BALLYHEGAN 6-20 MULLABRACK 1-7
Richard Bullick at the Athletic Grounds
The superb Blathnaid Hendron hit an astonishing 4-10 as Ballyhegan ladies achieved the highest honour in their history with a comprehensive victory over Mullabrack in the Buttercrane Intermediate Championship final.
Underdogs Mullabrack began brightly in the Athletic Grounds but by the closing stages the floodgates had well and truly opened, with Ballyhegan skipper Eve Lavery helping herself to a couple of late goals.
The one-sided scoreline was painful for Mullabrack but Ballyhegan, who had been beaten by Lissummon in the Intermediate decider two years ago, looked like a very effective force when they hit their stride.
Armagh’s Grace Ferguson tormented Mullabrack in the second half with her blistering breaks and prolific forward Hendron kept piling on the misery with that lethal left foot, including swinging over some fantastic scores from distance.
Spare a thought for Mullabrack goalkeeper Aine Savage, who ended up being beaten six times but made numerous splendid saves, though she may have been slightly lucky that no goal was awarded at the end of the first half when the ball seemed to be over the line.
That meant Mullabrack came out after the interval still within range of their opponents in this repeat of the 2017 Junior final between these teams, but Ballyhegan scored 1-5 without reply in the next nine minutes and added another point to go 15 clear.
Mullabrack broke the scoring sequence with a goal and a point midway through the half but Ballyhegan simply stepped up the punishment thereafter with an unanswered 4-6, though at least the losing side had the last word when Ellen Lennon raised a white flag.
It was easy to forget by the end, given Hendron’s huge tally, that the 21-year-old hadn’t got her first score of the afternoon until nearly the end of the opening quarter, when she brought Ballyhegan level at two points each.
County camog Tierna Maguire and Katie-Rose Pickering started for Mullabrack in place of the long-serving Kathryn Rice and Aoife Doyle and they had already created the first couple of chances by the time Kate Crilly put them in front from a free.
Aine Rice kicked another wide for Mullabrack before Grace Ferguson equalised with a point from play for Ballyhegan but the team in black went ahead again after a Pickering free fell short and midfielder Eabha Lennon had a shot off target.
Pickering put Mullabrack in front but Hendron levelled in the 15th minute and soon scored her first goal of the game followed by a point from Lavery which Crilly quickly cancelled out at the other end.
Hendron and Grace Ferguson raised white flags for Ballyhegan but Mullabrack pulled one point back courtesy of a free from Shauna Gallogly, who had hit a hat-trick against Clonmore in her team’s Junior final victory over Clonmore four years ago.
Savage made a great save and there were no further scores until towards the end of the half when Hendron hit two points in quick succession, the latter after the Mullabrack keeper had done brilliantly to keep out an initial shot by Lavery.
Ellen Lennon, one of two talented twins in the Mullabrack team, posted her side’s fifth point and, after a Ballyhegan wide, she made another good run but Crilly’s shot dropped short and then Pickering was off target with a free.
Lavery’s second score of the match gave Ballyhegan a six-point advantage at the interval, although there was some debate about whether they should have been awarded a goal just before the break.
Mullabrack had done well enough in that opening period but Ballyhegan’s strong second half meant the decision of the officials didn’t become a significant factor in determining the outcome of the game.
Ballyhegan goalkeeper Emma Ward dealt will with a dropping ball straight after the restart but that almost unstoppable trio of Grace Ferguson, Lavery and Hendron began to wreak havoc for the team in pale blue jerseys.
Lavery got the first score and then the pair combined before Hendron finished nicely to the net for her second goal in just the third minute of the half, stretching Ballyhegan’s lead to double-digit proportions in the process.
Grace Ferguson and Hendron pointed either side of another great save by Savage and then the former made a brilliant run down the right though this time the attack didn’t deliver scoreboard reward.
Hendron hit another two points either side of failing to convert a free and when she added another in the 43rd minute it took Ballyhegan’s haul for that third quarter to 1-6 before Aine Rice got a goal back for Mullabrack.
Pickering kicked a free as the game entered the final quarter and the teams exchanged wides before that woman Hendron raised another white flag and Armagh Minors captain Caitlin McCormack followed suit.
Mullabrack rattled the crossbar before being hit with two goals in quick succession by Hendron followed by points from the full forward and Lavery, who is sharing the club captaincy this season with Rebecca McGeary.
Catherine McGrane got her name on the scoresheet for Ballyhegan and Lavery kicked another point before bagging her brace of goals, giving the Davitts four majors in the space of six minutes.
The last score of the match was a nice point for Mullabrack by Ellen Lennon but there was to be further disappointment for the talented twins and several of her team-mates back on the same stadium less than a week later.
Holders Ballymacnab, fancied for four county titles in a row, were beaten in camogie’s Armagh Senior Championship showpiece by Granemore, while Mullabrack Under 16s were edged out 5-10 to 5-9 in their second tier championship final.
However, with such strength at age group level the future seems bright for Mullabrack in spite of their mauling by Ballyhegan, whose huge band of followers watched with delight as Lavery and McGeary lifted the trophy.