GRANEMORE 9-9 BALLYHEGAN 1-12
Another dazzling display by Granemore’s lethal forwards saw the hot favourites for the Buttercrane Intermediate Championship pull away from Ballyhegan, who contributed plenty to an enjoyable game on a glorious late summer’s afternoon.
The established deadly duo of Ciara Hill and her young cousin Corinna Doyle each got a couple of goals but this time it was another rising star Edel Hagney who topped their scoring charts with a tally of 2-6 which included four frees.
There were also two goals for Jordan Carr and the last green flag was raised by Orla Gorman from the penalty spot, through the goalkeeper’s hands in the eighth minute of injury-time.
The ultimate margin of 21 points was very harsh on Ballyhegan and in no way reflected a free-flowing, genuinely competitive match in Granemore which had seen the visitors fall badly behind before fighting back either side of the interval.
From 13 adrift at one stage, the girls in blue battled back to within four of their hosts when Blathnaid Hendron hit two frees in the first three minutes of the second half to make it 5-3 to 1-11.
However Hendron hit the post with a 39th minute penalty which would have made it a two-point game and Ballyhegan only scored one point thereafter, from county player Eve Lavery midway through a half which saw Granemore add 4-6.
In spite of Granemore going so far ahead in that opening period, neither team would have felt it was an insurmountable lead considering Ballyhegan had come from 17 down to draw this summer’s league game at the same venue.
They also came back from an awful start to edge hosts Cullyhanna in the recent quarter-final and have been branded a second half team by one of their own players, but it didn’t happen here in that sense.
However Hendron’s beautiful left-footed striking both from play and frees was one of the most memorable aspects of this game while Grace Ferguson was a forceful presence in spite of her short stature and Lavery looked dangerous on the ball.
The Granemore forwards have been the story of the competition though, having torn fancied Forkhill apart in the quarter-final which finished 4-22 to 2-13 at the start of the month, with Hill hitting 2-7 and Corinna Doyle 1-6.
They can run at defenders with devastating effect, confidently take points from further out and have the height, hands and athleticism to pull off clean catches inside.
That means the forwards frequently find each other with well-weighted cross-field or shallow diagonal kick passes but Granemore’s attackers also link well with good support runs off the shoulder and neat interplay.
Captain Aileen Doyle’s lively running and cultured left foot can open up defences while her tall midfield partner Jordan Carr can cover plenty of ground, dominate in the air and also offers a real goal threat.
After a first minute wide by Corinna Doyle, Ballyhegan got the opening point from young Armagh panellist Grace Ferguson after full forward Brenda McCormack had won the ball well inside.
However Granemore netted twice in the first six minutes, a fine finish from Hagney after Corinna Doyle’s run and then Hill clinically nailing the next chance after a good ball in.
Hendron got the next seven of Ballyhegan’s scores, a great point from play being followed by a free won by Brenda McCormack, but Granemore nearly had another goal only to be denied by a brilliant Ellie O’Gorman save.
Play was pulled back for a free in which Hagney converted but Hendron kicked two lovely points in quick succession to reduce the arrears to two, though then hit a post high up after a Hill score for Granemore.
Disaster struck for the visitors with two Granemore goals in 30 seconds midway through the half, firstly from Corinna Doyle and then Jordan Carr, soon followed by the former bundling in another major.
Hill pointed via a post to give Granemore a 5-3 to 0-5 led but Ballyhegan hit back with two Hendron frees and she kicked another towards the end of a half which finished with a Ferguson goal and Lavery point.
Ballyhegan began brightly after the break, Hendron converting frees won by Brenda McCormack and Lavery respectively either side of the latter kicking a wide, but that was to be as good as it got for the Davitts.
Not nailing the penalty awarded after a brilliant run by Ferguson was a big blow and, although Hill was sinbinned shortly after scoring her second goal, Ballyhegan couldn’t capitalise.
Granemore registered 3-4 without reply in the last quarter, more than half of that tally in injury-time, with Hagney stealing the show and Jordan Carr scoring an eye-catching goal.
In Saturday week’s Athletic Grounds decider, Granemore will meet Mullaghbawn, who produced an impressive performance in dismissing Mullabrack 5-10 to 2-7 at Forkhill later on Sunday evening.
Armagh goalkeeper Caroline O’Hare reminded everyone that she’s one of the very best forwards in the county at club level with a huge haul of 4-5 supplemented by Danielle Rafferty’s 1-3, while captain Niamh Murphy also got on the scoresheet.
The 10-point hero of the dramatic extra-time victory over Killeavy in the last round, Shauna Gallogly, got 1-3 this time for Mullabrack, whose other goal was scored by Niamh Mulligan, but a slow start left them up against it throughout.