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Resolute Slaughtneil capture title after thrilling encounter

Slaughtneil 1-10 Sarsfields 0-11

By Daragh o Conchuir

A record attendance witnessed an Ulster team winning the AIB All-Ireland Camogie Senior Club Championship for only the second time as Slaughtneil proved strongest on the home straight after a ding-dong battle with a resolute Sarsfields.

It is a first success for a Derry side but just further torment for Galway, as it represented a fifth consecutive final defeat for the county's representatives.

An aggregate of 6,123 came through the Croke Park turnstiles, a new record for the game.

Slaughtneil's presence undoubtedly had a lot to do with that, the club having secured an historic three-timer at senior level in Ulster, while the footballers are also in an All-Ireland final on St Patrick's Day.

This had extra resonance though, as joint-manager Thomas Cassidy had passed away just before the drawn Ulster final, having been the leading light in the development of camogie and hurling in the club.

It was Cassidy who enticed Antrim legend Dominic McKinley to join him and Damian McEldowney and the latter duo steered the ship magnificently.

Cassidy's three daughters, Aoife, Brona and Eilis, were magnificent on the biggest stage of all.

As captain, Aoife had the honour of lifting the Bill and Agnes Carroll Cup before delivering a memorable speech entirely in Gaelic in what was probably the ultimate tribute to her father.

Slaughtneil started well with points from Graham and Dougan but Sarsfields settled and with Niamh McGrath slotting four points from frees, they led entering the second quarter.

The hero of the replayed provincial decider, Mary Kelly, gave a reminder of her threat when hitting the upright in the 19th minute.

Orlaith McGrath slotted two excellent points on the run but Dougan landed a pair of massive frees to give the women in maroon and white a marginal interval advantage, 0-7 to 0-6.

Slaughtneil wasted a number of good opportunities early in the second half but the vital goal came five minutes in when Eilis Ni Chaiside showed tremendous vision to hit a reverse pass off the sod while running away from goal, and corner forward Kelly made no mistake.

'Hopper' McGrath's crew dug deep though and the switch of the manager's youngest daughter, the 16-year-old Siobhan, to the half-forward line had a significant impact as she flourished and shot three points.

Slaughtneil's large support grew more vocal on the back of each clearance and the players lifted the bar once more.

They found the likes of Erica Leslie and Laura Ward in the Sarsfields rearguard in equally unyielding mood but after Graham was fouled, Dougan restored Slaughtneil's lead in the 59th minute, ending a lengthy period for her side without a score; since Ni Chaiside had exhibited tremendous stickwork to point towards the end of the third quarter.

And it was the centre forward who had the last say, driving over spectacularly.

Slaughtneil: J Bradley, J McMullan, B Ní Chaiside, Dervlagh McGuigan, G O'Kane, A Ní Chaiside, C McGrath, L Dougan, S Graham, S McKaigue, E Ní Chaiside, Denise McGuigan, M Kelly, S Mellon, T Mellon. Subs: B McAister for Denise McGuigan (48), F Burke for S Mellon (58), C Mulholland for T Mellon (60+3).

Sarsfields: Y Lyons, R Murphy, L Ward, A Spellman, T Kenny, C McGrath, E Leslie, N McGrath, K Gallagher, S Spellman, O McGrath, K Donohue, S Cannon, M Cooney, S McGrath .

Scorers:

Slaughtneil: L Dougan 0-6(fs); E Ni Chaiside 0-3; M Kelly 1-0; S Graham 0-1

Sarsfields: N McGrath 0-4(3fs, 1 45); O McGrath, S McGrath 0-3 each; S Spellman 0-1.

Referee: R Kelly (Kildare)

Belfast Telegraph

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