Steelstown Brian Ogs 2-12, St. Joseph's Glenavy 2-11
In 2021 it was heartbreak, while 2022 brought controversy, but it's GLORY in 2023 as Steelstown Brian Ogs' Senior Ladies claimed an historic first Ulster Intermediate football title in dramatic fashion against Glenavy on Saturday in Carrickmore.
Two years ago Kinawley's Roisin O'Reilly broke Brian Ogs hearts with an injury time winner in Augher. Fast forward 24 months and Glenavy's remarkable 15 year old half forward Aoibheann Monaghan looked to have repeated the trick when she kicked the Antrim champions 1-09 to 1-08 ahead with 61 minutes on the clock. Lesser teams would have wilted, resigned to their fate.
Not this Steelstown squad. Two years ago they'd have killed for more time. This time they had it; but just barely.
Forward they flooded. The ball was worked left, then right to eventually win a free and if you've a 63rd minute kick to safe a provincial championship dream there are few better than Orla McGeough. Her kick did more than just save Steelstown. It punctured Glenavy. The Saffrons would recover but only after Steelstown had produced their best 10 minutes of the match in the first half of extra-time, scoring 1-03 to no reply, which was enough to take the title.
Even then there threatened a sting in the tail as the hugely impressive Grainne McLaughlin took her personal tally to 2-07 with a second goal but that proved the final kick of an enthralling final. Steelstown were champions!
It was perhaps fitting that after being denied by Covid in 2020, then by Kinawley's injury time score and, last season, by a controversial late change of venue that we're better not talking about, Steelstown's day of glory eventually came in a game that had just about everything. Both teams 'won' and 'lost' the game on more than one occasion; there were glorious chances missed, superb scores taken, individual heroics and two teams giving their all: played out in front of a big crowd worthy of a championship final.
The pendulum started swinging early as Steelstown raced out of the blocks with points from the excellent Dara McKeever, Emma Doherty and Aoife Collins to go 0-3 to no score up after four minutes.
Indeed it would be 11 minutes before Glenavy got their first but when it came it was worth the wait as a fisted pass over the top put McLaughlin in the clear to drive home a low finish that was a sign of things to come. With Monaghan drawing fouls behind her, McLaughlin was the catalyst for a six point swing that had the Antrim girls move from three down to lead 1-03 to 0-3 after 21 minutes.
An Orla McGeough free, Steelstown's first score in 18 minutes, stemmed the tide but even her second free of the day couldn't stop the Brian Ogs going into half-time 1-04 to 0-05 behind and relieved to hear the whistle.
Another soft free extended Glenavy's lead on the restart before another shift of the sands saw Katy Holly's superb long ball allow the hard working Aoife Collins to nip in and punch the ball over the head of advancing Glenavy keeper Orlagh Mullin. The ball may have found the net unaided but McGeough wasn't taking chances, following in to slam it home and level the game at 1-05 to 1-05 with barely five minutes of the second period gone. Game on.
Back and forward it swung, Collins doing superbly to fist an effort goalward at the back post only to see it strike a defender on the line or Steelstown would have had a second major. Every score saw a reply, Steelstown 1-07 to 1-06 up, then Glenavy 1-07 to 1-08 as an Ellen Morgan point punctuated the excellent free taking of McGeough and McLaughlin. However when Monaghan broke two tackles to edge her team ahead in injury time, it looked like game over.
That was until Leah McGongale, only recently retuned from a cruciate injury, turned a hopeful ball into a threatening one with a superb high catch, turn and 'point'. The only problem was Donegal referee Siobhan Coyle had blown seconds before to award her a free. No panic. McGeough made light of the most pressurised kick of her life and extra-time it was.
Buoyed by their second chance, the real Steelstown stepped forward. McGonagle slammed one over off the post before Collins was inches away from connecting with her enticing centre at the back post. The Brian Ogs needn't have worried. Moments later McKeever was charging through and produced a beautiful finish into the roof of the net for 2-10 to 1-09.
Glenavy were rattled as McGeough added another point after winning the restart and when McGonagle scored her second to leave it 2-12 to 1-09 at the break in extra-time, Steelstown had one hand on the trophy.
Glenavy deserve huge credit for their second half response but they really shouldn't have had the chance to after Boyle's quick whistle again denied McGonagle. This time the inspired sub took McKeever's pass and fired home a worldy of a finish only to discover the referee had stopped play just as she shot for a foul. To make matters worse, McGeough was off target for once with the free.
It made for a nervy few last seconds before a title almost four years in the making was confirmed. Steelstown were Ulster champions. Now there's the small matter of the All Ireland Series!
Steelstown scorers: Orla McGeough (1-7, 6f), Dara McKeever (1-1), Leah McGonagle (0-2), Emma Doherty (0-1), Aoife Collins (0-1),
Glenavy scorers: Grainne McLaughlin (2-7, 6f), Ellen Morgan (0-2), Aoibheann Monaghan (0-1), Ana Mulholland (0-1, 1f),