Ladies Football: Leinster Junior Football Championship semi-final
Old Leighlin 4-5
Longford Slashers 0-11
By Kieran Murphy
CARLOW ladies football senior champions Old Leighlin have qualified for the Leinster junior football final where they will play Castleknock in Ashbourne on Saturday 3 November at 1pm.
In a keenly contested semi-final on Sunday at McGrath Park, Bagenalstown it was the ability of the eventual winners to take their goal chances which was the main difference between victory and defeat.
It wasn’t just this which divided the sides. Old Leighlin have developed into a useful team. They are strong in every line. Anne Roche had a massive game and when push came to shove in the second half she had great support all around her with Ellen Atkinson, Emma Brennan and Michelle Dermody particularly prominent.
At midfield Muireann O’Sullivan is the engine of the side while up front Rachel Sawyer needs no introduction. She scored 1-3 here but laid on many other scores for players who fed off her energy and strong running.
Right from the off, Old Leighlin laid down a marker with Shauna O’Neill and Sawyer scoring early goals. Much of what the Longford side did well stemmed from the ability of Kara Shannon, Jessica Barry, Clare Farrell and Aisling Cosgrove. It won’t be lost on the Old Leighlin management team that the Longford half-back line came forward as a unit and registered three points between them. At half-time the Carlow side led 2-3 to 0-5. That lead was particularly satisfying in that they had played with only 14 players after Eleanor Meaney picked up a yellow card and was required to take 10 minutes’ rest.
Old Leighlin lived dangerously early in the second half. A pass out of defence was intercepted but poor decision making and a wild shot which flew past the left-hand upright at the Bagenalstown end of the ground deprived the Slashers of a morale-boosting goal.
That was just before Aoibhinn Gilmartin’s goal when Emma Brennan and Sawyer combined to put in the full-forward. From 10 metres out the full-forward didn’t miss.
Minutes later Niamh Forde saw her firm shot well saved by Emer Casey in the visitors’ goal and it looked as if the Carlow champions were going to take over. Seven points in a row from the Longford side may have panicked local supporters around the ground but Old Leighlin kept their shape.
Substitute Laura Regan was a picture of calmness whenever she secured possession. Muireann O’Sullivan at midfield made some great runs and her decision making was excellent. With 10 minutes to go Old Leighlin all but made sure of victory when another passing movement saw Niamh Forde go clear. Her shot to the roof of the net buried the Longford challenge and just before the end Aoife Roche had the satisfaction of landing a point to finish the scoring.
By that stage Old Leighlin were on their way. A lot done but the ante is up now. They cannot be written off now.
Castleknock accounted for Thomastown in the other semi-final and they will present a stiff challenge in two weeks.
Old Leighlin: Nicole Hanley; Roisin Maher, Anne Roche, Amy Hanley; Eleanor Meaney, Ellen Atkinson, Michelle Dermody; Muireann O’Sullivan, Caoimhe O’Neill; Rachel Sawyer (1-3, 0-1 free), Shauna O’Neill, Niamh Forde (1-0); Aoife Roche (1-1), Aoibhinn Gilmartin (1-1), Emma Brennan. Subs: Eleanor Purcell for A Hanley (25 mins), Ella Meaney for E Meaney (h/t), Laura Regan for O’Neill (43 mins), Roisin Ryan for Maher (55 mins), Gemma Carpenter for O’Neill (59 mins).
Longford Slashers: Emer Casey; Laura Kenny, Aine Barry, Ciara Flynn; Orla Nevin (0-2), Eimear O’Brien, Aisling Cosgrove (0-1); Aoife O’Brien, Lisa Nolan (0-1); Emily Reilly, Grace Shannon, Clare Farrell (0-1); Orlagh O’Brien, Kara Shannon (0-3), Jessica Barry (0-3 frees). Subs: Sarah Madden for O. O’Brien (29 mins), Gemma Reilly for E. O’Brien (36 mins), Grace Kenny for Kenny (59 mins).
Referee: Finbarr Shanahan (Dublin)