Storm Denis made it difficult at times but the 105th UPMC Ashbourne Cup Festival is well under way at Waterford IT Arena and a feast of drama has already been provided with the composition of the UPMC Ashbourne, Purcell and Fr Ó Meachair Cup Finals known at the end of the day’s action.
University Of Limerick skipper Beth Carton knows the Carriganore venue like the back of her hand, given it is the most regular home venue for Waterford and her De La Salle club is no more than three miles away on the other side of the Suir.
That local knowledge showed as Carton inspired a second-half comeback that saw UL overturn an eight-point interval deficit against the hosts and keep their five-in-a-row dreams alive in the UPMC Ashbourne Cup on a 1-6 to 1-5 scoreline.
They will face familiar opposition in the Final, after UCC, runners-up in the last four renewals, got the better of DCU in an arm wrestle, 0-6 to 0-2.
WIT accelerated out of the blocks to lead by 1-3 to 0-0 at the end of the opening quarter, Wexford and Rathgarogue Cushinstown’s Joanne Dillon grabbing the goal in the first minute. The Vikings only added a further two points by half-time however, by which stage Kilkenny and Conahy markswoman Danielle Morrissey had four of her own, but they would have liked to have been further in front given the strength of the wind.
That rearguard effort by UL was decisive. The elements were in their favour in the latter period but to concede only two points in 47 minutes of regulation time, plus injury time, was spectacular and vital given the final score.
Carton was responsible for all her side’s tally, landing monster frees and 45s to claw back the deficit but WIT, the most recent of five colleges to register a five-in-a-row in 2013, still held a two-point advantage with time running out.
Carton has one last card to play however, and after a brilliant save by Oulart-The Ballagh and Wexford player Anais Curran, the UL captain’s resultant 45 flew all the way to the net to snatch the verdict.
It was a real dogfight between UCC and DCU but experience told for the Skull and Crossbones. Killeagh product Chloe Sigerson, a former player of the year nominee, All-Star and multiple All-Ireland winner with Cork, led from the front as UCC captain and she was responsible for all four scores as UCC led by 0-4 to 0-0 at half-time.
DCU were unable to make sufficient headway in the second half, and Sigerson’s Rebel colleague Orla Cronin, herself a four-time All-Ireland winner from Enniskeane, added two more points. Young Irelands and Kilkenny attacker Steffi Fitzgerald responded in kind with a score from play and another from a free but there was no breaking down the UCC resistance.
Cuala and Dublin scoregetter Sinéad Wylde played a big role as UCD got the better of Cork IT 3-11 to 1-5 to set up a clash with Technological University Dublin in the UPMC Purcell Cup decider. It was 2-2 to 1-5 at the break and that was never going to be enough for the Leesiders facing into the wind.
So it proved as Wylde tagged on the points and CIT were unable to trouble the scoreboard operator, ensuring a spot in the decider for UCD.
TUD were far too strong for Ulster University Jordanstown and prevailed by 3-18 to 1-2. It was 0-11 to 0-0 at the change of ends and there was never a doubt about the result thereafter, as Aoibhe Dillon (Naomh Mearnóg/Dublin), Róisín Cahill (Kilruane McDonaghs/Tipperary) and Róisín McCormick (Loughgiel Shamrocks/Antrim) shone for Bill McCormack’s charges.
UCD’s second team will aim to get Finals’ Day off to a good start for the Belfield campus in the UPMC Fr Meachair Cup Final in which they will play Dublin neighbours Trinity for honours.
Laura Stack, a Limerick attacker who announced herself nationally as a 16-year-old goalscorer when Cork club Milford won the All-Ireland Senior Club Championship four years ago, struck an early goal for TCD as they pulled clear of UCC to win by 1-6 to 0-3.
Stack contributed another five points in the first half as Trinity went in at the change of ends leading by 1-6 to 0-1, and though they failed to add to their tally into the wind in the second half, their backs came to the fore to ensure progression to the decider.
UCD got off to a slow start against Queen’s and when Eglish and Armagh forward Leanne Donnelly pointed a free, they were three points in arrears approaching half-time. A critical goal from Niamh Murphy, a clubmate of Carton’s, arrived just on the cusp of the short whistle and brought the sides level, 1-0 to 0-3.
Faughs member Holly Finnegan rattled the Queen’s net after the restart but the Belfast outfit hit back with two of their own, Donnelly grabbing what seemed a match winner in the fourth minute of injury time. Craanford ace Grace Halloran made light of the tension and the conditions to rescue her side however from a long-distance free, making it 2-3 apiece.
That led to extra time and Finnegan’s second goal decided it, UCD advancing by 3-4 to 2-4.
The first silverware was handed out to Lough Lene Gaels’s Shaunagh Maher on Friday night as Marino Institute of Education outgunned last year’s victors MIC St Pat’s Thurles in a thrilling shootout by 6-8 to 3-11 to claim the UPMC Uí Mhaolagáin Cup.
This sealed a remarkable turnaround for Marino, who lost to St Pat’s in their opening tie of the campaign by 17 points but were on a roll by the time they arrived in Waterford. Fittingly, it was a Déise woman who was at the heart of their success, with An Rinn attacker Áine Ní Chrotaigh grabbing 2-2 in a player-of-the-match performance.
Raheny’s Anna Murphy scored a goal in the opening minute for the winners and Kilbrittain player Lorraine Dineen added another 10 minutes in. St Pat’s settled though thanks to points from Clare duo Áine O’Loughlin (Trugah/Clonlara) and Regan Conway (Feakle/Killanena) and when Crotty and Conway exchanged goals, it was the Tipperary outfit that led at the interval 2-8 to 3-1.
The goals kept coming in the second half, Crotty and Lauren Burke (Naomh Eamonn) swapping majors before Marino began to pull away thanks to further green flags from Burke’s fellow Laois native Gráinne Kenny.