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My girls can hold heads high despite loss: Lynch

Shane O'Neill's 3-05 Annaghdown 1-13

By Robert Jones

Shane O'Neill's suffered All-Ireland final heartbreak as they lost to Galway's Annaghdown in Parnell Park yesterday.

The south Armagh girls looked to be in a promising position at the break but Rachel King's second-half goal - while the Camlough girls were down to 14 following the sin-binning of county player Shauna Grey - proved crucial.

Shane O'Neill's manager Peter Lynch was disappointed for his players but insisted they can be proud. He said: "The girls are gutted but that is football and you would have to say that Annaghdown were the better team in the second half.

"The girls can be proud, they gave it their best shot and didn't let anybody down."

It was a riveting contest. Aoife McCoy was excellent for Shanes as she drove forward at will, but while the south Armagh ladies displayed flashes of class and determination, they failed to reflect their dominance on the scoreboard and kicked 13 wides.

Annaghdown got off to a blistering start with two points in as many minutes but it was All Star Aimee Mackin who ignited the Shane O'Neill's spark with a stunning eighth-minute goal.

Her 17-year-old sister Blaithlin delivered a beautifully weighted long-range pass and despite being marked by two defenders, Aimee turned and rattled her 20-metre shot to the net.

Beforehand Aimee had closed the gap with a converted free but Annaghdown replied through Nicola Burke and King to level the scores after 10 minutes.

Shane O'Neill's controlled much of the remainder of the half but kicked four wides before Aimee Mackin displayed great awareness to intercept an attempted Annaghdown short free before striking sweetly into the bottom corner of the net.

Another Aimee score and a well-worked point from defender Kirsty Murphy gave Shanes a 2-3 to 0-4 lead but Niamh Duggan's converted free left four points between the sides at the break.

Like the first half, Annaghdown enjoyed the opening period of the restart with points from Burke, King and Grainne Barrett. The Galway girls upped the tempo and kept Shanes on the back-foot, but players such as Blaithin Mackin, Moya Feehan, McCoy and Aoibhean Jones were quick on the counter-attack.

Shanes' scoring chances were at a premium and Aimee Mackin came close to bagging a third goal but her shot rolled across the far post and wide.

On 35 minutes Grey was sin-binned for 10 minutes and with Shanes down in numbers Annaghdown turned the screw. Points from Barrett and substitutes Ciara McCarthy levelled the scores but after a neat one-two with McCoy, Aimee struck a wonderful point to edge Shane O'Neill's ahead again.

Duggan levelled the scores once more before the talented King struck to the net to put Annaghdown firmly in control with a 1-10 to 2-04 lead.

With Grey back on the pitch, Shanes attempted to close the gap but even with Aimee firing over a point, Annaghdown continued to pick off scores.

Blaithin Mackin offered a glimmer of hope with only three minutes remaining when she netted but the experienced Annaghdown held their nerve.

Shane O'Neill's: K Daly, K Murphy, E Kenny, C McMenamin, H McMenamin, L Kenny, C Sloan, S Grey, B Mackin, A McCoy, M Feehan, E Hannaway, A Jones, A Mackin, C Garvey.

Subs: J Watters for Murphy (41), S McDonnell for Hannaway (43),

Scorers: A Mackin (2-4), B Mackin (1-0) K Murphy (0-1).

Annaghdown: M K Killiea, J Burke, B Quinn, F Wynne, C Crowe, C Crowe, T Keane, E Coyle, N Burke, N Duggan, G Barrett, A Scully, N Comer, R King, Keane. Subs: C McCarthy for E Keane (ht), K Forde for Comer (47), R Noughtan for Scully (55),

Scorers: R King (1-4), G Barrett (0-4, 0-2f), N Duggan (0-2, 0-1f), N Burke (0-2) C McCarthy (0-1)

Referee: S McNulty (Wicklow).

Belfast Telegraph

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