By John Woods
CARLOW battled all the way to an exciting draw against Offaly in Tullamore on Sunday in their ladies football national league Division 4 clash.
This was an exciting encounter played at championship intensity. Carlow ladies played with the aid of a strong wind in the first half, but it was Offaly who opened the scoring after 17 seconds through Grainne Egan.
Clíodhna Ní Shé, who scored 2-6 in the first league game against Limerick a week earlier, would prove to be Carlow’s scorer-in chief once again and she replied with a pointed free after four minutes.
Disaster struck for Carlow when Marie Byrne burst through the Carlow defence and blasted a superb shot into the net giving Nicole Hanley in goal no chance.
Clíodhna Ní Shé scored two more points for Carlow while the impressive Aoife Carey for Offaly scored three to leave it Offaly 1-4 Carlow 0-3 after 13 minutes.
It got worse for Carlow when Marie Byrne struck for Offaly’s second goal after 14 minutes.
But this Carlow team faced similar adversity against Limerick and they gritted their teeth and came back into the game through two more points from Clíodhna Ní Shé and one from the very impressive Rachel Sawyer who tormented the Offaly defence with her searing runs throughout the game.
Aibhe Kiernan, a minor, played a blinder in her senior debut and brought a great save on 21 minutes from the Offaly goalie with her goal-bound shot deflected over the bar. Carlow got on top midway through the first half and really brought the game to Offaly, with the midfield pairing of Caoimhe O’Neill and Niamh Forde making strong driving runs through the heart of the Offaly team. At half time it was Offaly 2-4 Carlow 0-9.
Carlow played into a strong wind in the second half and it looked like it might be mission impossible when after six minutes, Grainne Egan scored a goal and a point and another point from Emma Maher left Offaly ahead by 3-6 to 0-9. But once again Mark Keating’s team showed their never-say-die attitude and a brilliant passing move saw Clíodhna Ní Shé palm the ball into the net.
Two more points from Grainne Egan and Clíodhna Ní Shé and a brilliant point from another impressive minor, Beth Evesson from the O’Hanrahan’s club, left it 3-8 to 1-12.
The game was now being played from end to end and excitement was at fever pitch in O’Connor Park, Tullamore. Two further points from the irrepressible Clíodhna Ní Shé levelled matters. Carlow and Offaly had chances to win it in the last two minutes, but Carlow’s performance deserved at least a draw.
This was a very impressive showing by the Carlow girls against an Offaly team who play in the intermediate championship and it augurs well for the remainder of the league campaign where promotion is now a very realistic target.
Carlow’s next game is against Derry on 23 February at IT Carlow.
Carlow: Nicole Hanley (Old Leighlin), Amy Hanley (Old Leighlin), Anne Roche (Old Leighlin), Oonagh Fitzpatrick (Fenagh), Antoinette Dowling (Fenagh), Ellen Atkinson (Old Leighlin), Aoibhinn Gilmartin (Old Leighlin), Niamh Forde (Old Leighlin), Caoimhe O’Neill (Old Leighlin), Maria Kinsella (Fenagh), Rachel Sawyer (Old Leighlin, 0-1), Aibhe Kiernan (Clonmore, 0-1), Beth Evesson (O’Hanrahan’s, 0-1), Clíodhna Ní Shé (Bennekerry/Tinryland, 1-11, 0-7 frees), Niamh Kelly (Bennekerry/Tinryland). Subs: Niamh Murphy (St Anne’s) for Fitzpatrick (15 mins), Emer Cawley (O’Hanrahan’s) for Kelly (50 mins). Shannon Cotter (Bennekerry/Tinryland), Ellen Murphy (Fenagh), Anna Doyle (St Brigid’s), Jasmine Dowling (Eire Og), Aoibhinn Brennan (St Anne’s), Sarah Doyle (Bennekerry/Tinryland)