Ladies Football: All-Ireland Club Junior Championship semi-final
Tourlestrane (Sligo) 2-10
Old Leighlin 0-10
By Kieran Murphy
SLIGO and Connacht champions Tourlestrane broke Old Leighlin hearts in Bagenalstown on Sunday when they made the 470km round trip and came away with a priceless All-Ireland semi-final win.
The six-point margin flattered the visitors but nobody could say they didn’t deserve to win the game.
Travelling such a long distance, they could have been forgiven if they had started sluggishly but they hit the ground running. After fending off the initial Old Leighlin attacks, they went ahead with two frees from Katie Walsh.
While Rachel Sawyer replied for the home side with a placed ball, the momentum was with the visitors. When Tourlestrane won a kick-out, a passing movement saw Laura Surliss crop up in front of goal and she easily found the net. Walsh tacked on two more points from play and from there they gave the home side a mountain to climb.
Old Leighlin came back but if the Tourlestrane forwards were keen in front of goal, their backline was giving nothing away. Sawyer looked as if she would at least register a point, but a succession of brave blocks saw an Old Leighlin attack come to nothing.
Aoife Roche and Aoibhinn Gilmartin scores from play narrowed the gap as Tourlestrane knocked over a free from Gráinne Carty.
In the second quarter Old Leighlin enjoyed their best period of play and Sawyer was unlucky to see her effort for a point come back off the left-hand upright. At the other end, Nicole Hanley saved brilliantly from Sarah Cunney when the corner forward was odds on to secure a second Tourlestrane goal.
Coming up to half-time, the Sligo side were on the rack but they dug in. When Surlis did well to keep the ball in play, Tara Walsh was on hand to take the pass and guide the ball between the Old Leighlin posts for a vital point. With the last kick of the half, Sawyer knocked over a free to leave Tourlestrane leading 1-6 to 0-7 at the break.
Five minutes into the second half Emma Brennan looked as if space was opening up for her in front of the Tourlestrane goal but the defence rallied and the Old Leighlin threat was lifted.
Scores were hard to come by in the third quarter but crucially, Tourlestrane added to their total with frees from Walsh and Carty. On the other hand nothing was going right for Old Leighlin. Sawyer was pinged for over-carrying while they had half-chances of goals but instead advantage wasn’t played which, if it had, might have led to something major.
The Connacht flag bearers put another passing movement together which saw Walsh take another point. It was Tourlestrane’s game to lose from there as the game entered the final quarter.
Old Leighlin rallied and were rewarded with a point from Gilmartin. They really needed a goal. With just over 10 minutes left to play, Tourlestrane were reduced to 14 when Catriona Flynn was yellow carded for a foul on Sawyer. She was probably the fall girl for previous misdemeanours of her colleagues, but the sight of her distraught face as she left the pitch had to lift those who were left to finish the job.
With eight minutes to go, Sarah Cunney scored her side’s last point and Old Leighlin points from Caoimhe O’Neill and Sawyer left a single goal between them.
Old Leighlin poured forward but they lost possession. With players committed to rescuing the game, Leonie Gaughan ran through on the Old Leighlin goal and her shot ensured there was only going to be one winner.
A crushing disappointment for the Carlow side but when they reflect they will have to admit it has been an extraordinary year for them.
Tourlestrane: Colette Walsh; Sarah Brennan, Laura Walsh, Sinéad Mooney; Edel Meers, Shauna Henry, Catherine Marren; Aisling Egan, Nikki Brennan; Anna Corcoran, Gráinne Carty (0-2 frees), Tara Walsh (0-1); Sarah Cunney (0-1), Katie Walsh (0-6, 0-3 frees), Laura Surlis (1-0). Subs: Molly Kennedy for Meers (42 mins), Catriona Flynn for Marren (46 mins), Leonie Gaughan (1-0) for Surliss (55 mins)
Old Leighlin: Nicole Hanley; Roisin Maher, Anne Roche, Philomena Murphy; Eleanor Meaney, Ellen Atkinson, Michelle Dermody; Muireann O’Sullivan, Caoimhe O’Neill (0-1); Rachel Sawyer (0-4, 3 frees), Shauna O’Neill (0-1), Niamh Forde; Aoife Roche (0-2), Aoibhinn Gilmartin (0-2, 0-1 free), Emma Brennan. Subs: Amy Hanley for Meaney (37 mins), Laura Regan for O’Sullivan (42 mins), Ella Meaney for Aoife Roche (58 mins).
Referee: Niall McCormack (Laois).