Thursday 18 July 2019

A difficult opener

LGFA Lidl NFL Division 3 - Roscommon 4-10 Wicklow 2-6

James Kelly speaks to his players shortly after the final whistle in Kiltoom.
James Kelly speaks to his players shortly after the final whistle in Kiltoom.
The Wicklow footballers ahead of their opening Lidl National Football League Division 3 clash in Kiltoom last Saturday

Brendan Lawrence at Kiltoom

Wicklow's journey in Division 3 of the Lidl National Football League got off to a very difficult start on Saturday afternoon last when they were put to the sword by a clinical and well organised Roscommon side in Kiltoom.

Losing Jackie Kinch (broken bones in her hand) and Claire Walsh (Ireland soccer duty) ahead of this game was a blow Wicklow manager James Kelly could have done without, but, nevertheless, the Wicklow team travelled in confidence of getting their campaign off to a positive start. However, defensive errors and a stunning performance from Roscommon corner-forward Siobhan Tully put paid to those hopes and gave Wicklow's new manager plenty of food for thought on the journey home from a sunny but cold Roscommon.

'First game today, we've a few players nursing injuries at the moment, injuries that came at a really wrong time in preparation for the league. We're trying to nurse those back into the set up,' said the Laois native after the game in the St Brigid's GAA Club in Kiltoom.

'We've the likes of Jackie Kinch who broke her hand in a practice match. Jackie, for any outfit, would be a big loss.

'She could probably sit fairly nicely into the Dublin team. And we have a few players who are very, very good, but we've Jackie injured, we're trying to nurse Sarah Miley back, Sarah Delahunt got a couple of minutes under her belt there today, and it was great to get her back in, we're been missing her for a good bit of the preparations for this, I think we got four sessions with her in preparations for this (the Roscommon game).

'I don't think the scoreboard and the performance reflected where we are as a team.

'We probably reverted to type of kicking down blind alleys a little bit. We'll address those in training. Roscommon are always going to be a tough outfit when you come up to play them, there's no point in saying otherwise.

'We've ambitions, they've ambitions, and look, at the end of the year we'll see where we are in relation to them. It's the first game out today. The injuries haven't been kind to us, and the scoreboard didn't reflect where we are as a team.

'We made four handling errors, and the difference is, when you're playing Division 3 football, when you make those errors the punishments are a lot harder. Those four errors led to four goals, and that's not a fault of anybody in particular. Theirs (goals) came because, from what I can see, we are pressurising ourselves to make the kick. It's something we need to work on in training. The consistency, the weather didn't help us on Thursday night when we had to cancel training due to the weather.

'We've a bit to work on, we're in a healthier position than the scoreboard says, Roscommon are a well drilled outfit, and I think we were in it after 10 minutes after half-time and there was a ball and it was turned over and we died a little bit in regards to the impetus we were putting into the game.

'Then you look at I, we missed three or four real goal opportunities, you score them and right back into the melting pot. It's about being clever and how you use that ball when you get into the killer zone, and today we probably weren't (clever enough).

'We've bits to work on, any team will tell you at this stage that you have bits to work on, we've a nice bit to work on, we'll get through it in training, we'll see how we go. Big game next weel for everybody, in Aughrim, it's going to be a nice one for all the girls to get in and play in the county grounds and we're all really looking forward to it,' he added.

Wicklow started brightly in this game with an Amy Murphy point getting the visitors off the mark, but the potential threat was very evident from those early exchanges as Roscommon moved the ball with real intent through the hands and had two wides on the board before they found the Wicklow net for the first time in the fourth minute, that from the boot of midfielder Laura Flemming.

The talented Rebecca Finan at full-forward fired over Roscommon's opening point three minutes later after good work from Siobhan Tully who could dominate this game until the final whistle and torment Wicklow all over the field in the process.

James Kelly's side recovered well from that early concession of a goal by adding a quick 1-1 and retaking the lead for what would be the last time in this game; the point coming from full-forward Laura Hogan and the goal coming from Amy Murphy's whose speculative shot beat Helena Cummins in the Roscommon goal with the fact that the netminder was looking directly into a low-hanging sun possibly having something to do with her not dealing with what was a fairly average strike.

The next eight minutes were very damaging from a Wicklow point of view. From 1-2 to 1-1 ahead they slumped to a 2-4 to 1-3 deficit, their point from a Laura Hogan free after a foul from Roscommon's very efficient and capable full-back Sinéad Kenny. The home side's second goal arrived after an exchange between Tully and Sorcha Bruen before half-forward Katie Daly slammed home.

Wicklow were doing many positive things around this time. Niamh McGettigan started this game like a train and was working tirelessly to win possession. Aoife Gillen was trying hard, Emily Mulhall was faced with the difficult task of looking after Tully and was trying her best to do just that, and Jessie Nolan Byrne was impressing at various stages.

But Wicklow lacked the unity and the structure of Roscommon and it was the lack of those traits that would be their ultimate downfall in the end.

The aofrementioned Jessie Nolan Byrne won a free which Laura Hogan dispatched between the posts with 25 on the clock to make it 2-4 to 1-4 for the home side.

Disaster would strike for Wicklow when Daly would get in for her second goal as the defensive errors continued apace.

Kelly's side were thrown a lifeline on 28 minutes when the hugely impressive McGettigan, Wicklow's captain for 2019, led by example and drove hard at the Roscommon defence before laying off to Laurie Ahern who rifled home a ripper to the bottom corner to make it 3-4 to 2-4.

Roscommon would add one more point before the break and Wicklow had it all to do.

Anything other than a positive start to the second half would leave Wicklow with too much to do in this game and that's exactly what unfolder. Roscommon came out of the blocks fully fired up and had another 1-4 on the board before Wicklow notched their first point of the second half from Sarah Delahunt to make it 4-9 to 2-5.

Wicklow's goose was as good as cooked at that stage but they fought on and brought in a number of subs such as Clodagh Fox, Tara Dowling Costello, Sarah Miley and Áine Byrne while Kim Connors pulled off an excellent save midway through the second half to keep the tally of goals to four.

A tough day at the office for Wicklow. Considerable improvement needed all over the field for the rest of the campaign, with plenty of players needing to stamp their authority on the next game to avoid a similar outcome in Aughrim on Sunday.

Scorers - Roscommon: Rebecca Finan 1-6 (2f), Katie Daly 2-0, Laura Flemming 1-2, Joanne Cregg 0-1, Rachel Fitzmaurice 0-1.

Wicklow: Laura Hogan 0-4 (2f), Amy Murphy 1-1, Laurie Ahern 1-0, Sarah Delahunt 0-1.

Roscommon: Helena Cummins; Honor Ennis, Sinéad Kenny, Niamh Feeney; Shauna Bannon, Joanne Cregg, Róisín Wynne; Áine Ryan, Laura Flemming; Katie Daly, Rachel Fitzmaurice, Sorcha Bruen; Siobhan Tully, Rebecca Finan, Louise Brady. Subs: Tess Murtagh, Sheila Brady, Lisa Flynn, Rachel Brady, Joan Geoghegan, Gráinne Lohan.

Wicklow: Kim Connors; Emily Mulhall, Sarah Jane Winders, Aoife Gillen; Lorna Fusciardi Hayden, Sarah Hogan, Jessie Nolan Byrne; Niamh McGettigan, Aoife Gorman; Meadbh Deeney, Laurie Ahern, Sarah Delahunt; Amy Murphy, Laura Hogan, Anna McGrath. Subs: Tara Dowling Costello, Clodagh Fox, Sarah Miley, Áine Byrne.

Referee: Gary McGahon

Bray People