SARSFIELD’S retained their AIB All-Ireland senior club title after getting a severe test from Loughgiel in Croke Park last night. That makes it three titles in the past four years for the small Galway village with the McGrath sisters leading the charge.
Midfielder Niamh picked up the Player of the Match with four points, two from play, two from frees.
Siobhán got Sarsfield’s off to the perfect start with a goal after just 33 seconds and added five frees over the course of the game, while two more sisters, Clodagh and Ciara played their parts as their dad, former Galway hurler, Michael "Hopper" McGrath steered the ship from the side-line.
The only time they looked rattled was in the minutes after Maria Cooney’s injury when Loughgiel reeled in their lead of five points and went two ahead, playing some very sharp camogie.
Their inside line of Róisín McCormick, Caitrín Dobbin and Annie Lynn found space during that time but were closed out during the second half. Amy Boyle and Lucia McNaughton drove them forward, but the Sarsfield's defence preferred to concede frees during the second half, rather than be exposed as they had been just before the break.
In an obvious pre-planned move, Siobhán McGrath was left one on one from the throw-in, received the pass and buried the sliotar in the net after just 33 seconds. A few minutes later Sarsfield's were five points up when McGrath and teenager Caoimhe Kelly added singles.
However Loughgiel fought their way back into the game with points from Mary McKillen, Róisín McCormick (the first of nine frees) and Lucia McNaughton.
Then came the injury to Cooney. McCormick pointed the resultant free and a couple of minutes later Caitrín Dobbin raced clear to strike to the net. Annie Lynn pointed twice within a minute and suddenly the Ulster champions were two up.
There were eight minutes of injury time added however and the Galway girls used them to haul themselves back to parity at the change of ends, 1-6 to 1-6.
Sarsfield’s hit another purple patch at the start of the second half to go five clear once more with Siobhán McGrath sending Rachel Murray in for the goal after 37 minutes. However a series of frees from Róisín McCormick dragged Loughgiel back level with five minutes of the scheduled 60 remaining.
The McGrath sisters then stepped up to find the winning scores for their team. Siobhán set Niamh up for the lead point and added a free. Niamh then found the target from a long range free before Sarah Spellman picked off the insurance score.
Róisín McCormick brought her total to nine points with a late free, but Sarsfield’s used their experience to close out the victory by containing their opponents in added time.
Speaking after the game, Niamh McGrath said “I’m so proud of everyone. We really dug it out. Loughgiel put it up to us, they’re a super team and they’ll be back no doubt, so we’re just absolutely relieved and delighted."
Sister Siobhán echoed this saying “Fair play to Loughgiel Shamrocks they just never, ever gave up. A few times we thought we were in the clear, we went five points up but they stayed battling to the last minute and no doubt they’ll be here again.”
This win marks three titles from four years for the small Galway village, with McGrath expressing “It’s the best one yet to be honest”
Scores: Loughgeil: C Dobbin (1-1), R McCormick (0-9 frees), A Lynn (0-2), L McNaughton (0-1), M McKillen (0-1)
Scores: Sarsfield's: S McGrath (1-5, 0-5 frees), R Murray (1-0), N McGrath (0-4, 2 frees), C Kelly (0-2), K Donohue (0-1), S Corcoran (0-1), S Spellman (0-1)
Loughgiel: E Boyle; C Campbell, K Lynn, C McKillop; M Lynn, Ú McNaughton, S Doran; A Boyle, L McNaughton; C Laverty, M McKillen, A Connolly; C Dobbin, R McCormick, A Lynn.
Subs: K McKillop for A Connolly (45), C Boyle for C Campbell (49), C Higgins for C Laverty (60+ 2),
Sarsfield’s: L Glynn; R Kelly, L Ward, K Gallagher; T Kenny, M Cooney, J Daly; Clodagh McGrath, N McGrath capt, K Donohue, R Murray, C Kenny; S Corcoran, S McGrath, C Kelly.
Subs: S Spellman for M Cooney (24), Ciara McGrath for C Kelly (60 + 2), C Cahalan for S Corcoran (60+ 4)
Referee: L Dempsey (Kilkenny)
By Séamas McAleenan in Croke Park