Clonoe 2-10 Derrynoose 2-8
Richard Bullick at O’Rahilly Park
A wonderful fightback which saw Derrynoose score an unanswered 2-4 to edge ahead of hosts Clonoe in the final quarter ultimately made Saturday’s defeat in the Ulster Junior Club Championship semi-final tougher to take for the Orchard representatives.
They say it’s the hope that kills you and Derrynoose had the anguish of seeing a place in the provincial showpiece snatched away again in the closing stages as Clonoe came through to win with the last three scores of an absorbing game.
Derrynoose skipper Aoibhinn McKenna acknowledged afterwards that coming so close was heartbreaking, but the club stalwart also expressed a justifiable sense of pride in how her young team had rallied well after failing to show what they’re capable of in a difficult first half.
A more seasoned Clonoe side, who looked quite intimidating in their predominantly black kit and sought to impose themselves physically at every opportunity, were 1-5 to no score up after just 12 minutes and twice led by double digits in the opening period.
Star player Maeve Lennon finally opened Derrynoose’s account with a lovely left-footed point in the 19th minute and added two more before the break, but an interval score of 2-6 to 0-3 left the visitors with an awful lot to do in the second half.
Although Lennon, who two days earlier had made history by becoming St Patrick’s High School Keady’s first ever Ulster Schools All Star for ladies football, opened the second half scoring with a free, Clonoe quickly replied in kind.
When winning at Derry representatives Ballerin in the quarter-final seven days earlier, the middle third of each half proved an unproductive period for Derrynoose in terms of the scoreboard but they hit a real purple patch this time, aided by an opposition sinbin.
Two goals in the space of four minutes late in the third quarter suddenly brought this game to life and Derrynoose even got their noses in front by the 50th minute and held that slender lead with great tenacity as time ticked down.
However, when Clonoe finally drew level, they then went ahead and added another point in quick succession and there was no further scoring in a match which had nearly seven minutes of injury-time due to several longish stoppages.
So Derrynoose’s season is over but there is so much more to come from this young team that this just feels like the end of the beginning, so Saturday’s encouraging comeback should offer further encouragement for the future even if it brought short-term anguish.
Although in vain on the day, the way they rallied showed proper pride in their club and an ability to respond to adversity which suggests they will be well equipped to become contenders at Intermediate level in Armagh over the next few years.
Armagh Junior final Player of the match Lennon is a quality forward and Orchard camog Sinead Quinn a formidable midfielder but both star turns are still schoolgirls as are a lot of this Derrynoose squad.
A lot of these players have enjoyed great age group success with Derrynoose and this season the club has returned to fielding a team of its own at adult level after a few years linking up with Middletown as an amalgamated team called Craobh Ciaran.
Managers Barry McGurgan and Anthony Farrell are doing a great job bringing players through and also in getting so many girls in a fairly small local community out for football, especially with camogie being big in the area.
As well as a panel of 31 players, Clonoe have an impressive set-up, albeit their pitch is comparatively short, and they took the lead within 40 seconds of the throw-in on a dank Saturday lunchtime with Lennon’s attempt to equalise from a fifth minute free falling short.
The hosts doubled their lead from a free and quickly added another two points after multi-talented Ulster Schools All Star camog Quinn – also shortlisted for a Soaring Star award – had hit a tame final ball following her first trademark run of the afternoon.
Quinn then needed lengthy treatment for a hand injury but made another strong run soon afterwards before fellow midfielder Aideen Farrell was blown for over-carrying and Clonoe got a goal in the 12th minute when a free-kick dropped in wasn’t dealt with.
Another point almost immediately made it 1-5 to no score and, although Quinn lifted Derrynoose spirits with another great run in an attack launched by Caoimhe Hourican and Ciara Nugent, they were denied by a couple of brilliant blocks.
To make matters worse there was a long stoppage while Quinn was treated for an apparent head injury but she eventually continued and had her team’s first goal chance when a 45 was driven in but the ball was spilled and then hacked wide.
Lennon got Derrynoose on the board at last and Clonoe kicked a couple of wides but the team in blue couldn’t capitalise on more inspirational play by Quinn and conceded a second goal in the 25th minute.
After another Clonoe wide, Lennon pointed with referee Yvonne Duffy playing advantage for Quinn’s arm having been pulled but the Tyrone team cancelled it out within a minute to restore their double-digit lead.
Quinn kicked a wide and a difficult free was pulled just past the far post by Lennon but the 18-year-old ended the half by cutting in from the right, going laterally across goal and kicking a sweet left-footed point on the run.
Emma Fox replaced captain McKenna at the start of the second half and, after the teams exchanged wides, Lennon landed a free for Derrynoose but Clonoe converted a set-piece at the other end three minutes later to maintain the daunting gap between the sides.
Lennon did kick a point after her initial shot was blocked and, after further wides by both teams and a yellow card for Clonoe’s centre half forward, Anita McKearney gave Derrynoose a lifeline with a 42nd minute goal with a shot which had looked like it was going wide.
Eimear McCarthy replaced Niamh Murphy for Derrynoose and, although Lennon was off-target with a shot, McKearney pointed after a pressing Nugent won the Clonoe kick-out and better was to follow for the visitors.
A lethal, low finish to the Clonoe net from an acute angle by Lennon left just a single point between the teams entering the last quarter and, after a Derrynoose wide, the full forward then hit the post after leaping like a salmon to claim a ball in by McKearney.
Clonoe kicked a wide before Quinn brought Derrynoose level after Lennon played a short free to her and, now with amazing momentum, the Armagh representatives hit the front almost straight away with a point from McKearney, set up by a lovely ball by Lennon.
Lennon and the Tyrone team exchanged wides before Clonoe’s costly sinbin ended after 10 minutes in which the home side had conceded 1-3 without reply. Both teams lived dangerously and Derrynoose even had their crossbar rattled.
Caoimhe Farrell was sent on in place of Emma Hughes as both teams turned to fresh legs on a now dry afternoon but Derrynoose were getting hemmed in a bit and Clonoe capitalised with a free followed by two points from play.
In injury-time, Derrynoose had a free out on the right which was wasted and no more chances came, but they gave everything until the final whistle even with full back Dina Heavin being sinbinned in the closing moments.
Supplemented by McKearney’s 1-2, the prolific Lennon top-scored with 1-5, all but a point from play, on the back of her 3-6 in the Orchard decider defeat of Clonmore and then 4-7 at Ballerin giving the teenager a huge haul of 8-18 in her last three games.
Presumably set to be included in the Armagh senior squad for the 2023 inter-county campaign, Lennon looks physically ready to step up, is capable of shooting well with either foot and has a distinctive style of swinging the ball from hand to hand to outwit opponents.
CLONOE: L McKee; S Donnelly, C Coyle, F Murray; F O’Neill, E Cushnahan, N Hughes; S Hanna, M MacOscar; A Coyle, A Heagney, B Quinn; N Donaghy, O Gavin (capt), A Hughes. Subs used: C Coyle for A Hughes (36mins), C Donnelly for O’Neill (44), N O’Hagan for MacOscar (55), B MacOscar for Donaghy (60).
DERRYNOOSE: C Keenan; C Hourican, D Heavin, O Haughey; S Heavin, C Nugent, O Heavin; S Quinn (0-1), A Farrell; A McKearney (1-2), N Murphy, E Hughes; C O’Hare, M Lennon (1-5, 1f), A McKenna (capt). Subs used: E Fox for A McKenna (ht), E McCarthy for Murphy (42), C Farrell for E Hughes (56).
Referee: Yvonne Duffy (Cavan).