The Kildare side ran out three point winners this afternoon
Johnstownbridge have moved to within 60 minutes and change of a memorable two-in-a-row after a hard-fought victory in the second AIB All-Ireland Junior Club Chamionship semi-final at TEG Cusack Park in Mullingar.
This was a repeat of last year’s All-Ireland Final and the result proved the same too. The margin 12 months ago flattered the Bridge contingent marginally, although they were fully deserving victors, so it was no surprise that they were made to grind out the positive result once more.
This was in stark contrast to the opening semi-final, with the exchanges extremely competitive and scores at a premium as a result.
Mind you, the champions roared out of the starting blocks with real intent and were full value for a 0-5 to 0-1 lead after 20 minutes.
Siobhán Hurley led the way and she flighted three of those scores. The advantage would have been greater but for Paula Daly’s smart block on Róisín O’Connell, whose speed and deft finishing was to cause Athleague untold problems.
Niamh Farrell was a big player for the Roscommon outfit though, as was Kelley Hopkins, and they helped get their side back on track.
Farrell was responsible for Athleague’s only point at that juncture and having seen Johnstownbridge pull away, could not believe when Tanya Johnson produced a wondrous save from her piledriver, that seemed bound for the roof of the net.
She did grab a point from the next phase of play however and that sparked a run of four consecutive scores that included a brace from Rebecca Brennan, either side of a Hopkins score, to make it 0-5 each at the interval.
Siobhan Hurley of Johnstownbridge on the attack. Image: ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson
O’Connell raised her second white flag soon after the resumption but two points from Farrell moved Athleague ahead and there was a sense that with six out of the last seven scores, The Force was with last year’s beaten finalists.
Sensing the danger, Johnstownbridge upped the tempo and Dick Flanagan’s charges hit the next four points courtesy of Miriam Murphy, Hurley and then two tremendous efforts by O’Connell from either wing.
Farrell made it a two-point game entering injury time but Codd drove over a trademark score to cement the Kildare crew’s spot in the decider, where they will try to emulate Myshall (Carlow), Harps (Laois) and Liatroim Fontenoys (Down) by retaining their title.
SCORERS FOR JOHNSTOWNBRIDGE: R O’Connell, S Hurley (1f) 0-4 each; L Codd 0-2; M Murphy 0-1
SCORERS FOR ATHLEAGUE: N Farrell 0-4; R Brennan 0-2; K Hopkins, L Kelly 0-1 each
JOHNSTOWNBRIDGE: T Johnson, E McEvoy, E Hurley, E Farrell, C Farrell, A Trant, J O’Donoghue, L Codd, C Flanagan, C Hurley, S Hurley, J Murphy, R O’Connell, M Murphy, A Holton. Sub: E Morgan for C Hurley (41)
ATHLEAGUE: P Daly, K Lavin, E Daly, M Tiernan, C Whyte-Lennon, K Hopkins, É Coyle, R Fitzmaurice, L Fleming, N Conway, A McGeeney, N Brennan, L Kelly, N Farrell, F Connell-Jones. Subs: L Keenan for Brennan
REFEREE: P McDonald (Cavan)
Words: Daragh Ó Conchúir