back in more familiar territory and split the posts in the 31 st minute from a pass by the hard-working Eimear McCarthy. Another free from Aisling Maher and the gap was down to three points. But Clare were digging deep and Clare Hehir, Aine O’Loughlin, Maire McGrath and the free taking accuracy of Chloe Morey were keeping them in front. Two Morey frees and a point from Orla Devitt, their only score from play in the second half opened a sizeable 6 points lead by the 38 th minute and the situation was looking less than promising from a Dublin perspective. Even with 20 minutes to go and the breeze at their backs, Dublin already appeared to be in need of goals if the Clare lead was to be hauled it. Alison Maguire, Claire Donnelly and Zoe O’Donoghue were introduced in the half and would play a telling part in the closing quarter. But crucial to that revival was the superb long range free-taking of goalkeeper Faye McCarthy.
Her puckouts were giving Dublin field position but with 20 minutes left the home sided needed to show true grit if they were to win this vital game.
39, 40, and 43 mightn’t be the Lotto numbers but they mark the three pointed frees that Faye McCarthy struck mostly from 50m and further. The lead was down to three points by the 14 th minute and Dublin’s cause was looking brighter. But back came Chloe Morey with another pointed free to restore their 4 points advantage.
38 th minutes and Faye McCarthy makes the journey from her goal to take a free some 90m from the posts, the accuracy was right, the distance a little short but Aisling Maher got a touch and the ball was in the net. Two minutes later, the match turning moment came.
Alison Maguire had been introduced early in the second half but following a fine catch suffered what appeared to be a dislocated elbow. Bravely she battled on and as Dublin launched a high ball into the Clare box Ali won possession passed to Claire Donnelly who laid off the ball to Zoe O’Donoghue – showing great composure she handpassed to the net and Dublin were back in front for the first time since the 8 th minute.
It was nail-biting stuff. Chloe Morey once again split the posts and it was back to a one point game but from the moment she hit her first free over the bar, Faye McCarthy was in positive mode when she made the journey from the goals. Another pointed free and it was 3-9 to 1-13 with four minutes of normal time left.
All over the field Dublin players put their hearts and souls into those last hectic minutes. Aine Woods, Arlene Cushen, Aisling Carolan and Eva Marie Elliott put in some ferocious blocks as Dublin hung on to that precarious two points lead. The stress levels rose further when Chloe Morey brought her tally to 1-7 for the hour with 2 minutes left.
Then we saw probably the most impressive feature of Dublin’s win – a clinical finish. Firstly a great catch and step inside by Ali Twomey for a great point and the game was sealed in the last seconds with a fifth pointed free from Faye McCarthy. The workrate and camogie of Miriam Twomey came to fore. Winning great ball and earning frees that were hugely important in the closing stages – an outstanding display for the Master student who commutes from Edinburgh for the games.
Joy and relief and an appetite for the next game – all in equal measure.
Dublin Scorers: Faye McCarthy (0-5), Aisling Maher (1-2), Siobhan Kehoe (1-0), Zoe O’Donoghue (1-0), Ali Twomey (0-2), Miriam Twomey (0-1), Emma Flanagan (0-1)
Clare Scorers: Chloe Morey (1-7), Niamh O’Dea (0-4), Orla Devitt (0-2), Andrea O’Keeffe (0-1)
Referee: Owen Elliott