Clonduff (Down) 0-12 James Stephens (Kilkenny) 1-6
After scoring six points in last week’s elongated semi-final win over Clanmaurice, Sara-Louise Graffin fired over three more in Croke Park on Saturday to bring Clonduff Shamrocks to a second AIB Camogie All-Ireland intermediate club crown.
Graffin also won a number of frees in a player-of-the-match performance. Paula O’Hagan converted those frees and she and Graffin, who both returned to action after starting a family earlier in the year as did Graffin’s sister Fionnuala Carr, presented a huge problem under the dropping ball for James Stephens.
Between them, O’Hagan and Graffin accounted for nine of the 12 points, but there were big performances too from Katie Morgan, Claire McGilligan and the Fitzpatrick sisters, as well as Clonduff physically dominating the first-time finalists.
The Kilkenny side played a sweeper and during the opening half this was quite effective. While Clonduff had the majority of the play over the opening 20 minutes the lead was just 0-5 to 0-1 and that was reeled in before the break.
Hannah Scott, Michelle Teehan and Sophie O’Dwyer all worked hard to stem the yellow tide, but the Down champions had learned from their last final in March 2019 and their game management was better than the Kilkenny side.
Two points from Graffin, two frees from O’Hagan and a fine individual score from Ceallagh Byrne had Clonduff four ahead after 21 minutes.
However, the game changed in the 25th minute when a harmless lob towards the Clonduff goal was blocked down into the path of Sophie O’Dwyer who slid in to find the corner of the net. O’Dwyer added her second point from frees and the teams turned around on level terms, 0-5 to 1-2.
Clonduff again dominated the early stages of the second half and went up by three points, three from O’Hagan frees and one from Graffin with O’Dwyer hitting back once again from a free.
Somewhat against the run of play, O’Dwyer and Niamh Deely closed the gap to one point by the 46th minute. But Clonduff pushed on during the final quarter, making the game safe with scores from O’Hagan, Isabella O’Hare and Katie Morgan.
There was a late scare when O’Dwyer’s injury-time free skimmed over the bar, but from the next play, half back Morgan raced through to stretch the gap to three with a fine point.
CLONDUFF: K McGilligan; E Rafferty, J Boden (capt), N Murray; C Kearney, F Carr, K Morgan (0-1); I O’Hare (0-1), C McGilligan; C Fitzpatrick, Ó Gribben, B Fitzpatrick; P O’Hagan (0-6, five frees), C Byrne (0-1), SL Graffin (0-3).
Subs: Ó McCusker for Ó Gribben (18-22 mins); Ó McCusker for N Murray (36); C Cowan for Ó Gribben (46); A Morgan for Ó McCusker (60+2).
JAMES STEPHENS: L McGrath; M Burke, E Gafney, H Larkin; E Manogue, A Cantwell, H Scott; M Teehan, A Doheny; S O’Dwyer (1-5, five frees), N Deely (capt) (0-1), N Butler; C Delaney, R Leahy, E Smith.
Subs: C Moran for N Butler (h-t), T McGuire for C Moran (60 mins).
Referee: C McAllister (Cork).