Judging by day one’s antics, the ESB Electric Kate Russell All-Ireland Schoolgirl’s Championships was always going to go down to the wire in Limerick.
The Ulster champions took the title, the superbly stylish Natalie Barr suitably raising the trophy, finally taking the glory after selflessly creating chance on chance for her team mates to finish off.
But they were given a mighty scare after seemingly putting themselves in an unassailable position. Indeed, they will be thankful to a Crescent CC corner defence routine which kept out three penalty corners on the final hooter which could have taken the title from their grasp.
The Ulster girls started the day with the first big win of the competition with a 3-0 victory over Galway’s Colaiste Iognaid.
Crescent were frustrated for long periods by Loreto Kilkenny in the second game of the day, Niamh Byrne handing the South East side the lead in the first half.
But, while sporadic breaks from the excellent Aoife Murphy, Grace Walsh and Lucy Sherwin caused fleeting problems, Crescent dominated from then on.
Roisin Upton was the driving force but her drag-flick only came with eight minutes to go and, while three late corners came and went, they had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
Alex moved top by one goal in the difference when they took advantage of weary Jes’ legs, playing their final game of the competition.
Deirdre Duke produced the finish of the day, roofing a reverse from Grainne Mulkerrin’s quickly taken long corner. Two Nicola Gray corners and a coolly slotted Beatty finish from Duke’s assist completed the tally.
But when Lurgan romped to a 3-0 half-time lead against Loreto Kilkenny, Alex were forced to listen on as the goals rattled in, knowing each one was another they would have to score themselves in the tournament’s ultimate match.
Chloe McCann and Hannah Grieve profited from Natalie Barr’s silver-service, winning umpteen corners and free chances which they duly potted, setting a total of 7-0, leaving a win of six goals to chase against the Dooradoyle hosts.
The Milltown school set about the task in determined fashion, Hannah McDermott gobbling a rebound inside 90 seconds. A second was disallowed moments later before Nicola Gray drove home another corner for 2-0. Beatty saw one take off the line by Laura O’Kane as a dominant performance, with chances galore, build real belief.
But the momentum was brought to a juddering halt when Aileen McMahon swept a rising reverse from the top of the D into the Alex net, a hammer blow which left it 2-1 at the break.
Millie O’Donnell’s corner switch scrambled over the line in the 37th minute but the rush did not come in earnest until later.
McDermott scored a stroke for 4-1 with the final ten looming and Beatty, showing remarkable energy despite the rigours of the tournament, finished off two more moves for 6-1 with the umpire’s signal for two minutes already shown.
McDermott won a corner which allowed time to run down to zero and twice Gray’s piledrivers were saved in front of goalkeeper Jessica Lyddy only for Kate Lenehan to keep the ball alive and win another shot.
Eventually it was cleared and Lurgan cheered loudest as they found Limerick a happy hunting ground for the second time in their history, their only other victory coming on this same turf back in 2003.
ESB Electric Kate Russell All-Ireland Schoolgirl’s Championships, Day Two results: Colaiste Iognaid 0 Lurgan College 3 (K Scott, H Grieve, B Barr); Crescent Comp 1 (R Upton) Loreto Kilkenny 1 (N Byrne); Alexandra College 5 (E Beatty 2, N Gray 2, D Duke) Colaiste Iognaid 0; Loreto Kilkenny 0 Lurgan College 7 (C McCann 4, H Grieve 3); Crescent Comp 1 (A McMahon) Alexandra College 6 (E Beatty 2, H McDermott 2, M O’Donnell, N Gray)
Final standings: 1. Lurgan College 6pts (+11) 2. Alexandra College 6pts (+10) 3. Crescent Comp 3pts (-6) 4. Loreto Kilkenny 3pts (-7) 5. Colaiste Iognaid 2pts (-8)