O’Meara guides Loreto ladies to third consecutive All-Ireland title

All-Ireland PPS Junior 'A' final

Loreto College, Cavan 3-16

FCJ Bunclody (Wexford) 3-5

Aideen Coyle at Abbotstown

Loreto College, Cavan cemented their names further into the history books on Saturday afternoon after completing a remarkable three-in-a-row of LIDL PPS Junior ‘A’ football titles. The Cavan school become the third school to complete the incredible feat after an 11-point victory over Wexford’s  FCJ Secondary school, Bunclody at the National Games Development Centre, Abbotstown.

The reigning champions were sublime across the hour with an all-round team performance helping them retain their title in style. A defensive masterclass along with a clinical attacking edge led them to a deserving victory over FCJ, who were playing in their school’s first-ever All-Ireland ‘A’ final.

It was the challengers who got off to the quickest start with centre-forward Leah Roban rattling the net in the opening minute followed quickly by a point from the lively attacker. Loreto had the perfect response, hitting 2-2 in quick succession in a free-flowing and exciting opening 10 minutes. Kate Fegan opened the Loreto account with a goal in the fourth minute after an exchange with Katie O’Meara.

Two minutes later the sides were level for the first and only time in the clash as Muireann Donohoe pointed after a strong run from Shonagh Brennan.

Caitlin Crowe then pushed forward from centre-back to give her side the lead for the first time in the clash. Kate McSeain won the resulting kick-out and played a brilliant pass into O’Meara who took on her marker and rattled a shot past Ava Sky Byrne.

It was then the Wexford school’s time to reply with a second goal from the boot of Aoife Somers with Roban turning provider this time round. Loreto continued to build momentum and registered four points on the trot to open up a six-point cushion.

Front (from left): Ciara Fitzpatrick (Belturbet-Redhills), Maria McCahill (Drumlane), Aisling Kelleher (Butlersbridge), Molly Smith (Crosserlough), Eimear Gannon (Lacken), Muireann Donohoe (Belturbet-Redhills), Katie McGahern (Cornafean), Caitlin Crowe (St Finbarr’s), Katie O’Meara (Cavan Gaels), Aurelia Crotty (Cavan Gaels), Erin O’Meara (Cavan Gaels), Ailish Conaty (Ballyhaise), Casey Smith (Ballyhaise). Back: Kate McSeain (Cornafean), Leah Brady (Cavan Gaels), Aine McDwyer (Butlersbridge), Shauna Brady (Cavan Gaels), Emily Gardiner (Butlersbridge), Aine Ward (Drumlane), Emer McCabe (Killygarry), Mia Sharkey (Cavan Gaels), Niamh Boyle Drought (Cavan Gaels), Abby McDermott (Killygarry), Sophie Walsh (Killygarry), Kate Fegan (Mullahoran), Annie Crowe (Lacken), Briana Quaile (Belturbet-Redhills), Shonagh Brennan (Mullahoran), Mai Donohoe (Killygarry). Missing:Aisha Gannon (Arva-Killeshandra). Photo by Michael P Ryan / SPORTSFILE

Katie McGahern and Eimear Gannon pointed one apiece before the excellent Donohoe hit a double to put six between the teams with 16 minutes played. FCJ kept Loreto scoreless for the remainder of the half as the Cavan school were forced to do some defending of their own.

However, they rose to the challenge and an exhibition of defending from Loreto led by the formidable half-back line of Caitlin Crowe, Molly Smith and Kate McSeain kept their opposition to just one further score. The point from team captain Hannah Lawless left the half-time score 2-7 to 2-1.

Once again, Bunclody came out of the blocks quickest after the resumption with a much-needed goal in the opening minutes from Emily Roban leaving the deficit at two. In true champions’ fashion, Loreto never panicked and once again showed their character and resilience, hitting 1-4 on the bounce. Cornafean’s Katie McGahern fisted a point to open their account with Brianna Quaile sailing over her first of two second-half points after a driving run from busy midfielder Mia Sharkey.

With five minutes on the clock, the exceptional Player of the Match, O’Meara, showed her class as she fired the ball to the net for her second goal to put her side ahead by seven. The Cavan Gaels clubwoman pointed another before setting up the excellent Crowe for her second of the game.

Heather Bolton Lee of FCJ Bunclody in action against Shonagh Brennan of Loreto College Cavan during the 2024 Lidl All-Ireland Junior Post-Primary Schools Junior A Championship final. Photo by Michael P Ryan / SPORTSFILE

To their credit, Bunclody didn’t give up and created several goal chances in the closing 20 minutes of the tie with goalkeeper Abby McDermott fantastically denying Roban in the 10th minute. It also took some strong defending from Annie Crowe, Aine McDwyer and Sophie Murphy to keep out efforts from O’Rourke, Kaylee Doyle and Somers.

Both sides managed three points apiece in the closing 10 minutes of the clash. Doyle and Emily Roban pointed either side of an O’Meara free following a foul on substitute Casey Smith. With 54 minutes played, the point of the game came from the boot of Kate Fegan who scored an unbelievable long-range effort. The excellent Donohoe followed this up with her fourth point to finish the scoring for the school as they sailed to a memorable success.

Loreto College Cavan players Annie Crowe, left, and Eimear Gannon. Photo by Michael P Ryan / SPORTSFILE

Loreto: Abby McDermott, Sophie Walsh, Annie Crowe, Aine McDwyer, Molly Smith, Caitlin Crowe (0-2), Kate McSeain, Kate Fegan (1-1), Mia Sharkey, Brianna Quaile (0-2), Muireann Donohoe (0-4), Eimear Gannon (0-1), Katie McGahern (0-2), Katie O’Meara (2-4, 1f), Shonagh Brennan,

Subs: Casey Smith for E. Gannon, Mai Donohoe for K. O’Meara

Bunclody: Ava Sky Byrne, Roisin Dwyer, Sarah Kirwan, Katie Fitzpatrick, Kaylee Doyle 0-01, Eabha Guinan, Riona Byrne, Maura Doyle, Heather Bolton Lee, Makayla Tobin Cosgrave, Leah Roban (1-1), Hannah Lawless (0-1), Aoife Somers (1-1), Orla O’Rourke, Emily Roban (1-1)

Subs: Emma Deegan for K. Fitzpatrick, Emily Murphy for S. Kirwan, Lucy Nolan for Tobin Cusgrave

Ref: Raymond McBride (Dublin)