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Slaughtneil in bits after four in a row dream crushed: McEldowney

Slaughtneil 0-10 Sarsfields 1-8

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Closed down: Slaughtneil’s Eilis McGrath holds off Siobhan McGrath

Closed down: Slaughtneil’s Eilis McGrath holds off Siobhan McGrath

�INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Sarsfields’ Orlaith McGrath is pursued by Aoife Ni Chaiside at Croke Park

Sarsfields’ Orlaith McGrath is pursued by Aoife Ni Chaiside at Croke Park

�INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Closed down: Slaughtneil’s Eilis McGrath holds off Siobhan McGrath

It was so near, yet so far for the Slaughtneil camogs at Croke Park on Sunday.

A 61st-minute goal from Siobhan McGrath ended their hopes of a fourth consecutive All-Ireland title and brought Sarsfields their elusive first crown.

It was the third meeting of the teams in the decider and when Louise Dougan's monster free from the halfway line put Slaughtneil 0-9 to 0-8 ahead, the Derry side had one hand still on the Bill and Agnes Carroll Cup.

Then Orlaith McGrath spun past the Slaughtneil cover before crossing for sister Siobhan to score the goal.

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Sarsfields’ Orlaith McGrath is pursued by Aoife Ni Chaiside at Croke Park

Sarsfields’ Orlaith McGrath is pursued by Aoife Ni Chaiside at Croke Park

�INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Sarsfields’ Orlaith McGrath is pursued by Aoife Ni Chaiside at Croke Park

Seconds earlier, Jolene Bradley denied Niamh McGrath a goal but there was no stopping this close-range effort.

Tina Bradley took off through the middle and after bouncing the sliotar on the Croke Park turf, she offloaded to Therese Mellon who left just a point between the teams.

In the dying seconds, Slaughtneil, with some justification, were incensed not to be awarded a late free that could have forced a replay but Sarsfields held on to end the hurt and take the Cup west.

At the break, Sarsfields led 0-6 to 0-3 after dominating the game.

They bottled up Aoife Ni Chaiside, Sheena Warde pushed up on Dougan and forced Slaughtneil to leave Céat McEldowney and Eilis McGrath free at different times.

Dougan opened the scoring in the second minute before Sarsfields levelled for the first of four times the sides were deadlocked over the hour.

The first half was like a game of chess between two teams who knew each other's every move. It was Orlaith McGrath who began to boss the game and pulled the strings for sister Siobhan to help Sarsfields into a three point interval lead.

Over the hour, Slaughtneil passed up three goal chances. Bradley blasted over in the ninth minute when she had space to engineer a goal.

Then, after the interval, a resurgent Slaughtneil ran at Sarsfields. A shot from Shannon Graham whizzed over the bar and seconds later, Dougan's pass put Tina Bradley in again, but she elected to take a point.

It was a transformed Slaughtneil after the interval and they will have regrets of not bringing their 'A' game in the first half.

Slaughtneil manager Damien McEldowney said of the half-time interval: "Everything was calm and we told them what they had to do. They all wanted to get back out and show the way they can play in the second half and they did."

Irish hurdles champion Aoibhe Deeley tracked Tina Bradley and Maria Cooney, daughter of former Galway great Joe, was allowed to close up the middle.

After the break it was a different story. Ni Chaiside, Tina Bradley and Graham took control of the game and had the score back to 0-6 to 0-5 before Sarsfields had their first attack in the 39th minute.

Siobhan Bradley put Slaughtneil ahead before points from Rachel Murray and Orlaith McGrath had the Emmet's trailing again.

A Sinead Mellon point levelled the game in the 56th minute and a replay was looking on the cards.

Both teams poured every ounce of energy into the game as it sat firmly in the meting pot until McGrath's late goal eventuality gave Sarsfields the daylight they needed to fend off the Herculean Slaughtneil fightback.

Slaughtneil boss McEldowney said it was a devastated dressing room and the girls were 'in bits' after the late disappointment,

"There have been years we have been on the other side and we've snatched a goal from nowhere. It's tough to take but we will take it on the chin, let the girls relax and move on," he said.

SLAUGHTNEIL: Jolene Bradley; Gráinne Ní Chatháin, Eilis McGrath; Céat McEldowney; Louise Dougan (0-2f); Bridín McAllister, Aoife Ni Chaiside, Clare McGrath; Shannon Graham (0-1), Cliona Mulholland; Siobhán Bradley (0-1), Tina Bradley (0-4, 1f); Sinead Mellon (0-1), Josine McMullan, Therese Mellon (0-1).

Subs: Olivia Rafferty for C Mulholland (43), Carla McEldowney for S Mellon (63),

YELLOW CARD: B McAllister (13).

SARSFIELDS: Laura Glynn; Sinead Cannon, Laura Ward, Kate Gallagher; Maria Cooney, Sheena Warde, Aoibhe Deeley, Joanne Daly; Niamh McGrath, Clodagh McGrath; Cora Kenny, Orlaith McGrath (0-3), Sarah Spellman; Siobhán McGrath (1-4, 2f), Rachel Murray (0-1).

Subs: Erica Leslie for O McGrath (Blood sub 21, reversed 23), Erica Leslie for S Warde (52).

Referee: John Dermody (Westmeath).

Belfast Telegraph