St Paul's (Antrim) 1-7
St Nathy's (Sligo) 1-6
By David Mohan at Pairc Naomh Pól
A strong finish saw St Paul's book their place in the All-Ireland Intermediate Club Final as they edged out St Nathy's in a gripping encounter in Belfast this afternoon.
The hosts had to rally from being four points down early in the second period, but did so brilliantly as they maintained composure to find the scores to deny the Sligo girls.
They opened brightly in a low-scoring first half as they went straight on the attack with Lara Dahunsi playing in Fionnghuala Rocks whose shots forced a smart save from Noelle Gormley.
St Paul's missed a couple of scoring opportunities before the opening point arrived at the other end with Hannah Walsh finding the target for St Nathy's on three minutes.
The goal St Paul's had been threatening did arrive straight after with Dahunsi's shot dropping short and Gormley parried it away, but Kirsty McGuinness was alert to palm the rebound to the net.
Aine Gormley responded immediately at the other end, but both teams were to struggle in front of the posts for the remainder of the half with St Paul's perhaps over-elaborating at times, while St Nathy's just couldn't find the accuracy.
The Sligo outfit did find the equaliser on 21 minutes with Gorman recycling the ball back to Hannah Walsh who directed the ball between the posts, but this was to be the final score of the opening period as he sides went in at the break level at 1-0 to 0-3.
St Nathy's enjoyed a dream start to the second period with Denise McGrath pointing a minute in and two minutes later it got even better as Aine Gormley fed Carol Coleman who put Kathleen Coleman in on the left to drill low to the net.
Suddenly, St Paul's had a huge task on their hands, but they responded brilliantly with Mairead Cooper and Kirsty McGuinness landing points to halve the deficit.
Gormley responded with a fine point on the run for St Nathy's, but the momentum was now with the hosts as they chipped away at the gap.
Caitlin McGuinness burst through for a point and sister Kirsty added another to leave just one in it with ten to play.
They were immediately level after turning over possession and worked the ball to Kirsty McGuinness who levelled the game at 1-5.
St Nathy's then lost Annmarie Coleman to the sin bin and this didn't help their cause as St Paul's went in search of the lead score. This arriver when Cooper's dropping shot was palmed back by Dahunsi and Rocks kicked the loose ball over the bar.
It was a nervy finish with St Paul's missing a couple of opportunities, but Dahunsi got the point her performance merited in stoppage time.
St Nathy's poured forward looking for a winning goal and were awarded a free close to goal, but Ciara Gorman's well-struck shot was tipped up and over as St Paul's held on to book their place in the final.
Scorers – St Paul's: K McGuinness 1-3 (1f), C McGuinness 0-1, F Rocks 0-1, L Dahunsi 0-1, M Cooper 0-1. St Nathy's: K Coleman 1-0, H Walsh 0-2, A Gormley 0-2, D McGrath 0-1, C Gorman 0-1 (1f).
ST PAUL'S: A Healy; C Stewart, E Kelly, L O'Neill; M Hanna, C Brown, L Wallace; S McCann, A Tubridy; N Enright, C McGuinness, L Dahunsi; F Rocks, K McGuinness, M Cooper. Subs: N Burns for A Tubridy (36), R Hemsworth for C Brown (57).
ST NATHY'S: N Gormley; J Creegan, A Doohan, E Flanagan; L Mullen, J O'Dowd, H Walsh; T Doddy, A Coleman; A Gormley, C Gorman, D McGrath; C Coleman, R Scanlon, K Coleman. Subs: A Gannon for Mullen (50), U Cafferky for K Coleman (57).
REFEREE: Maggie Farrelly (Cavan).Tweet