A determined second-half fightback from Scoil Criost Ri fell just short in Rochfortbridge last Wednesday as Loreto just held on to claim the Leinster Junior C title.
Having trailed by 11 points midway through the second-half, the Portlaoise girls came storming back scoring to get back within three with four minutes to go.
Unfortunately for the Laois side, Loreto managed to steady the ship adding two points in the closing minutes to secure the win.
The sides had met recently in the Senior Final which Criost Ri won and a number of players on both sides lined out again in this equally competitive decider.
Scoil Criost Ri started the game strongly and opened up a three point lead after ten minutes. Points for Scoil Criost Ri from Meave Phelan and Anna Healy were cancelled out by Loreto’s Kelly Marie Harris and Naoise DeGraff before an excellent move involving Anna Fitzgibbon and Meave Phelan resulted in a goal for Alice Keane.
At this point Scoil Criost Ri were well on top but Loreto settled into the game and they outscored the Portlaoise side by 3-4 to 0-2 before half-time to open up an eight point lead.
Naoise DeGraff was at the forefront of the attack scoring two quick points with Shauna Fitzgerald adding a goal. Caoimhe Lawlor pulled a point back for Scoil Criost Ri but two goals in two minutes for Loreto, one from DeGraff and one Kelly Marie Harris. Further points from Ruth Coughlan and DeGraaf put Loreto 3-6 to 1-3 ahead.
Caoimhe Lawlor pulled a point back for Scoil Criost Ri before the break but the Portlaoise school still trailed by eight at the interval.
With the wind whipping across the field, Loreto’s Kelly Marie Harris added the first three points of the second-half to extend the lead to eleven.
Scoil Criost Ri had the chance to eat into the lead but a shot from Gillian Hannigan was well saved by Nicole Byrne and Alice Keane was unlucky to see her snapshot on the rebound going just wide. Thirteen minutes into the half, Scoil Criost Ri ended their scoring drought with three points in as many minutes with Gillian Hannigan, Fiona Dooley and Anna Healy all finding the target.
Those scores seemed to spur Scoil Criost Ri on and they pushed Loreto onto the back foot for the first time since the opening minutes of the game.
With twelve minutes remaining, Gillian Hannigan struck for Scoil Criost Ri’s second goal with a powerfully struck 14 metre free. The same player added a point soon after to reduce the gap to four and the momentum was firmly with the Laois school.
Unfortunately for Scoil Criost Ri, they had to throw everything into attack to get their fightback going and that left gaps when Loreto broke forward. The Navan school added two points to extend the lead to six but Scoil Criost Ri showed great resilience and a goal from Orla Carroll got them bck within three with four minutes to go. However that was as close as they got as Loreto held firm adding two late points.
Scorers: Loreto SS: Naoise DeGraff 1-5; Kelly Marie Harris 1-4 (0-1f); Shauna Fitzgerald 1-0; Ruth Coughlan 0-2; Aisling Cassidy 0-1; Aisling Duffy 0-1. Scoil Criost Ri: Gillian Hannigan 1-2 (0-1f); Alice Keane 1-0; Niamh Whelan 1-0; Caoimhe Lawlor 0-2; Meave Phelan 0-1; Anna Healy 0-1; Mary Cotter 0-1; Fiona Dooley 0-1
Loreto SS: Nicole Byrne; Aine Traynor, Aisling Taafe, Hannah Heskin; Emma Cassidy, Regina Hand, Roisin Mallee; Aisling Cassidy, Ruth Coughlan; Kelly Marie Harris, Stacey Grimes, Naoise DeGraff; Niamh cassidy, Rachel Gardner, Shauna Fitzgerald. Subs: Jamie O’Meara for Aine Traynor (38mins), Aisling Duffy for Ruth Coughlan (52mins)
Scoil Criost Ri: Emma Hooban; Laura Buggy, Orla Phelan, Alanah O’Toole; Anna Healy, Sarah Phelan, Mary Cotter; Orla Lyons, Fiona Dooley; Caoimhe Lalor, Anna Fitzgibbon, Orla Carroll; Alice Keane, Gillian Hannigan, Meave Phelan. Subs: Deirdre Phelan for Mary Cotter (30mins)
Referee: Garyowen McMahon