The Louth Ladies team pose for a photo prior to their clash with Clare in Ennis
All Ireland Ladies Intermediate Football Championship
Louth 2-8 Clare 1-10
Having been on the receiving end of several close contests this year, two points here, three points there, even losing by a point on occasions, you could just imagine the jubilation on the faces of Louth players, management and fans alike, as the ladies in red prevailed by a solitary point over Clare to advance through to the All Ireland Intermediate Football Championship as group winners.
With both sides assured of a place in the quarter finals as they both accounted for Down in this group, Louth knew that a victory would see them progress as group winners and a clash with Division 3 winners Roscommon in two weeks times.
With 19 minutes on the clock, victory seemed like an unlikely outcome even for the most optimistic of Louth supporters, as Clare full forward Fidelma Marrinan intercepted a short kickout to lob the ball Louth keeper Rebecca Lambe Fagan to give the Banner county a six point lead at 1-7 to 1-1.
Playing against that strong breeze for that opening half, Clare decided to assert pressure on the Louth kickout, forcing them to kick the ball short from the restart, with Fidelma Marrinan reaping the rewards of the tactic.
An early goal from midfielder Aoife Halligan assisted by the industrious Hannah O’Neill, had provided the perfect start for Wayne Freeman’s troops as they led by 1-0 to 0-1 after 2 minutes, with the impressive Niamh O’Dea opening the scoring for Clare.
Clare managed to punch holes in that Louth defence in this opening period, with Róisin Considine breaking lines, to raise another white flag for the Banner, who could have scored a few goals in this period, with Amy Sexton kicking over the bar as she bore down on goal following great work by the menacing Niamh O’Dea.
While the potent Fidelma Marrinan added another point to level things up for the home side. Marrinan almost got on the end of a fist pass across the square from the marauding Aisling Reidy, while Chloe Moloney stung the palms of Louth’s Rebecca Lambe Fagan.
However, a well taken score from Kate Flood following a flowing move with Eimear Byrne at the heart of it put Louth back in front, from a sharp passage of play which involved Aoife Russell and Rebecca Carr. Byrne then teed up Flood who found the range despite that tumultuous breeze.
Clare turned Louth over 13 times in that first half, and one such turnover saw Aisling Reidy set up another score for Fidelma Marrinan who was on fire at this stage at the edge of the square.
The impressive Laurie Ryan combined with Chloe Moloney, who set up Sexton for another point, while Catriona Callinan stretched Clare’s lead to three points at 0-7 to 1-1 after 15 minutes.
After Fidelma Marrinan innovatively looped the ball over Louth’s Rebecca Lambe Fagan, Clare were leading by 1-7 to 1-1, and it looked set to be a torrid day at the office for the Wee County.
However, Louth refused to throw in the towel, as they fired over a brace of scores emanating from Laura Collins (free) and a well worked score from sub Jennifer McCourt to narrow that deficit to four points in the final 10 minutes of the first half. McCourt was set up nicely by her Roche Emmets club mate Aoife Halligan to give Louth hope.
Chloe Moloney and Laura Collins traded free kicks to leave just four points between the sides at half time at 1-8 to 1-4, with Louth finishing the half strongly.
You had the feeling that if Louth could manage to trail their opponents by less than six points at the break, they always had a chance, and so it proved.
This IFC clash was undoubtedly a game of two halves, with the wind a telling factor. This time, it was Louth’s time to turn the screw on Clare, pressing up on their kickout, winning 4 of the Banner’s 6 restarts, with the breeze even forcing one kickout from Clare keeper Micaela Glynn to trickle over the sideline at one stage.
Louth’s fighting spirit was epitomised by their captain Shannen McLaughin, who finished with 25 possessions in the match, along with winning several breaks, while Aoife Halligan and Róisin Kavanagh took the game to the opposition, and first half sub Jennifer McCourt who replaced the injured Ciara Woods finished with a commendable 17 possessions. Róisin Kavanagh had 21 possessions herself, and also won 7 free kicks over the hour.
While Rebecca Lambe Fagan was on hand to hold onto a fisted effort from Niamh O’Dea from a Fidelma Marrinan cross field ball.
Kate Flood judged the breeze perfectly to kick the opening score of the second half after 18 seconds, but some poor decision making meant that Louth did not score again for another 13 minutes. In that time, Fidelma Marrinan restored Clare’s four point cushion.
Louth’s gaining of the upper hand on kickouts bore fruit, as following another cracking score from Kate Flood, a long range free from Rebecca Carr was spilled by Clare keeper Micaela Glynn and found its way to the net for Louth’s second goal.
Kate Flood then took advantage of this Wee County kickout dominance to put Louth ahead, with the game moving into the final 10 minutes.
Laura Collins struck a wonderful free kick over the bar moments later from 45 metres to put Louth two points ahead at 2-8 to 1-9.
Clare came back, but were unable to get to grips with that breeze, with a Gráinne Nolan free their only reply, as Louth held on for a sweet victory away from home, and they look forward to a quarter final clash against Roscommon in a fortnight’s time.
Louth: Rebecca Lambe Fagan; Holly Lambe Sally, Sarah Quinn, Eimear Murray; Ceire Nolan, Shaneen McLaughlin, Aoife Russell; Aoife Halligan (1-0), Róisin Kavannagh; Hannah O’Neill, Ciara Woods, Rebecca Carr (1-0); Kate Flood (0-4), Eimear Byrne, Laura Collins (0-3) (3f).
Subs: Jennifer McCourt (0-1) for Woods (13), Eilis Hand for Holly Lambe Sally (37), Sara Moore for O’Neill (44), Ruth Hanna for Byrne (52), Rachel Leonard for Collins (56).
Clare: Micaela Glynn; Ellie O’Gorman, Tara Kelly, Gráinne Harvey; Siofra Ní Chonaill, Larie Ryan, Orla Devitt; Aisling Reidy, Róisin Considine (0-1); Amy Sexton (0-2), Lizzy Roche, Chole Moloney (0-1) (1f); Niamh O’Dea (0-1), Fidelma Marrinan (1-3), Catriona Callinan (0-1).
Subs: Gráinne Nolan (0-1) (1f) for Roche (40), Cliodhna Blake for Callinan (48), Sinead Considine for Marrinan (54).
Referee: Ciaran Groome (Offaly).
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