Lidl ladies National Football League Division Four final
Louth 2-8 Wicklow 4-17
Louth’s Lidl National League campaign came to a crashing halt at St. Brendan’s Park in Birr yesterday as they were overpowered by a hugely superior Wicklow side in the Division Four final, conceding 2-6 without reply at one stage in the third quarter to fall eighteen points adrift, before a late rally, crowned by a goal from Lauren Boyle, put some respectability on the score line.
As the only intermediate team in Division Four, Wicklow were always likely to be considered the strong favourites for this contest, though a competitive encounter in Stabannon between the two sides, one in which Wicklow eventually prevailed by 0-12 to 0-7, suggested that a tight game was in store at the South-Offaly venue. In truth, Wicklow dominated the middle third, but a combination of wastefulness from the Garden County and the efficiency of Kate Flood at the other end ensured that for the vast majority of the opening 30 minutes, they were in front, but far from out of sight.
From the very start of the tie, Louth were working with a small share of possession, struggling to hang on to the coat-tails of their dominant opponents. Paula Murray and Susan Byrne battled gamely to try and guarantee a steady flow of ball in towards their inside forwards, but once Laurie Ahern set-up Marie Kealy for the game’s first goal after 12 minutes, Wicklow had established a lead that they would never relinquish.
Nine first half wides prevented them from pulling clear too quickly, but the energetic running and purposeful deliveries of players like Niamh McGettigan and Meadhbh Deeney ensured a steady supply of chances and Kealy, Laura Hogan and Jackie Kinch were all on target as Wicklow edged further ahead. Louth struggled to check the runs of the Wicklow players, and once Player of the Match Kealy got any sort of possession, she was well able to find the range.
The real hammer blow came with the last play of the first half, when a driving run from Hogan opened up the Louth defence and once she laid the ball off to Deeney, an immaculate finish picked out the bottom corner of the net, giving Una Pearson no chance.
A goal for Louth at the start of the second half, toe poked in by Flood after Rebecca Carr’s initial shot rebounded off the crossbar, hinted at a comeback. Instead Wicklow rallied in spectacular fashion and two goals from Kealy, not to mention a brace of fine points from Jackie Kinch, pushed their lead out to 18 points at one stage.
A late consolation goal from Lauren Boyle trimmed the gap somewhat, but Wicklow continued to look sharp going forward, though Louth manager Micheál McKeown will take heart from the strong performance of a number of substitutes, most notably Catherine McGlew, who put their hands up for consideration in the Leinster junior championship, which for Louth will get underway with a home tie against Kilkenny on June 3.
Wicklow: Kim Connors; Emily Mulhall, Sarah-Jane Winder, Lorna Fusciardi (0-1); Laurie Ahern, Sarah Hogan, Alanna Conroy; Niamh McGettigan, Sarah Miley; Amy Murphy (0-2), Jackie Kinch (0-5), Meadhbh Deeney (1-3, one free); Clodagh Fox (0-1), Marie Kealy (3-3), Laura Hogan (0-1)
Subs: Aoife Gorman for Fox (47), Aoife Gillen for Fusciardi, Shona O’Connor for Deeney, Naoise Baker (0-1) for Miley (58), Rose Fagan for Mulhall (60)
Louth: Una Pearson; Emma Singleton, Rachel Kane, Shannen McLoughlin; Ceire Nolan, Deirbhile Osborne, Bronagh McGrane; Sineád Woods, Rebecca Carr; Paula Murray, Susan Byrne (0-1), Aoife Russell; Lauren Boyle (1-2, one free), Kate Flood (1-3, one free), Michelle McArdle (0-1)
Subs: Michelle McMahon for Russell (25), Áine Breen for Woods (36), Eilis Hand for Singleton (41), Catherine McGlew (0-1) for McArdle (41), Sarah Englishby for Osborne (49)
Referee: Gerry Carmody (Mayo)