By Jack Flynn
There was little doubt that the women were the featured attraction at Gaelic Park on Sunday, as perennial powers Cavan and Na Fianna squared off in the Ladies GAA Final.
For the fourth straight year, it was Cavan who won the right to see their name on the championship trophy with a smashing 3-10 to 0-9 victory that left little doubt that they were the premier team again this season.
“It gets better each time we win it,” said Cavan’s Rosie O’Reilly, who contributed two points to the winning effort. “We were slow to start, but, as usual, when Cavan get going there is no stopping them.”
The match was close throughout, but Cavan used a late goal from Aisling Creighton to seal their opponent’s fate.
“Na Fianna is a team that can always come back, so you have to stay ahead of them,” O’Reilly said.
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Cavan followed the game plan well, getting out of the blocks quickly with a goal off the foot of Ger Mahon to take the early lead.
It was Na Fianna, however, who maintained the better of play in the early going. The ladies in the neon yellow and black jerseys used two points from Catherine Walsh and scores from Allison Lineen and Rose Dunican to draw level with Cavan, 0-4 to 1-1.
Na Fianna might well have been ahead if not for two brilliant defensive stops by Cavan. First, keeper Sharon Levins stunned Na Fianna’s Blondie Curran on a goal try. Minutes later, Dunican spun around Levins and had an unimpeded path to the goal, but Geraldine Finn saved the day by doubling back and blocking down the shot.
Cavan took advantage of the close calls and responded with four straight scores to pull out ahead again.
Karen Shalvey started it off by easily booting a ball past Na Fianna keeper Anne Murray for Cavan’s second goal and a 2-1 to 0-4 lead. Mahon, O’Reilly and Deirdre Feeney followed Shalvey’s blast with three scores to put Cavan ahead by six points.
It took a heroic effort by Murray to keep Na Fianna’s deficit at 6, by making a wonderful save on a goal try by Feeney and making another tough one minutes later.
The 6-point advantage remained fairly constant for Cavan until the middle of the second half, as the two teams traded points back and forth.
Both teams had chances for more points, but could not convert. A ball off the foot of Cavan attacker actually beat Murray, but bounced off the right goalpost, rolled past the prone Na Fianna keeper to the left goalpost and deflected back into play where it was scooped up before Cavan could capitalize.
Na Fianna, however, were guilty of more egregious errors because they were trailing in the match. Several balls off the feet of Na Fianna players were struck as though the goal was actually high and to the right and not in its customary place.
Finally, as time began to grow short, Cavan put the match away. A Shalvey point was followed up by the Creighton goal, and suddenly Cavan found themselves on the good end of a 10-point lead.
When Caroline Sullivan began jumping up and down like a schoolgirl with a whole hour of recess in front of her after scoring her first point on the afternoon, one knew that Cavan would be the victors. Sullivan’s point made the score 3-9 to 0-7.
Two late scores from Siobhan Fitzpatrick and Edel Martin provided temporary hope for Na Fianna faithful, but there would be no miracles. For the fourth straight year the day belonged to Cavan.
Cavan scorers: Creighton 1-3, Mahon 1-2, Shalvey 1-1, O’Reilly 0-2, Feeney and Sullivan 0-1.
Na Fianna: Walsh and Martin 0-3, Lineen, Dunican and Fitzpatrick 0-1.