Report by Margot Hughes
Wicklow Minor Ladies were competing for a place in a Leinster Semi-final on Saturday April 18th 2015 as they took on Laois in sunny Portarlington. As Meath and Wicklow finished in the top two in division 2 of the Leinster Minor championship they had to face the 5th and 6th placed teams in Division 1 in a play off for a Leinster C Championship final. Meath defeated Wexford and set the scene for a rematch between them and Wicklow should the Garden County ladies manage to dispatch 5th placed Laois.
In a stunning team performance Wicklow dominated the sixty minutes and never looked in danger of letting this one slip away despite kicking numerous wides in the opening quarter. Laois were first off the mark with a point from Marie Byrne in the opening minute of play. Katie Miley levelled matters for Wicklow in the fifth minute and team captain, Ciara Byrne, added two further points to put Wicklow in front. Niamh O’Brien added a fourth for Wicklow from a free in the fourteenth minute, quickly followed by two more points from Byrne and Miley. It was in the nineteenth minute of play that Orla Carroll added a second point for Laois. This dry spell for Laois was due in no small measure to sterling performances from the Wicklow back line led by Jessie Byrne in the centre. She was ably assisted by the hard-working Medb O’Kane, Mayghan Doyle, Shauna Byrne, Hannah Dowling and, having her best game of the competition to date, Aoife Grace in the number 4 shirt for Wicklow.
Wicklow’s Annie Conroy, though wearing the number 13 shirt, fell back to assist in the defence and combined well with the centre field pairing of Molly Cullen and Lisa Lawlor to mount continuous attacks on the beleaguered Laois defenders. Once again Molly Cullen was a leader on the field for Wicklow. Laois mid-fielders Victoria Byrne and Marie Byrne struggled to contend with the Wicklow pair and were constantly harried when they were in possession of the ball. For their part Wicklow carried the ball confidently and showed great awareness in moving it forward, maintaining possession by superb passing and flawless support play.
Clodagh Fox, Ciara Byrne, Niamh O’Brien, Katie Miley and the on form Ella Doran made life even more difficult for Laois and despite strong performances from Alanah Havill, Deirdre Phelan and Amy Loughran in the Laois back line they could not stem the tide of the visitors. Clodagh Fox seized the first chance she got to secure Wicklow’s first of five goals in the twenty fourth minute of play and Niamh O’Brien pressed home Wicklow’s advantage in the twenty fifth minute with a second goal, immediately followed by another Clodagh Fox point. As the Wicklow spectators dared to relax Victoria Byrne scored Laois’ third point of the half and Caoimhe Lalor added their fourth from a free in the closing minute. Not to be shaken, Wicklow countered and Lisa Lawlor drove home Wicklow’s third goal on the closing whistle giving the visiting side a 3-7 to 0-4 lead going into the break.
Wicklow had a dream start to the second half with a Katie Miley goal in the opening minute. She added another point in the fifth minute and the visitors registered a further four points before Laois got off the mark with a point from Caoimhe Lalor in the seventeenth minute of play. Another point for Laois came from the boot of the hard-working Orla Carroll in the no. 11 jersey. However there was no stopping the Wicklow side as Niamh O’Brien added a fifth goal in the twentieth minute of play. Aimi Healy in the Wicklow goal made two saves in immediate succession in the 21st minute, conceding a 45 as Orla Carroll tried to salvage a late goal for Laois but there was no way through for the home side. Wicklow’s Shauna Byrne denied them yet again conceding a second 45 in as many minutes as Laois piled some late pressure on the visitors. Katie Bouchier replaced Ella Doran, Eabha Barnes replaced Niamh O’Brien and Aoife Grace took a well earned rest and handed over to Laoise Marron. Katie Miley and Clodagh Fox also made way for Chelsee Snell and Sarah Kendrick in the last quarter. Katie Miley’s last action of the game was to successfully convert a free and Katie Bouchier made her presence felt with two points in the closing minutes to leave the final score 5-16 to 0-6 in favour of the Wicklow side. Best for Laois were the centre field pairing of Victoria Byrne and Marie Byrne, forwards Caoimhe Lalor, Orla Carroll and Kim Webster and in the back line Alanah Havill and Amy Loughran. For Wicklow it was again a balanced team performance with great leadership shown by Molly Cullen, Shauna Byrne, Ciara Byrne, Niamh O’Brien and Katie Miley. There were outstanding performances also from Aoife Grace and Ella Doran but on the whole it was the ability of this group to play as a unit that led to such a substantial victory.
The girls will relish the opportunity to face Meath again in the Leinster final on May 4th as they know they did not do themselves justice in their opening encounter in Blessington on February 14th, Valentine’s Day. There was nothing romantic about the result on that occasion but these girls have worked consistently since then and have improved steadily. It will be with renewed confidence that they will face the next challenge, when no doubt, they will again do their very best as they represent their clubs and their county with pride.
Monday 4th May will see Dublin Minors take on Kildare in the A Final, Offaly will face Westmeath in the B Final and Wicklow and Meath will contest the C Final. Venues for the games are to be decided.
Wicklow: Aimi Healy, Shauna Byrne, Hannah Dowling, Aoife Grace, Mayghan Doyle, Jessie Byrne, Medb O’Kane, Molly Cullen, Lisa Lawlor (1-0), Niamh O’Brien (2-3), Ciara Byrne (0-3), Ella Doran, Annie Conroy, Katie Miley (1-6), Clodagh Fox (1-2), Chloe Dwyer, Katie Bouchier (0-2), Aisling McDonald, Sarah Kendrick, Eabha Barnes, Chelsee Snell, Laoise Marron, Missing from photo – Amy Ryan, Mary Healy, Alanna Conroy, Jade Manley, Amy Burke.
Laois: Lisa Daly, Gillian Hannigan, Alanah O’Toole, Deirdre Phelan, Alanah Havill, Amy Loughran, Orlaith Phelan, Victoria Byrne (0-1), Marie Byrne (0-1), Caoimhe Lalor (0-2), Orla Carroll (0-2), Laura Buggy, Gráinne Moran, Kim Webster, Mary Keating.