SHANES FORWARDS GO GOAL CRAZY
A sensational start which brought them three goals in the first three minutes set Shane O’Neills on course for a comprehensive 9-9 to 2-9 victory over Lissummon in the Buttercrane Senior Championship quarter-finals.
This was supposed to be the tie of the round, with the presence of four Marleys in the visiting ranks and double All Star Aimee Mackin’s absence from the home team arguably making Lissummon marginal favourites.
The expected close contest never materialised though thanks to Shanes surging into an unassailable lead as they raised five green flags in the opening 12 minutes to leave Lissummon shell-shocked.
Camlough goal machine Aoibheann Jones had the ball in the net twice within the first 100 seconds and there were also two quickfire goals for Louise Kenny.
Club captain throughout the trophy-laden meteoric rise of Shanes this decade and renowned as a teak-tough defender, Kenny has only recently returned from a second cruciate rupture and was just given the first half here.
Whether temporarily or otherwise, she has reappeared as a wonderfully forceful full forward whose hunger and bustling physical presence could make her a handful for stronger teams than Lissummon.
In the end, neither Kenny nor current county panellist Jones got their hat-tricks, unlike teenager Sinead McDonnell who netted all three of the goals for Peter Lynch’s side in a much closer second half.
Lissummon scored the first 1-2 following the resumption with Orla Connolly, captain for that stirring victory over Shanes in the 2015 Intermediate decider, getting a point and a goal either side of a Sarah Marley score.
On that occasion, Lissummon memorably over-turned a double digit deficit to claim the trophy but this time there was no coming back from a glaring gulf of 20 points at the interval.
It was an extraordinary evening in the sense that the magical Mackin sisters have accounted for such a high proportion of their team’s tallies down through the years but on Saturday, with recent cruciate victim Aimee missing, a solitary free from Blaithin was the sole scoreboard contribution out of 9-9.
Player of the Match in Armagh’s famous upset of Cork last month, Blaithin had a productive enough evening in midfield alongside the accomplished Moya Feehan, but the scoreboard damage was done by others.
One of the advance appeals of this tie was the prospect of a mouth-watering midfield battle between Blaithin and another of the Orchard heroes against Cork, Niamh Marley, a rampaging Player of the Match in that 2015 final.
This time Niamh may have had her Brandi Chastain moment, but it was without the accompanying glory, as the reason for whipping her shirt off like the famous US soccer star 20 years ago was far from scoring a World Cup winning penalty.
In Marley’s case it was to go in nets temporarily to try and save a penalty after Lissummon goalkeeper Linda Loughran was sinbinned for taking out Kenny as she went through to complete her hat-trick.
Her jersey swap went down well with an appreciative crowd on the elevated viewing area behind the posts but soccer star Feehan impressively put the penalty away to give Shanes their sixth goal in the 23rd minute.
Blaithin Mackin finally registered her sole score of the evening to make it 6-6 to 0-3 shortly before the break and, although the spoils were shared from there until the end, that wasn’t much consolation for Lissummon.
Armagh captain Caoimhe Morgan surprisingly played in spite of injury but was far from fully fit while Niamh finished scoreless and youngest sibling Catherine had the frustration of an exasperating sinbinning by an often perplexing referee midway through the opening period.
Catherine Marley had three frees in her four point haul while noughties Orchard defender Connolly, one of two 40-somethings in this Lissummon side, led the way with 1-2 while former county panellist Sarah Gamble got a good goal.
Sinead McDonnell’s hat-trick was the first in the Buttercrane Championship this season and her older sister Sorcha also raised a green flag to go with Feehan’s penalty and the respective doubles from Armagh fringe forward Jones and Kenny.
Shanes will now face county title favourites Clann Eireann in this Sunday’s semi-final after the Lurgan giants secured their inevitable victory at Grange on a 4-16 to 1-8 scoreline.
Understrength Grange gave everything in a proud performance and actually scored more times than their heavyweight visitors in the second half, albeit that the respective tallies of 1-6 to 3-3 actually extended Clann Eireann’s 14-point interval lead.
As always with Grange, the evergreen Dervla Mallon and her exceptionally talented niece Siobhan Mackle led the way, with 1-2 and four points respectively while schoolgirl star Hannah Duffy chipped in two two.
With almost an entire team of county players present, past and future, Clann Eireann attacked well from deep but two of their goals were shots for points which just dipped under the crossbar and the scoreline didn’t do justice to battling Grange.