Wicklow U16 Ladies faced old rivals Westmeath in Dunlavin in their opening encounter of the 2014 season on Saturday 1st March.
This Wicklow squad was defeated twice last season by a tough and competitive Westmeath side. Perhaps it was the memory of these two defeats that left the Wicklow side looking completely rattled in the opening minutes of the game.
Westmeath won possession from the throw in and carried the ball through the centre of the Wicklow defence to take the opening point in the first fifteen seconds. In the third minute they added a goal, followed by three further points before Wicklow responded in the ninth minute with a super goal from Marie Kealy.
Westmeath’s No. 11, Lucy McCartan, was proving a real handful for the Wicklow backline and midfielders Katie Heffernan and Shannon Lyons were winning the battle at the centre of the park despite the best efforts of Wicklow’s Chelsea Snell and Ashling McDonald. Niamh O’Brien and Marie Kealy added two further points for Wicklow in the twelfth minute and Westmeath responded with two further points in the fourteenth minute.
Katie Miley kept Wicklow in contention with a point from a free in the twenty first minute and Niamh O’Brien added a further goal and a point in the twenty second minute. Westmeath responded with two further points from Kate Brennan and Ciara Heavin. Wicklow finished the half strongly with a point from Katie Bouchier. It was all square at the break, Wicklow 2-5 to Westmeath 1-8.
Westmeath began the second half at a lightening pace scoring five unanswered points against a Wicklow backline under ferocious pressure. The Wicklow girls continued to battle bravely and Niamh O’Brien lifted their spirits with a goal in the thirteenth minute. There followed a dominant spell for Wicklow in which they scored a further 2-3.
They held Westmeath scoreless until the twenty seventh minute but these girls showed they were not going down without a fight blasting home their second goal. Wicklow had done enough to win the game and a further point from Katie Miley and an injury time cracker of a goal from substitute Erynn O’Brien sealed a sweet victory on a score line of 6-9 to 2-13.
Westmeath will be disappointed with the result as they played some superb football for three quarters of this game. Wicklow however had goal scoring chances and they didn’t waste any of them. Add to that the Trojan work of the Wicklow backline, especially Shauna Byrne, Aoife Grace, Annie Conroy and Heather Cullen. Chloe O’Dwyer was outstanding in the Wicklow goal. There were also strong displays from Niamh O’Brien, Marie Kealy, Katie Miley and Katie Bouchier.
Substitutes Erynn O’Brien and Ríoghna McGettigan also contributed to what was a spirited overall team performance. Best for Westmeath were Rachel Dillon, Katie Heffernan, Shannon Lyons, Kate Brennan, Lucy McCartan and Ciara Heavin.
Wicklow: Chloe O’Dwyer, Casey O’Brien, Shauna Byrne, Laoise Marron, Annie Conroy, Aoife Grace, Heather Cullen, Ashling McDonald, Chelsea Snell, Amy Burke, Niamh O’Brien (3-3), Katie Miley(0-3), Lisa Lawlor, Katie Bouchier (0-2), Marie Kealy (2-1). Subs: Ciara Forde, Mia Kavanagh, Chloe O’Reilly, Anna Hedderman, Erynn O’Brien (1-0), Ríoghna McGettigan, Eabha Barnes, Niamh Clarke, Clodagh Fox, Allanah Conroy, Seona Michel.
Westmeath: Orla Gavin, Rachel Hannigan, Becky Carney, Jennifer Sheerin, Rachel Dillon, Megan Ennis, Ellen Cronin, Katie Heffernan, Shannon Lyons, Kate Brennan, Lucy McCartan, Ciara Heavin, Rachel Duffy, Jennifer Coghlan, Maria Kelly. Subs: Emer Redmond, Kate Egan, Lisa King, Ella Daly, Danni Malone, Ruth O’Connor, Niamh Nolan, Amy Alford, Róisín Clinton, Honor McNamara, Ashley Ruane, Emma Reid, Laura Whitelaw, Emer O’Neill