Shane’s edged out in Ulster showpiece

December 15, 2014

Richard Bullick reports


Shane O’Neill’s heartbreakingly lost their Ulster Minor Club Championship crown as Cavan champions Eastern Gaels finally dethroned the holders after extra-time of yesterday’s decider in Oram.

Leading by 10 at the interval, after having the strong wind behind them in the opening half, the Camlough club needed an Aimee Mackin free to level the scores at the end of normal time.

The Shane’s scoring machine netted her second goal in extra-time but the opposition raised a green flag of their own and kicked two points which proved to be the difference between the teams.

Eastern Gaels won by 3-13 to 2-14, with the amazing Mackin getting all but two points of her team’s tally, bringing her personal aggregate in the provincial competition to a staggering 11-29 in three matches.

Huge hauls from Mackin are nothing new but this time it wasn’t quite enough for victory as Shane’s finally lost a Championship match at their own age group for the first time ever.

Under Peter Lynch this exceptionally talented team has won Armagh and Ulster Championships at Under 12, Under 14 and Under 16 level and last season took the county and provincial Minor (Under 18) titles a year early.

So this side had already completed the full set of medals but wanted to make it a perfect 10 finals by winning what was the final underage game together for a golden group of young talent.

Having successfully defended their Orchard crown, won away at Tyrone champions St Macartan’s of Augher and then beaten formidable Donaghmoyne of Monaghan, Shane’s went into the final with high hopes.

They were up against an Eastern Gaels side which had slightly surprisingly beaten Donegal champions Moville seven days earlier to prevent a predicted repeat of last year’s epic encounter in the Ulster showpiece which Shane’s won 6-13 to 5-13 with Mackin kicking 4-12.

This time the decider was on Monaghan soil, reviving memories of last season’s Ulster Junior final in Emyvale when Shane’s became the first Armagh club ever to claim a provincial crown at adult level.

With a record of five victories from five Ulster finals at all levels, Shane’s had the perfect pedigree and plenty of big game experience, while Lynch had a full panel to pick from with everyone in good spirits.

It was looking good when Shane’s, admittedly backed by the elements, established a 1-10 to 0-3 half-time lead but Eastern Gaels made the most of the weather when their chance came and it took that Mackin free to force extra-time for the Armagh girls.

With their incredible cutting edge in the shape of Mackin, few would have bet against Shane’s coming through to take it in extra-time but tiredness seemed to catch up with them more than the opposition and Eastern Gaels refused to accept the accustomed script.

This time Shane’s couldn’t quite get over the line, meaning no happy ending to an incredible chapter of constant success lasting six seasons, but what this team has achieved down through the years will have a permanent place in ladies football folklore.

In addition to Aimee Mackin’s 2-12, the other Shane’s scores yesterday were a point apiece from her sister Blaithin Mackin and full-forward Aoibheann Jones.

Club captain Louise Kenny and the accomplished Moya Feehan are among the stalwarts who will be too old for Minor football next year but, with the Mackins to the fore, Shane’s should still be in the mix for further honours at this level.

At adult level, their senior side has been promoted to Division One of the all-county League for the first time and the Armagh Intermediate Championship will be another big target next summer for Lynch and his charges so there is much to look forward to in spite of the understandable disappointment yesterday.

Kenny and both Mackins sisters recently received Ulster Schools All-Stars and can now look forward to the schools interpro tournament which takes place in January.

Aimee Mackin and Feehan have been brought into the Armagh senior squad for next season and like fellow schoolgirl Kenny look well capable of making an impression at the highest level.