Bantry Blues 1-3
BANTRY Blues hopes of All-Ireland football glory hit a brick Wall on Saturday.
The West Cork team’s dreams of a famous victory were stopped in their tracks by ‘a future superstar’– the excellent Vikki Wall, who inspired Meath and Leinster champions Dunboyne to a deserved triumph at a wind and rain-lashed Gaelic Grounds in Limerick.
Wall, who finished with 1-6, wasn’t the only difference between the teams, but the strong full forward was the standout player who caused the Bantry defence no end of problems from start to finish.
‘She’s phenomenal. She will be a future superstar if she keeps progressing the way she has. She took a lot of stopping,’ admitted Bantry joint-manager Paul Drummey afterwards.
Basically, Bantry couldn’t stop the 17-year-old Dunboyne attacker, while at the other end a recurring failing of the Blues raised its unwanted head – they missed too many chances on a day when they needed to be clinical.
‘We hit a lot of wides in both halves. We didn’t take advantage of the strong wind when we had it in the first half, and that made it a lot harder for us in the second half,’ Bantry midfielder Emma Spillane explained.
‘It was awful seeing them lift the cup. But they’re a very good team. Things didn’t go right for us. We didn’t take our chances.’
Neither team took their chances for 25 minutes of the first half as scores were scarce. Vikki Wall pointed Dunboyne into a fifth minute lead before Aoife O’Driscoll levelled the game four minutes later, converting a free after Libby Coppinger was fouled.
By that stage Bantry had already been forced into making changes as corner back Doireann O’Shea came off injured, with midfielder Emma Spillane moved back into defence.
Playing with the wind Bantry never took advantage of it, and three wides by the 11th minute was a worry, while Shelly Melia hit the crossbar at the other end for Dunboyne.
The game waited until the 28th minute for its third score – Wall’s second point. Fiona O’Neill added another point for the Meath team before they struck for a decisive score when Wall finished from close range after a ball in from Melia fell her way.
Having played with the wind, Bantry were 1-3 to 0-1 behind at the break, and with it all to do, as Dunboyne looked a stronger overall team who played the better football in the first half.
‘That goal lifted them and our heads dropped for a little bit, but we came back at them and brought it back to six points at one stage in the second half,’ Spillane said, and she’s right, Bantry did come to within six points in the second period and they did play better, but the damage was done by then.
Points from Melia, Ann-Marie Moffatt, Wall (2) and an Aoife Thompson free after Wall was fouled saw Dunboyne in control, 1-8 to 0-2 ahead inside the last ten minutes – Libby Coppinger, whose pace and direct running caused Dunboyne problems, replied for Bantry.
Then came a lifeline when lively full forward Aoife O’Driscoll finished well from close range (1-8 to 1-2) after a period when Bantry were on top and had pinned Dunboyne back.
Bantry needed another score quickly, but instead Dunboyne broke straightaway and there was Vikki Wall – who else? – to knock over a point.
After Bantry sub Rachael Murphy got her name on the scoresheet, it was fitting that Wall had the final say with her sixth point, as Bantry were unable to follow in the footsteps of their West Cork neighbours who had lifted this All-Ireland cup in the past – Gabriel Rangers (2003) and Clonakilty (2009).
It was a heartbreaking end to a fabulous year for this Bantry team that won league, Cork championship and Munster title honours, but Saturday’s defeat – only their second in 2015 – is the one that will hurt the most. Bantry didn’t play well, but this young team (12 of the starting team were 24 and under) will learn from this and bounce back a better team.
Sometimes a team needs to sing the Blues once to become a stronger team.
‘There are a lot of positives to take from this season. We’ll look forward to intermediate football next year and give that a good go,’ said Spillane, the Cork minor star who already has won four All-Irelands at U14, U16 (2) and minor at inter-county level.
Dunboyne: Vikki Wall 1-6, Fiona O’Neill, Shelly Melia, Ann-Marie Moffatt, Aoife Thompson (1f) 0-1 each.
Bantry Blues: Aoife O’Driscoll 1-1 (1f), Libby Coppinger, Rachel Murphy (f) 0-1 each.
Dunboyne: Maeve Clince; Claire Barker, Lauren Byrne, Emma O’Byrne; Dee Blaney, Elaine Doyle, Ann-Marie Moffatt; Julie Kavanagh, Amy Coyne; Shelly Melia, Alison Jones, Sinead Hackett; Aoife Thompson, Vikki Wall, Fiona O’Neill.
Subs used: Louise Grant for Fiona O’Neill (50), Odharanaith McKenna for S Hackett (60), Meabh O’Doherty for Emma O’Byrne, Niamh Williams for A Thompson (60).
Bantry Blues: Seadna O’Sullivan; Edel McGovern, Aoife Crowley, Doireann O’Shea; Mairead Dullea, Ann Coakley, Sarah Deane; Emma Spillane, Jessica Coakley; Niamh Crowley, Myra O’Sullivan, Kate O’Brien; Sarah Coakley, Aoife O’Driscoll, Libby Coppinger.
Subs used: Meabh Ni Shuilleabhain for D O’Shea (6, inj), Eve Murphy for Sarah Coakley (ht), Rachel Murphy for Niamh Crowley (ht), Doireann O’Shea for for E McGovern (34, inj), Eilish Harrington for D O’Shea (51, inj).
Referee: Kevin Corcoran (Mayo).