Granemore 0-5 Ballymacnab 1-1
A sense of déjà vu was in the crisp December air in St Marys Park Granemore as acquaintances were renewed after the previous weeks breathless encounter which ensured both teams having to lay their reputations on the line to settle the destination of the Premier League trophy for 2019.
As early as the first minute things looked ominous for Granemore as the Nabs go to forward Eimear Smyth left Bronagh Mone stranded as she coolly slotted the ball home for a well taken goal after some excellent work from Laura Smyth. However, the reigning Ulster champions couldn’t maintain their early scoring rate and although applying huge pressure, the Granemore defence stood firm.
Rachael Merry converted a free at the other end to get her team off the mark. Edel Hegney followed with a point from play to bring Granemore a point closer, another point from the timeless Kate Smyth bringing the sides level. Merry pointed again to ensure Granemore would lead by one at the break, in a half dominated by outstanding defensive displays by both teams.
In the corresponding fixture the week previous it was Ballymacnab that started the second half with a sense of purpose and this weeks encounter looked to be following the same script as the pacey Aiobhinn O’Hare brought the game level. It was thunder and lightning from here on as two teams went at each other.
A constant bombardment of the Granemore back line ensued, but it would not reap the rewards of the previous weeks encounter. Ballymacnab looked to be moving through the gears as the game entered into the final ten minutes. However a flurry into the oppositions territory and good work from Jordon Carr and Smyth led to Corinna Doyle punishing indecision in the Ballymacnab defence and the precocious Doyle put the ball over the bar, much to the delight of the home support.
Ballymacnab introduced fresh legs and began to pile on the pressure, pushing up the pitch as they abandoned their sweeper system in an attempt to force proceedings into extra time. However, the Granemore defence were in tigerish form and they refused to wilt as the game entered into time added on. Great work from Saoirse McClelland, Colleen O’Hare and Kate Smyth ensured Granemore would hold out for a hard earned victory.
Credit to both clubs after serving up a seasonal spectacle and to the referee Mairtin McGann who merits mention for the sensible and fair way he allowed the players to go about their business.
For Ballymacnab the Toner sisters, Tiara Maguire and Mairead O’Toole were outstanding, Cara Crilly, Michelle McArdle and Emer Smyth were a constant threat with the pacy Aoibhinn O’Hare and Laura Smyth always on the front foot.
For the victors, out of the championship in late June, Sunday’s victory was more than anything else achieved through sheer force and will. Granemore were heroic in defence, Ciara Hill and Edel Hegney were magnificent at eight and nine with Kate Smyth dropping back to assist with great effect, credit to the forward division who worked hard throughout in particular Jordon Carr and Corinna Doyle who caused mayhem when they attacked.