footballers of Hilltown achieved the dream of their manager J A Gribben when
they won the Senior Championship title from Castlewellan last Sunday evening.
This was a delightful final, filled with drama and passion at St Patrick’s Park,
Newcastle. The Clonduff team, formed just five years ago, were going for a
unique treble and they achieved it. They were Junior champions in 2004,
Intermediate champions in 2005 and now Senior queens of the county in 2006. No
wonder that they celebrated so joyfully following the final whistle. It will be
a long time before this unique hat-trick is achieved again.
From the moment that Ronan Barry threw in the ball it was obvious that Clonduff
were fired up for this decider. The Castlewellan defence found themselves under
immediate pressure as Lorraine McGinn, the Gribben sisters and Mary McPolin ran
at them with sheer abandon. Strong foraging by Noleen O’Higgins and Lisa Morgan
kept Castlewellan in the game as Clonduff missed chances. The younger girls were
almost too eager and it required the experienced Michaela and Aoibheann Downey
to help them focus on the posts.
Clonduff sustained a severe setback when Noleen O’Higgins raced through
unchallenged to score a Castlewellan goal.
Two minutes before half-time the sheer speed and determination of Oonagh and
Karen Gribben created the opportunity for Mary McPolin to score a super goal.
Lisa Morgan helped Castlewellan to hang in and at the break the teams were level
at 1-4 each.
Castlewellan played their best football during the first eight minutes of the
second half and two scores from Cathy Keown and one from Lisa Morgan gave them a
Would the Clonduff underdogs be up to the challenge? Paula Gribben very soon
answered in the affirmative when she showed great composure in converting three
frees in quick succession. With 12 minutes remaining both teams sensed that the
next score would be vital and Lorraine Maginn burst forward to earn a vital free
which Paula Gribben again converted.
As Castlewellan searched for an equaliser Michaela Downey fielded the ball deep
in her own defence and cleared it to safety. Minutes later Michaela was on the
move again as she strode forward into the Castlewellan half and drove over a
superb long range score which had Clonduff supporters in full voice.
Castlewellan had chances near the end but they missed two frees and a young
eager Hilltown team were worthy winners.
This victory was the result of a sustained team performance. Clonduff mentors J
A Gribben, Paul McShane, Johnny McAleavey and Austin Ward will be happy that
their team responded so superbly to their training and coaching.
Leanne McParland was a star defender, ably supported by Aoibheann Downey and
Coleen McShane. Lorraine McGinn and Michaela Downey formed an ideal combination
at midfield with Michaela coming into her own at just the right moment to swing
the game in Clonduff’s favour. The Gribben sisters and Mary McPolin played with
tremendous verve and enthusiasm up front.
Castlewellan’s top player was Clare Drummy who repulsed many Clonduff raids. She
had solid support from Bronagh Quinn and Mairead Hardy. In the other half of the
pitch Noleen O’Higgins and Lisa Morgan battled valiantly to try to save
Clonduff: Elaine McCourt, Janine Brannigan, Coleen McShane, Bridget Kearney,
Leanne McParland, Aoibheann Downey, Jolene Brannigan, Lorraine McGinn, Michaela
Downey 0-1, Christine Brannigan, Oonagh Gribben, Paula Gribben 0-6, Cathy
Keenan, Karen Gribben 0-1, Mary McPolin 1-1. Paula Cairns for C Keenan.
Castlewellan — Clare Steele, Clare Molloy, Bronagh Quinn, Aisling Crilly, Clare
Drummy, Mairead Hardy, Aine Keown, Nolene O’Higgins 1-0, Aine Keary, Deirdre
Quinn, Lisa Morgan 0-4, Cara Laverty, Paula Cleland, Cathy Keown 0-3, Kelly
O’Higgins. Substitutes — Joanne Sloan for C Laverty, Leanne Owens for A Crilly.