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Monday 23 September 2019

Pats reach decider

GAA: senior football championship semi-final - St Patricks 2-15, Blessington 2-9

Brendan Lawrence at Roundwood

St Patrick's earned themselves another shot at the county crown when they toppled a battling Blessington in Roundwood last Saturday evening to book their final spot against Tinahely in Blessington this weekend.

Robert Hollingsworth's side were pushed hard throughout this encounter and will hope that the tough battle will benefit them more than Tinahely's canter past AGB in Annacurra on Thursday evening will serve the defending champions who are striving for their fifth county title in a row come Saturday evening in Blessington.

It's a ridiculously quick turnaround time for the county final with Pat's set to line out six days after this semi-final dogfight with a very impressive Blessington side who will feel that this is one where they could have caused something of a shock had they made the most of a super performance.

It's a case of job done for the league champions who will now put a plan in place to repeat their league final defeat of Rory Stokes' side and finally bring an end to the days of hurt in county finals at the hands of the red army.

To do so they must not concede goals as easily as they did in this game in a stunningly beautiful An Tochar GAA grounds in beautiful sunshine in front of a vocal and enthusiastic crowd for both sides.

Anna Vas' pair of majors came after thundering forays up the pitch, one in either half, and the excellent Blessington midfielder was allowed fire home two rockets without a single hand being laid upon her. If Pat's allow Aoife Gorman or Jackie Kinch such room in front of goal, then this county final could be decided very quickly.

Last Saturday's outing could be a major boost to the Pat's side ahead of the county final. They were made to work extremely hard for everything they got and Robert Hollingsworth and his management team will certainly have seen defects and issues that can be remedied in the short break between both pivotal games.

The passage to the final was secured thanks to a sublime spell from midfielder and team captain Sarah Delahunt who dragged Pat's from having a fragile one-point lead over Blessington after two excellent points from the Blues, the first from Roisin Ellis, the second a pointed free from the superb Jess Brennan, had pulled them right back into contention.

Delahunt stepped up to the plate big time in the next few moments. Having missed two early frees in the opening half she stood strong and banged over four points on the trot (three frees) to give the Wicklow Town women room to breathe against a Blessington side who looked to be running out of options in the latter stages of the game.

Pat's enjoyed a lightning start when full-forward Laura Manley had the ball in the back of the Blessington net after mere seconds. The dual star followed this up with an excellent point and it looked as though the Pat's women were on the warpath even without the services of their county star Niamh McGettigan who didn't line out for her side on Saturday.

Blessington recovered superbly, Jess Brennan dropping over two frees and Sarah Bohan registering from play as they took the game to the Pat's women all over the field.

But the Blues were hit by a sucker punch after 11 minutes when centre back Kate Hennessy drove hard at the Blessington defence and unloaded a whopper that flew past Kim Connors to put Pat's 2-2 to 0-3 to the good.

Pat's entered a wasteful phase whereas Blessington grew more and more into the game. Orla Redmond extended the Pat's lead with a fine effort in front of goal after 18 but Blessington hit back with a rip-roaring 1-2, points from Jess Brennan and Niamh Cullen and the goal from the boot of Anna Vas who ran directly through the heart of the Blessington defence, fell awkwardly but still had time and energy to get to her feet and blast home past Jen Lyons in the Pat's goal, 2-3 to 1-5, anyone's game.

In the midst of that bright spell for Blessington it should be noted that Pat's left 1-1 behind them and they will know better than anyone that misses like these and shots dropped short to goalkeepers such as they produced in the second half will do them real harm come county final day against a tough defence like Tinahely's.

Sinead McGettigan (free) and the lively Clodagh Fox opened up a three-point gap for Pat's before May Richardson pulled a point back right before the break for Blessington to leave it 2-5 to 1-6.

A stunning run from Anna Vas put her in sight of the Pat's goal and after stumbling she unleashed a wicked shot that blazed past Jen Lyons to fire Blessington into the lead.

As if stung by this blow, Pat's rallied and captain Sarah Delanhunt recovered from those earlier missed frees and struck over two fine scores (one free) before Clodagh Fox and Niamh Caffrey completed the mini recovery and returned Pat's to the front at 2-9 to 2-6.

Blessington struck back with two fine scores from frees from the boots of Roisin Ellis and Jess Brennan to leave just a point between the teams but fouling started to creep in more and more and all of a sudden Pat's were three to the good after Sarah Delahunt had fired over two frees.

Blessington threw everything they had into the cause and rampaged up the field where the ball was fed to Sarah Bohan who couldn't gather in the hand but had the composure to swing the boot only for the shot to drift painfully by the Pat's post and wide. Goal chance gone abegging.

Two more from Delahunt (one free) and Pat's were starting to look more comfortable and the hill started to get that bit steeper for Blessington.

Pat's threw in fresh legs and a point from Niamh Caffrey put six between the sides with about eight to go.

Blessington had chances. They registered three wides in those last five or six minutes and watched with caught breath as Jen Lyons got herself into all sorts of bother in the Pat's goal but recovered and the danger was averted but they couldn't inflict any more damage than a Jess Brennan converted free after a foul on Niamh Cullen while captain fantastic for Pat's, Sarah Delahunt, drove over a wonderful point to push the lead out to six again.

A great win for Pat's, hard-earned with oodles of room for improvements ahead of the county decider this weekend in Blessington.

A tough defeat for Blessington. If they can keep that group together they are not far away from where they want to be.

Scorers - St Patrick's: Sarah Delahunt 0-7 (4f), Laura Manley 1-1, Niamh Caffrey 0-3, Kate Hennessy 1-0, Clodagh Fox 0-2, Orla Redmond 0-1, Sinead McGettigan 0-1 (f).

Blessington: Anna Vas 2-0, Jess Brennan 0-5 (4f), Sarah Bohan 0-1, Niamh Cullen 0-1, May Richardson 0-1, Rosin Ellis 0-1 (f).

St Patrick's: Jen Lyons; Sorcha Doyle, Saoirse O'Reilly, Sarah Evans; Sinead McGettigan, Kate Hennessy, Luci Dunne; Jess Lyons, Sarah Delahunt; Saoirse O'Reilly, Niamh Caffrey, Orla Redmond; Clodagh Fox, Laura Manley, Emer McNulty. Subs: Naoise O'Reilly for O Redmond, Leanne O'Neill for S Evans.

Blessington: Kim Connors; Sarah Peppard, Allanah McMahon, Leigh McGuire; Emma Reid, Cara Hennessy, Niamh Ellis; Niamh Cullen, Anna Vas; Jessica Brennan, Molly Cullen, May Richardson; Sarah Bohan, Roisin Ellis, Shauna Byrne. Subs: Amy Ryan for S Bohan, Erin King for A McMahon, Sorcha Nolan for E Reid, Siné O'Neill for N Ellis.

Referee: Ciaran Walshe (Baltinglass)

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