For the sixth consecutive year, The St Brendan's Ladies Football First XV, Sponsored by McGowan's, were in The Championship Semi Final, the teams opponents, Foxrock Cabinteely Second XV, topped Group 2 of the Junior B Championship and therefore had home advantage. However, Fox Cab's all conquring First XV, also had home advantage in their Senior Championship semi Final and todays Junior B Semi took place in Longmeadows.
Before we report on this game lets rewind back seven days and to Blakestown, where the St Brendan's Ladies 2nd XV faced St Peregrines in the Final of the Junior G Shield. The game was nip and tuck with the scores 1-4 each at half time, and The Female Darkest Force went into the second half swig of the magic bottle leading by three points 1-9 to 1-6. Whatever magic was in that magic bottle worked the oracle, or was it the players taking the remainder of Lorna Barton's Dextro Energy tablets?
Either way, St Brendan's scored 3-3 without reply the the final 15 minutes to bring home the silverware, Or a piece of mahogeny in this case, the material used in the prize on offer. Poilina Mullan, Alva Flynn, Marina Kilduff and Cliona Jordan all got the goals for St Brendan's while the shield was presented to team captain Augustina Lazzerini and the celebrations continued in McGowans until 11pm when due to restrictions, that was when the pubs close.
Anyway, back to this Wednesday evening in Longmeadows and can The Female Dark Force make it into a fifth consecutive Championship Final?
The opening five minutes were tense as both sides coughed up possession six times each. Despite an opening wide by Faye 'Dunaway' Kearney, Sinead Morrissey scored the opening score from a free in after Aisling Newton had her jersey tugged when in a attacking position.
Still reeling over losing home advantage, Foxrock Cabinteely hit a goal three minutes later, however, St Brendan's responded well when a Morrissey goal attempt was saved for a 45. Karen Tigue collected Roisin McDonald's 45 who then passed to Faye 'Dunaway' Kearney and the second point of the evening.
Indeed, Kearney could have got a brace but instead got a goal when her shot dipped under the crossbar at the last second after good work from The Fermanagh Thumb Niamh Cox and Niamh 'Moonlighting' Willis.
Inés-Rubio Alcalá-Galiano won a turnover and made it to the halfway marker and then passed to Willis then went onto find Aisling Newton and in turn opened her scoring account of the evening with a point 1-3 to 1-0. It would be a brace for the Carndonagh Cyclone after Kearney made a 80 meter solo run and managed to get her toe tap in when she looked like over carrying.
After the first half water break, Roisin McDonald, half surprisingly, won possession after a ball flew over a Fox Cab player, McDonald passed to Sinead Morrissey for another point and open up a five point lead. It would be a brace of points for The Mullingar Dynamo with the second point coming from a free in after a foul, where advantage was played, on Karen Tigue. Fox Cab hit their first point in between that Morrissey brace.
Five minutes to go to half time and Fox Cab had Karen O'Connell beaten for goal for a second time, but St Brendan's responded with a point from Kearney after a 80 meter solo run and again got her toe tap in on time when holding on after five steps. Newton had a good chance but her goal bid ended in the side netting. 1-7 to 2-1.
Newton turned supplier to her fellow Inishowen lady Roisin McDonald for a point after a crucial turnover from Nicola Carrabine. Indeed that would be the second of three unanswered points for St Brendan's, when Carrabine, Joan McNulty (with the sleeveless top) and Karen Tighe combined to give Niamh 'Moonlighting' Willis the chance of a point and made no mistake to make it 1-9 to 2-1.
A point from the away side was the last kick of the first half and a four point lead for St Brendan's at Half time 1-9 to 2-2.
Robert Kelly feared a collapse similar to what happened against Scoil Ui Chonaill when Fox Cab hit a third goal of the evening and reduce the deficit by one point. But if lessons were learned that evening, they were put into practice this second half and The Female Dark Force upped their game and Sinead Morrissey won a free in which she took herself and yielded a point and a two point lead 1-10 to 3-2.
And those lessons were learned in the biggest possible way when Roisin McDonald ripped through the Fox Cab defence to hit the second St Brendan's goal of the evening, after another excellent Nicola Carrabine turnover and pass to Niamh Willis. Faye Kearney's bid for another bid ended when her shot hit the upright.
Things were looking bright for St Brendan's when a sideline ball from The Model Sophie Freeman found Newton and she skimmed the sideline but found her spot and buried the ball into the back of the net and an eight point lead 3-10 to 3-2. But not for long because Fox Cab hit another goal to make it 3-10 to 4-2.
St Brendan's put that setback behind them when a good ball from Aoife Watters found Niamh Willis, and had her jersey tugged and a free in which Sinead Morrissey converted and a six point lead again. Aisling Newton opened the seven point lead with another point after a turnover from Joan McNulty. Fox Cab still looked dangerous when Pamela Gaskin lost possession after collecting a clearance from Karen O'Connell, but thankfully, only a point resulted for the away side 3-12 to 4-3, still a six point difference.
At the Second half water break, Robert Kelly urged his side to work, work, work. And work, work, work they did, when McNulty played a free in to Kearney, and onto Niamh Cox for her first point of the evening for the Fermanagh Thumb. Sinead Morrissey restored the eight point lead with a free in after a push in the back off Kearney.
Kerrie McGourty ensured a low score for Fox Cab by collecting a short shot and passed to Joan McNulty, then Kearney and finally Newton for the point to streach the lead to nine.
Could the lead become ten? You bet you life it would and it was Morrissey with the point from the free in after Karen Tigue got swallowed up in an attack where the referee spotted a hand on the back of the Enniscrone Tiger. Could the lead become eleven? Yes it did, this time from Aoife Watters to jinked this way and that to beat two Fox Cab players and kick the ball over the bar 3-17 to 4-3.
Anything the starting XV can do, the substitutes could do better, when the three subs came on, Shauna 'Jet' Fitzpatrick, Sam Kinsella and Sinead McKenna, all contributed to the 18th St Brendan's point with McKenna raising the white flag and making a bold statement to Robert Kelly for inclusion on the starting team for the Final.
Fox Cab did have one final parting shot in this Semi Final by having Karen O'Connell beaten for goal for a fifth time. However, Sinead Morrissey ensured St Brendan's ran out 12 point winners by converting a penalty after Aisling Newton had basically six Fox Cab defenders hanging off her back and falling into a heap in the penalty area. Morrisey's penalty goal ensured a 1-7 personal tally.
There was still plenty of daylight left at 7.45pm, there was to be a winner on the day, so extra time and penalties would have been needed, but not today, when the referee blew the final whistle and for the fifth consectutive year, St Brendan's have a County Championship Final to look forward to and will face Scoil Úi Chonaill in the Final.
And in another twist, The County Board flipped a coin to determine home advantage, which St Brendan's won and now have the opportunity to do something that no other St Brendan's team have done in 100 years and win a County Final in our own backyard, so pressre Ladies!
Final score form Longmeadows St Brendan's 4-18 Foxrock Cabinteely 5-3.