Deadly duo Aisling McCarthy and Aishling Moloney combined for 0-15 as Tipperary edged Cavan by a single point to lift the Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 2 title.
The victory marks an impressive rise for Shane Ronayne’s 2017 TG4 All-Ireland intermediate and Division 3 champions, as they now make the jump to top-flight league football.
Three goals from Aishling Sheridan (two) and Roisin O’Keeffe in Parnell Park weren’t enough for James Daly’s Cavan, as they fell at the decider stage for the second consecutive year, but proceedings didn’t finish without some drama at the end.
Referee Stephen McNulty awarded a penalty with roughly 20 seconds on the clock, for a foul on Bronagh Sheridan, but after discussing with his umpires, the decision was overturned and a throw ball ensued.
Tipperary would hold on for a one-point win, as captain Samantha Lambert paid a fitting tribute to the late Rachel Kenneally in her acceptance speech.
It was Tipperary who started the brighter of the two sides, racing into a three-point lead before O’Keeffe stepped up with an inspiring effort in the 9th minute to open Cavan’s account.
After Tipperary’s early period of dominance with Cahir trio Moloney, McCarthy and Roisin Howard combining to threaten, Bronagh Sheridan and the ever-impressive Donna English helped find the Breffni’s groove.
With time, the game developed into a fascinating battle, the intensity matching the rising heat as momentum switched over and back between the sides. Moloney produced some stunning long-range efforts but the main event of the first half came in the 24th minute. After some confusion surrounding a line ball, Aisling Sheridan found herself with oceans of space and after a driving run towards goal, she rattled the net to make it 1-4 to 0-6.
Moloney and McCarthy struck back almost immediately at the other end though, before Bronagh Sheridan had a golden opportunity to double Cavan’s goal count.
Lauren Fitzpatrick produced an impressive double-save between the posts to keep the ball out though before O’Keeffe and captain Sinéad Greene consecutively split the posts to make it 1-7 to 0-10 at the break.
Cavan had the dream restart, with the ball in the back of the net straight from the throw-in. After some brilliant work from English, Aisling Maguire and Ciara Finnegan, O’Keeffe palmed home.
Mairead Morrissey responded at the other end while McCarthy’s pristine display of free-taking continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
It looked like Tipperary could run away with the game but Evelyn Baugh pulled out a top-drawer save to deny Orla O’Dwyer and keep the score at 0-15 to 2-7.
It turned into a tit-for-tat between McCarthy and the Sheridans for a short period, with Cavan reduced to 13 as Grainne McGlade was sinbinned – before Aishling Sheridan again rattled the net on 51 minutes.
A nail-biting ending saw Tipperary do just enough through McCarthy and Niamh Lonergan to hold on, but not without that late, late drama.
Scorers for Cavan: A Sheridan (2-0), B Sheridan (0-5, 2f), R O’Keeffe (1-2), A Maguire (0-2, 2f), D English and S Greene (0-1 each).
Scorers for Tipperary: A McCarthy (0-10, 6f), A Moloney (0-5), M Morrissey (0-2), G O’Brien, R Howard, J Grant, N Lonergan (0-1 each).
Cavan: E Baugh; R Doonan, L Fitzpatrick, J Moore; S Greene (capt.), S O’Sullivan (A Cornyn, 49), N Byrd; C Dolan, D English; G McGlade, B Sheridan, A Sheridan; R O’Keeffe (B Farrelly Magee, 43), A Maguire, C Finnegan (C Smith, 46).
Tipperary: L Fitzpatrick; AR Kennedy, M Curley, E Buckley; B Condon, S Lambert (capt.), C Condon; J Grant, G O’Brien (S Condon 52); M Morrissey, A McCarthy, N Lonergan; O O’Dwyer, A Moloney, R Howard (K Davey, 55).
Referee: S McNulty, Wicklow.