Old Leighlin 4-16
By Kieran Murphy
THIS senior football ladies league final in Grange on Saturday may have looked like an easy win for the reigning senior county and Leinster junior football champions, but it was far from that as it was only in the final 10 minutes Old Leighlin pulled away.
Bennekerry-Tinryland struck for an opening goal on 46 seconds when Lauren Dwyer came in on the end of a move straight from the throw-in and her shot dipped under the crossbar.
Old Leighlin have come a long way since this time last year. The concession didn’t fluster them and Rachel Sawyer knocked over three points in four minutes to level matters. On eight minutes Niamh Forde nudged the blue and whites ahead. Then Dwyer scored a fabulous goal when her rocket caught the underside of the crossbar and ricocheted well over the line.
Exchanges were tight. The referee let nothing away. Old Leighlin took a stern grip on the game when Caoimhe O’Neill and Emma Brennan struck for goals to give their side a 2-7 to 2-2 interval lead.
The eventual winners got off to a solid start in the second period when Sawyer and Brennan accounted for 0-3 between them in a low-scoring third quarter. They lost Phil Murphy for 10 minutes when she picked up a yellow card. Emma Brennan took a deep defensive role to cover for their absent full-back and Bennekerry-Tinryland got little change up front.
The double champions used all their experience and the opposition danger player, Lauren Dwyer, foraged out the field in an effort to win more possession. One run saw her attack from inside her own half but when it looked as if she was going to break the Old Leighlin cover she was fouled.
If Murphy’s yellow card seemed a little harsh then Old Leighlin could deem themselves lucky not to have ended up with a second player on the line for 10 minutes.
They survived and when Murphy returned they already had one hand on the cup. Going into injury time Shauna O’Neill picked off a goal and now Old Leighlin were rampant. Sawyer scored a fourth three-pointer while Niamh Forde also landed two points.
Encouraging from an Old Leighlin point of view was the contribution of their substitutes who added an edge to their game. From the challenger’s point of view they depended a lot on Lauren Dwyer for an edge up front. At this level she is almost unmarkable but after the concession of the goals in the first half the Old Leighlin defence did well to minimise her influence when the game was in the melting pot.
In the end though Old Leighlin have laid a marker and now their old rivals know they have a lot of work to do in the coming months in the lead up to the championship.
Old Leighlin: Maggie Forde; Amy Hanley, Phil Murphy, Keeva Collins; Niamh Roche, Ann Roche, Helen Roche; Amy Dooley, Emma Brennan (1-2); Niamh Forde (0-3), Caoimhe O’Neill (1-0), Eleanor Meaney; Niamh Bambrick, Rachel Sawyer (1-8, 0-4 frees), Eimear Meaney. Subs: Laura Regan (0-1) for Eimear Meaney (37 mins), Ellen Atkinson (0-1) for N Roche (40 mins), Shauna O’Neill (1-1) for Bambrick (49 mins), Ella Meaney for Dooley (60 mins).
Bennekerry-Tinryland: Shannon Cotter; Kathy Bullen, Deirdre Tomlinson, Ciara Nolan; Ruth Bermingham, Audrey Murphy, Leah Mullins; Cliodhna Ní Shé; Niamh Kelly (0-3fs), Roisin Byrne, Amy Dwyer; Elaine Kelly, Lauren Dwyer (2-1), Sinead Hayden (0-1). Subs: Leanne Lambert for A Dwyer (38 mins), Aine Bullen for O’Sullivan (41 mins), Aoife Timmons for E Kelly (43 mins), Doireann Walshe for O’Sullivan (52 mins).
Referee: John Bermingham (Coolkenno).