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Clare players celebrate after their side's victory over Wicklow in the All-Ireland Ladies Football Minor ’ Championship Final at Kinnegad GAA club in Kinnegad, Westmeath. Photograph by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

LADIES FOOTBALL: Downes strikes late to secure All-Ireland glory for Clare

All-Ireland Minor C Ladies Football Final
Clare 3-13
Wicklow 3-12

ABBY Downes’ injury time point ensured Clare were crowned ZuCar All Ireland Minor C Ladies Football champions after a thrilling showdown with Wicklow, writes Ivan Smyth.
This was a stunning triumph for David O’Brien’s side as they faced a five point deficit at two separate stages of the second half. They had also shipped 1-2 without reply to go in level at the break despite dominating much of the opening period.
Throw in the loss of goalkeeper Katie McMahon, who was withdrawn four minutes in to the second half after landing awkwardly towards the conclusion of the first period and Clare faced no shortage of adversity.
The win appeared unlikely when Wicklow scored 2-4 without reply either side of half time to leave Clare trailing 2-10 to 1-8. Even when Abby Downes fired a ferocious left footed effort to the net to slash the deficit to two points after 40 minutes, all of Clare’s hard work appeared to be undone when Wicklow substitute Charlotte Nagle reacted quickest to a Sadbh Fisher point effort hitting the post before netting from close range.
Despite referee Paul Burke debating whether Nagle was in the square before the ball landed, the goal stood and Clare’s hard work had been undone. However, David O’Brien’s side showed maturity beyond their years as they produced a display filled with courage and commitment to produce a ferocious response.
Kilmihil’s Edel McNamara pointed before a long ball over the top by Katie Callaghan was gathered by McNamara as she beat Wicklow goalkeeper Holly Wright to the ball before rifling an effort to the top corner of the net.
McNamara levelled the contest with an excellent individual score before Downes converted a close range free which she won herself. From the resulting kickout Amelie Malice won possession as she instigated a move which culminated in Eimear Clune firing Clare two points in front, 3-12 to 3-10.
Back came Wicklow though as substitute Lia Arnold O’Reilly was felled with Sadhbh Fisher converting the free. As Wicklow began to pile bodies forward in desperate search of an equaliser, referee Paul Burke deemed that Wicklow midfielder Lizzie Bourke was fouled with Fisher making no mistake to level the contest.
The prospect of extra time loomed large as both these sides strained every last sinew to secure All Ireland glory. The terrific Hannah Doyle, Elisha Twomey and Eimear Clune all combined to set up Downes as she swivelled past two defenders before firing what proved to be the winning store.
There was still time for more late drama as Sadhbh Fisher was denied the opportunity to equalise as some terrific Clare defending prevented the full forward from pulling the trigger. Wicklow were dealt the double blow of losing their star forwards Aobha Harmon and Fisher through injury late in the game with the lengthy stoppages in play only serving to heighten the tension.
As the Clare defence came under incessant pressure, David O’Brien’s side stood tall to capture All Ireland glory with Paul Burke’s shrill blast of the full time whistle sparking joyous scenes.

Katie McMahon (Kilmurry-Ibrickane), Sadbh Blood (Burren Gaels), Caoimhe Cahill (The Banner), Emer Hynes (Clooney-Quin), Keelin Fitzgerald (The Banner), Lauren Conway (Doonbeg), Amelie Malice (Éire Óg), Hannah Doyle (St. Joseph’s Doora-Barefield), Joanna Doohan (Kilmurry-Ibrickane), Sophie Daly (Kilmurry-Ibrickane), Katie Callaghan (St. Joseph’s Doora-Barefield), Eimear Clune (St. Joseph’s Doora-Barefield), Edel McNamara (Kilmihil), Gráinne Burke (The Banner), Abby Downes (St. Joseph’s Miltown).
Subs: Jenna Murphy (Kilrush) for McMahon (34 mins), Caitlyn O’Connor (Kilmurry-Ibrickane) for Burke (37 mins), Caoimhe Ryan (The Banner) for Fitzgerald (47 mins), Elisha Twomey (St. Joseph’s Miltown), for Daly (60+2).

Scorers: Abby Downes (2-6, 2f), Edel McNamara (1-4), Grainne Burke (0-2), Eimear Clune (0-1)

Wicklow: Holly Wright, Zara Fennell, Orlaith Ní Ghallchobhair, Alana Carroll, Grace Murphy, Emily Rose O’Toole, Ciara O’Brien, Lizzie Bourke, Eimear O’Sullivan, Aobha Harmon, Laci Jane Shannon, Siofra Adams, Poppie Rose Cullen Doyle, Sadhbh Fisher, Abby Magee.
Subs: Chalotte Nagle for Magee (44 mins), Lia Arnold O’Reilly for Cullen Doyle 52 mins, inj), Emer Cullen for O’Brien (58 mins), Molly Sweeney for Harmon (60+4), Grainne Flynn for Fisher (60+6, inj).

Scorers: Aobha Harmon (1-4), Sadhbh Fisher (0-7, 5f), Poppie Rose Cullen Doyle and Charlotte Nagle (1-0 each), Abby Magee (0-1).

Referee: Paul Burke (Louth).

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