Termon (Donegal) 3-12 Mourneabbey (Cork) 1-13
Geraldine McLaughlin produced one of the great final displays as she single-handedly turned Mourneabbey’s dream of history into a nightmare in a pulsating Tesco Homegrown All-Ireland senior club ladies football final in Tuam.
McLaughlin went into the game with an average of just over 15 points, having totted up 22-27 in six championship outings. She improved slightly on that by scoring 3-8 on the grandest stage.
Mourneabbey managed to keep the 21-year-old Donegal sharpshooter fairly quiet in the first half, holding her to a goal from play, scored in the tenth minute after a sharp turn.
They had no answer to her speed, strength, dancing feet and sublime finishing in the latter period though.
On occasions, the Cork side – who were chasing a unique treble having previously been All-Ireland junior and intermediate champions - had six players attempting to block the route of the ball to McLaughlin’s arms, and then McLaughlin’s own path to goal. Those attempts were futile as the Termon captain was not to be denied.
“I can’t believe it,” she said afterwards. “We went in at half-time four points down, but that definitely wasn’t us. We knew we had to play our game in the second half and if we did we’d come through.
“They were a good side and we knew they would be. I think we went out at the start thinking of their game plan, but then we just changed to ours. That turned the game. The backs were unbelievable.
“We just couldn’t get going in the first half. It was the first time all year we did that. We just had to go out and play the ball.”
McLaughlin didn’t want to dwell at all on her personal heroics. Having already praised the Termon defenders for shutting out the likes of Ciara O’Sullivan and Laura Fitzgerald, who had been so dangerous in the first half, she shrugged off any questions about her contribution.
She said: “I don’t count what I score. It’s about the team. To win with your family, your parish, is unbelievable. It’ll be a Bank Holiday for the week in Termon.”
"To win with your family, your parish, is unbelievable. It’ll be a Bank Holiday for the week in Termon" - Geraldine McLaughlin
Termon held onto possession too much in that opening period, which was a cardinal error with such a lethal finisher inside.
Meanwhile, direct running was paying huge dividends for Mourneabbey. Ciara O’Sullivan was magnificent taking the ball from deep, while Fitzgerald was the game’s key operator, adding three points from play to three from frees.
It was 0-10 to 1-03 at the interval and at that juncture, the feeling was that Mourneabbey’s greater array of threats would win the day.
O’Sullivan stretched the lead to five early in the second half with her fourth point, but by the time Fitzgerald kicked Mourneabbey’s next score from her first touch of the second half 17 minutes in, the landscape had changed entirely.
The sin-binning of Rebecca Larkin for a high tackle on McLaughlin in the 41st minute was crucial and a minute later, the full-forward had her second goal, leaving a trail of defenders in her wake.
She had already raised three white flags by that stage and added another, before Róisín Friel had a rising shot palmed over by Méabh O’Sullivan. That made it 2-9 to 0-11.
Emer Gallagher saw yellow for Termon ten minutes from time though and within seconds, Mourneabbey sub, Katie Healy found the net to make it a one-point game.
With Mourneabbey now having the numerical advantage, you felt that they might turn it around, but Sharon McLaughlin’s ability to continually feed her sister with her quick ball proved significant.
The skipper toe-poked her third goal to the corner of the net to finally seal the deal and she added a point for good measure to round off an unforgettable day.
SCORERS – Termon: G McLaughlin 3-8 (0-4fs); M O’Donnell 0-2(fs); S McLaughlin, R Friel 0-1 each. Mourneabbey: L Fitzgerald 0-7(4fs); C O’Sullivan 0-4; K Healy 1-0; R Harrington 0-1.
TERMON: L Gallagher, E Gallagher, O McCafferty, P McCafferty, M Carr, N McLaughlin, T McCafferty, S McGroddy, R McCafferty, L McElwaine, S McLaughlin, G McDaid, R Friel, G McLaughlin, M O’Donnell. Sub: N Friel for McElwaine (21); D Kelly for P McCafferty (53); L McElwaine for Carr (60).
MOURNEABBEY: M O’Sullivan, S Conroy, CA Stack, A O’Sullivan, R Larkin, R O’Sullivan, E Meaney, M O’Callaghan, N O’Sullivan, C O’Sullivan, B O’Sullivan, R Harrington, K Coakley, L Fitzgerald, D O’Sullivan. Subs: K Healy for Coakley (38); M O’Callaghan for Harrington (50); S O’Callaghan for Stack (52).
REFEREE: G Chapman (Sligo).