Cora Staunton signs off with club All-Ireland before heading to Oz
Carnacaon’s sixth All-Ireland secured despite shaky final 15 minutes against Cork winners
Carnacon’s Cora Staunton kisses the Delores Tyrell cup before lifting it. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
This could only end one way. The clock ticking down, the kids in the crowd counting backwards from 10 and Cora Staunton in possession, driving at goal and taking one last shot. This particular one didn’t go over but by that stage a dead ball was a good ball.
It meant her last act before heading off to Australia was to secure Carnacaon’s sixth All-Ireland club title.
In her victory speech, she invited all present to head for Carnacon where there will be a party ongoing, she promised until well into Tuesday. By then, she will be in the air headed for Sydney, where pre-season training with the Greater Western Giants AFL team starts on Thursday. They’d have taken her a few weeks earlier but she was never leaving Ireland until she’d finished her business with Carnacon. For the first time since 2013, that business concluded with the Dolores Tyrrell Memorial Cup heading back west.
They made harder work of it than they needed to, it must be said. For long stretches of this All-Ireland final, Carnacon were comfortably the better side but struggled to tie a bow around the game. Having appeared to shake off the effects of a wasteful first half with a much purpler patch just after the restart, they sleepwalked into a far edgier closing period than needed to be the case.
They were leading 0-13 to 0-5 after 46 minutes but a sin-binning to wing-back Doireann Hughes presaged a very shaky last 15 minutes in which they were outscored by Mourneabbey to the tune of 1-5 to 0-2.
Had Doireann O’Sullivan’s snapshot eight minutes from time been aimed anywhere other than the midriff of Carnacon goalkeeper Michelle Higgins, the Cork side would have been within a point of the lead and primed for an unlikely hit-and-run. But Higgins made the save and Carnacon were able to see it out.
“This is hugely special,” Staunton said afterwards. “Since I was 16, Carnacon have been winning titles. It’s been well-documented, we won our 19th county title of 20 this year, our 16th Connacht title out of 19 and now to win our sixth All-Ireland is huge. As a young child growing up, you don’t expect to win that much with your club so this is huge for a small area in Mayo.”
This was always going to be a game that hinged on a combination of what Staunton was able to produce and what it would cost Mourneabbey to curtail her. She isn’t the type to die wondering in any game, least of all the last one she’s going to play in Ireland for a while.
And so she shot early and often in the opening period of the game, establishing herself as a threat Mourneabbey couldn’t ignore. When they started committing more numbers to try to keep tabs on her, she started spraying passes around the place. Carnacon could have been out of sight by half-time had they taken better advantage of the opportunities she created.
As it was, they led 0-7 to 0-4 at the break, which was maybe a couple of points shy of a fair reflection. It wasn’t that they had been especially dominant in possession but they had made comfortably the better chances. Amy Dowling knocked over a couple of smart points early on but missed a gaping goal chance just short of the break. Staunton had four wides herself, two of them especially careless.
It wasn’t until the third quarter that Carnacon started to make their dominance count. The excellent Fiona McHale surged forward for a score, Aoife Brennan pulled a lovely jink move to make space for another, Staunton herself pinged a couple of long-range efforts. It all meant that Carnacon eased out to that eight-point cushion, 0-13 to 0-5.
But the yellow card shown to Hughes soon after seemed to shake them unduly. Mourneabbey fired over two quick points from Roisin O’Sullivan and Ciara O’Sullivan. Ellie Jack nailed a clever score before Brid O’Sullivan got in for the only goal of the game after a nice one-two with Laura Fitzgerald. Just like that, there was only a goal in it.
Staunton saw Carnacon home, though. She scored four of their last five points, taking responsibility for everything they did. It’s all she knows and all they know at this stage. And whatever happens in Australia, she’ll be back to do it for them again next year.
“It’s only four months,” she said in between selfies down on the pitch afterwards. “I don’t know what shape my body will be in after it in terms of playing for Mayo. I genuinely don’t know that. But I’ll definitely be back playing for the club. I’ll be playing for them for years yet.”
Mourneabbey: Meabh O’Sullivan; Emma Coakley, Cathy Ann Stack, Kathryn Coakley; Roisin O’Sullivan (0-1), Eimear Meaney, Aisling O’Sullivan; Niamh O’Sullivan, Maire O’Callaghan; Ciara O’Sullivan (0-1), Brid O’Sullivan (1-1), Ellie Jack (0-1); Laura Fitzgerald (0-1), Doireann O’Sullivan (0-5, 0-4 frees), Eimear Harrington. Subs: Aileen Buckley for K Coakley, half-time; Ciara Lawlee for N O’Sullivan, 54 mins
Carnacon: Michelle Higgins; Sharon McGing, Martha Carter (0-2), Sadhbh Larkin; Marie Corbett, Claire Egan, Doireann Hughes; Fiona McHale (0-1), ErinaFlannery; Michelle McGing, Amy Dowling (0-2), Louise Dowling; Aoife Brennan (0-2), Cora Staunton (0-7, 0-2 frees), Emma Cosgrove (0-1). Subs: Aoife McHale for Larkin, 57 mins
Referee: Maggie Farrelly (Cavan).