The All-Ireland dream is over for the Scoil Chríost Rí junior footballers, as they lost out to a very strong Glaregalway side in the All-Ireland semi-final in Birr today.
Scoil Chríost Rí Portlaoise 1-8
Coláiste Bhaile Chláir Claregalway 6-13
The Claregalway girls got off to a bright start, hitting the opening two points of the game to grab the early lead. Scoil Chríost Rí were taking their time to settle, but a cracking point from Lisa Keane finally got them on the scoreboard.
Claregalway were the better side in those opening exchanges though, and they soon pressed home that advantage. Ciara Hegarty restored their two-point lead before Kate Slevin cut through on goal and rifled a shot to the far corner, leaving Aoibhe Brennan with no chance.
The Portlaoise girls were under the cosh now, but they looked to play their way out of trouble and finally made some inroads in attack. Niamh Conroy and Orla Knowles each slotted over a free to leave the goal between them, but Claregalway soon opened the gap once more.
A pass played through for Sara Cogley left her in a race with Chríost Rí 'keeper Aoibhe Brennan to claim the ball, and Cogley got there a split-second before the Laois woman, toe poking it past her and into the net.
It was up to Portlaoise to respond once more, and they duly did. Anna Lalor served notice of their intent by cutting in from the left wing and firing a powerful shot at goal, only to see it clip the post and go wide. Three minutes later they had their goal however, as Orla Hennessy's strong run brought her to the edge of the penalty area, and she picked out the bottom corner with ease.
That score really brought Chríost Rí back into it, but Claregalway finished the half strongly with points from Slevin and Hannah Walsh. That left them 2-5 to 1-3 up at the break.
Scoil Chríost Rí needed a strong start to the second half to reignite their challenge, but it was Claregalway who sprinted out of the blocks. A shot from Ciara Hegarty hit the post and rebounded down to Eabha O'Riordain, who placed a shot to the far corner.
Lisa Keane pointed in response for Portlaoise, but another Claregalway goal, this one a fortuitous effort from Kate Slevin, left the Chríost Rí girls with a mountain to climb.
They battled on bravely, with Niamh Conroy and Lisa Keane chipping in with scores, but Claregalway wouldn't be caught. Centre-forward Kate Slevin was the outstanding player in the game, and she completed her her hat-trick with 12 minutes to go.
Portlaoise kept going to the final whistle, but a sixth Claregalway goal wrapped up a well-deserved win for the women from the west.
SCOIL CHRÍOST RÍ
Scorers: Lisa Keane 0-4, Orla Hennessy 1-0, Niamh Conroy 0-3 (all frees), Orla Knowles 0-1 (free).
Team: Aoibhe Brennan (Timahoe); Eleanor Healy (Park-Ratheniska), Aoibhe O'Brien (Portlaoise), Chloe Conroy (The Heath); Ciara Crowley (St Paul's), Ciara Byrne (Portlaoise), Gráinne O'Reilly (Portlaoise); Aishling Fitzpatrick (The Heath), Sarah Larkin (Timahoe); Orla Hennessy (Timahoe), Lisa Keane (The Heath), Heather Bennett (Timahoe); Niamh Conroy (St Paul's), Anna Lalor (The Heath), Orla Knowles (Timahoe). Subs: Grace Salmon (The Heath) for Bennett (half time), Edel Deegan for Knowles (54 mins), Sinéad Larkin for Healy (54 mins), Gráinne Cotter for O'Reilly (57 mins), Tara Byrne for N Conroy (58 mins).
COLÁISTE BHAILE CHLÁIR
Scorers: Kate Slevin 3-8 (0-2 frees), Ciara Hegarty 1-1, Sara Cogley, Eabha O'Riordain 1-0 each, Hannah Walsh 0-2, Eabha Brennan 0-1.
Team: Alannah Griffin; Leah Tunney, Megan Flaherty, Sinéad Lawless; Maeve McGarry, Kiara Kearney, Brenda Naughton; Chellene Trill, Laura Scanlon; Ciara Hegarty, Kate Slevin, Eabha Brennan; Sara Cogley, Hannah Walsh, Eabha O'Riordain. Subs: Isabel Claffey for Walsh (57 mins), Ella O'Toole for Scanlon (58 mins), Sandra Glennane for Cogley (60 mins), Lauren Hession for O'Riordain (63 mins)
Referee: PJ Aherne (Cork)