Laura Fitzgerald hat-trick fires Mourneabbey into Munster final with a big win over Ballymacarbry

It was a tougher game than the score suggests with plenty of hard hits and equally robust tackles going in all around the pitch
Laura Fitzgerald hat-trick fires Mourneabbey into Munster final with a big win over Ballymacarbry

Mourneabbey's Laura Fitzgerald shoots for goal.  She scored a hat-trick against Ballymacarbry Picture: Eddie O'Hare

MOURNEABBEY stormed into this year’s Munster LGFA senior club football championship final following a commanding display against Ballymacarbry.

Sunday’s Munster semi-final saw the Cork county champions beat their Waterford equivalents 4-12 to 1-5 in Mourneabbey. 

It was a tougher game than the final score suggests with plenty of hard hits and equally robust tackles going in all around the pitch.

Following a slow start, Mourneabbey overpowered their opponents and dominated the second and third quarters to seal a merited win.

It was a disappointing display from a Ballymacarbry squad coming off their fortieth consecutive Waterford LGFA SFC triumph. Apart from the opening 15 minutes, the visitors were not allowed settle into their usual rhythm by a determined Mourneabbey.

“Our big motto over the last few weeks has been about controlling games,” Mourneabbey and Cork LGFA senior manager Shane Ronayne commented shortly after full time.

“It has been about not reacting to what the opposition are doing and sticking to doing our own thing. Look, we started nicely but they got a goal from a high ball going in. 

"We responded straight away, were level at the water break and I felt we totally dominated the second quarter.

“The first goal we got, I thought was outstanding. It was one-touch tiki taka football and that’s something we have been working on, moving the ball at speed. 

"The message at half-time was go out and win the third quarter which we did. We tacked on a few scores and got five subs on as well.” Mourneabbey’s Laura Fitzgerald had an afternoon to remember, scoring a hat-trick of goals with substitute Ciara O’Callaghan adding a fourth with the final kick of the game.

The sides were level at the first water-break. Ballymacarbry should have been in front but wasted three frees and had to settle for a 1-1 to 0-4 score-line after 15 minutes.

Michelle Ryan’s point preceded a long-range effort from the same player that goalkeeper Méabh O’Sullivan could only parry into the direction of Claire Walsh who finished to the net. 

Emma Coakley, Ciara O’Sullivan, Laura Fitzgerald and Ellie Jack points ensured the hosts were level after quarter of an hour.

Mourneabbey shifted up through the gears in the second quarter however, and built a 7-point interval lead. 

Doireann O’Sullivan had a terrific game and was instrumental in setting up Ellie Jack and Laura Fitzgerald points to push the home team in front. Then, a flowing move saw Fitzgerald finish expertly to the net after 17 minutes.

Mairead Wall pulled one back but Ballymacarbry were powerless to prevent a constant stream of Mourneabbey attacks. 

Ciara O’Sullivan set up Laura Fitzgerald for a marvellous goal after 27 minutes and the Cork champions led 2-7 to 1-3 at the interval.

An equally impressive third quarter saw Mourneabbey put the result beyond doubt. 

Doireann and Ciara O’Sullivan combined to release Laura Fitzgerald who palmed the ball into the net to complete her hat-trick. 

Emma Coakley and Doireann O’Sullivan added scores to leave Mourneabbey 3-11 to 1-5 in front at the final water-break.

A fractious ending saw both sides introduce numerous substitutes and one of those replacements, Ciara O’Callaghan, came off the bench to score Mourenabbey’s fourth and final goal.

“That’s a good Ballymaccarbery team but I think we played one of our best ever games against them today,” Shane Ronayne added.

We have been waiting for that kind of a performance for a while. In the past, we would have panicked and gotten into dogfights against them. That didn’t happen today and we were delighted with our control of the game.

“We were very happy with our defence in the county final. We wouldn’t have been happy with it the last day (against the Banner) and worked very hard on it. Our tackle count, according to Tomás our statistician, was 33 tackles made in the first half alone today. 

"We made 50 tackles in the whole of this year’s county final so today’s effort was outstanding.” 

Tipperary’s Aherlow await in next weekend’s Munster final but another impressive provincial display has Mourneabbey in excellent shape.

Mallow is the venue for an enticing double-header of provincial deciders with MKL Gaels (Kerry) taking on Mullinahone (Tipperary) in the intermediate final before Mourneabbey go toe-to-toe with Aherlow immediately afterwards.

Before that, Inch Rovers will contest the 2021 Munster LGFA senior B final in the same Mallow venue next Friday evening. Having overcome Clonakilty and St. Val’s to lift the Cork senior B title, Inch have deservedly made it through to a provincial final against Rathmore from Kerry.

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