Report by Margot Hughes
Wicklow Minor Ladies took on Longford in the final group game of the 2015 Leinster Division II Championship in Blessington on Saturday 11th April at 2pm.
Having beaten Carlow and Louth, Wicklow were sure of a semi-final placing regardless of the result of this encounter, however the girls were keen to get another win under their belt in preparation for the semi-finals next weekend.
Longford made the brighter start when a dangerous high ball bounced and caught out the Wicklow keeper and allowed Longford’s Megan Creegan in for the opening goal of the half in the first minute.
Niamh O’Brien opened the scoring for Wicklow with a point in the third minute of play followed by another from the boot of Molly Cullen in the fourth. O’Brien gave Wicklow the lead in the fifth minute with a well taken goal and Katie Miley settled the nerves with a second goal for Wicklow in the sixth.
Amy Ryan and Molly Cullen were in command at centre field despite strong performances from their opposite numbers on the Longford side. Aisling Greene scored Longford’s next point in the sixteenth minute and this was followed by their second goal in the eighteenth from the boot of Megan Creegan. Aisling Greene struck her and Longford’s second point in the twentieth minute of play. Three further points from Niamh O’Brien and another two from Molly Cullen and Katie Miley left the score 2-7 to 2-2 at this point in the game and Wicklow, despite having the lion’s share of possession, found themselves with a relatively narrow lead.
Alannah Conroy was very steady in the centre back position for Wicklow and with the help of Hannah Dowling, Mary Healy, Aoife Grace, Medb O’Kane and Laoise Marron managed to stem the Longford attack and force the visitors’ attempts wide of the mark on numerous occasions. Despite some sterling work by Niamh Feeney and Megan Creegan in the Longford forward line, the visitors managed to register just one more point for the half while Aisling McDonald and Molly Cullen added two further goals for Wicklow in the twenty second and twenty eighth minutes of play. Wicklow forwards Sarah Kendrick, Ella Doran and Eabha Barnes kept the Longford back line busy as they continually opened up the play and set up attacks leading to further scores for the home side.
Of the two sides Wicklow continued to get the best return out of their attacks and converted many into scores, if not on the first attempt, on the resulting rebound as Longford struggled to contain them. Further points from Katie Miley and Molly Cullen left the half-time score 4-10 to 2-3 in favour of the home side.
Longford upped their game in the second half. Caitriona O’Hara, Aisling Greene and Aoife O’Brien made life difficult for the Wicklow defensive line as they continued to run at them with intent.
The Wicklow backs held firm for the third quarter and points from Clodagh Fox, who replaced Eabha Barnes, and from Katie Miley added four to Wicklow’s tally. Ciara Byrne and Katie Bouchier added to the misery of the Longford back line upon their introduction to the fray in the second half replacing the hard-working Ella Doran and Niamh O’Brien. In the fifteenth minute Longford’s Aoife O’Brien rattled the Wicklow net once again showing the visitors had no intention of giving up.
This was further proven by a fourth goal in the twentieth minute of play from the boot of Niamh Feeney and a fifth in the twenty third, again from Aoife O’Brien. Shauna Byrne, Chelsea Snell and Annie Conroy replaced Mary Healy, Alannah Conroy and Aoife Grace in the Wicklow back line for the last quarter and set about holding back the resurgent Longford forwards. Wicklow now held a twelve point lead as Lisa Lawlor and Katie Bouchier added four more to their tally. Jessie Byrne and Lisa Lawlor took on the responsibility of centre field in the final quarter and Longford could find no way through for another score.
A twenty ninth minute goal from Katie Miley followed by a thirtieth minute point for Ciara Byrne left Wicklow worthy winners on a score line of 5-19 to 5-03. This was a convincing performance from the Wicklow panel in which all members, except the injured Chloe Dwyer, featured. While it is unlikely Dwyer will be back between the posts for the semi final which takes place on April 18th, the Wicklow management are hopeful that she will feature in the final on May 4th if the team manages to get over the next hurdle.
Dwyer injured her knee in the game against Louth on March 28th. Wicklow will now face the winners of Laois and Westmeath from Division I. The girls are familiar with both of these teams having met them at U16 level in the last number of years and know that neither will be a push over when it comes to the semi final.
Wicklow: Aimi Healy, Mary Healy, Hannah Dowling, Laoise Marron, Aoife Grace, Alannah Conroy, Medb O’Kane, Molly Cullen (1-3), Amy Ryan, Sarah Kendrick, Niamh O’Brien (1-4), Aisling McDonald (1-0), Ella Doran, Katie Miley (2-5), Eabha Barnes, Chloe Dwyer, Ciara Byrne (0-1), Chelsea Snell, Jessie Byrne, Annie Conroy, Shauna Byrne, Lisa Lawlor (0-1), Clodagh Fox (0-2), Katie Bouchier (0-3).
Longford: Jessica Stewart, Becky McLoughlin, Sarah Farrell, Kyana Lee, Caitriona O’Hara, Ellen Byrne, Laura Smith, Aisling Greene (0-3), Aoife O’Brien (2-0), Aoife Gordon, Niamh Feeney (1-0), Amy Webb, Patricia O’Hara, Megan Creegan (2-0), Clodagh Coppinger, Gemma Reilly, Zoe Gallagher, Niamh Darcy.