Defending champions scored 1-1 in added time to force extra-time after which Shaunagh Fitzpatrick converted the winning free kick in the shoot-out as the South Kerry side retained their title against a Finuge/St Senans team in their first senior county final
RANDLES BROTHERS LADIES COUNTY SENIOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
Southern Gaels 2-14
Finuge/St Senans 2-14
(AET, Southern Gaels win 4-3 on sudden-death free kicks)
Southern Gaels retained their County Senior Championship title after the most dramatic of free kick shoot-outs where Shona Fitzpatrick was the hero after she slotted over the all-important winner after this classic encounter went into sudden death, when normal time and extra-time had failed to separate the sides.
It was the cruellest way possible for Finuge/St Senans to lose the game after they had given every ounce of themselves in their pursuit of the title, and if the gods had been on their side then the cup would have been making its way to north Kerry. You can only play with the hand that you’re dealt with, however, and on the day it was the south Kerry side that came out on top of the deck.
This is a game that Finuge/St Senans will look back at with regrets and what-might-have-beens. They thought that they had the title in their grasp when they led by 2-11 to 1-10 with 61 minutes of regular time played. Aideen Cronin had struck for a brilliant goal after a swift counter-attack following a Southern Gaels turnover, and with a four-point lead the game looked done and dusted. The champagne was definitely on ice and ready to be popped. Southern Gaels had other ideas though.
Siofra O’Shea led the charge and when she found Jessie Gill off her shoulder, the diminutive corner back was hauled to the ground when through on goal. O’Shea stepped up and slotted the penalty kick to Liz Houlihan’s right hand side with brilliant composure to make it a one-point game.
Southern Gaels secured the subsequent kickout and Rachel Dwyer was fouled. The free kick was from an awkward angle for a right footed kicker, but Dwyer made it look easy and kicked it over to bring the game to extra-time.
It was fitting that Dwyer was entrusted with the pressure kick as both she and Finuge/St Senans’ Jackie Horgan gave exhibitions at number 14 for their respective sides, with Dwyer finishing with ten points and Horgan with 1-6. Indeed, it was Horgan who ensured that Finuge/St Senans brought the game to the free kick contest when she scored an amazing equaliser in the dying seconds of extra-time as the light faded on Fitzgerald Stadium.
After the first half of regular time Southern Gaels took a four-point lead in at the break, 1-7 to 0-6, with Dwyer and Horgan dotting the scoreboard with 0-6 and 0-3 respectively. Patrice Diggin was hugely industrious at midfield for Finuge/St Senans and herself and Horgan had an almost telepathic understanding of each other’s game.
First time senior finalists Finuge/St Senans showed no early signs of nerves as they raced into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after just six minutes. The imperious Dwyer started the ball rolling with a lovely point in the second minute but 60 seconds later Miriam O’Keeffe had the sides level when she pointed a free after a barnstorming run from Louise Galvin.
Southern Gaels began to enjoy plenty of possession but the tough tackling and steely Finuge/St Senans defence were equal to the challenge and turned over the ball three times in a row. When they gained possession, the north Kerry side broke at pace with Niamh Carmody and Louise Galvin to the fore, and Horgan and O’Keeffe added the scores.
The champions rattled off the next three points in a row to push 0-4 to 0-3 ahead with Rachel Dwyer and Cliona Murphy doing the damage, but Horgan then scored a lovely effort, with the assist Aoife Behan, to level matters.
By the 24th minute the champions had pushed 0-7 to 0-6 ahead but then came the first pivotal moment in the match when Aoibhinn Fitzgerald and Siofra O’Shea combined before Aoife Dwyer finished expertly to the net.
Finuge/St Senans had one final attack of the first half and nearly goaled but for the heroics of Southern Gaels goalkeeper Mary Ellen Bolger who somehow produced a brilliant save to keep Rebecca Horgan’s shot out when a three-pointer looked certain. As it was, the defending champions took a 1-7 to 0-6 lead in at half time.
By the midway point of the second half Southern Gaels led by 1-9 to 0-9 but the contest could have been level had Jackie Horgan’s rasper off the crossbar in the 33rd minute gone a different side of the goal line. Instead, it was scrambled clear by a Southern Gaels defender and the danger was averted.
Clodagh Quinlan was sent to the sin bin for a high challenge in the 51st minute as Southern Gaels led by two, 1-9 to 0-10, and Bolger had to produce her second magnificent save of the game when Rebecca Horgan broke through once more, but she clawed the ball over the bar magnificently from point blank range.
Two minutes later and Jackie Horgan had the ball in the back of the net when O’Keeffe intercepted a kickout and fed the danger woman inside, and this time Bolger was given no chance as Horgan blasted the ball into the onion sack.
The final few minutes saw the drama of Cronin’s goal and O’Shea’s penalty followed by Dwyer’s pressure cooker equaliser to draw it level at 2-11 apiece, and extra-time beckoned for the sides as the sun made a welcome return as the daylight faded rapidly.
Southern Gaels took a 2-14 to 2-12 lead in at half time of extra-time with Bolger producing another good save in the 62nd minute from Niamh Carmody’s long range shot. Finuge/St Senans refused to die and held Southern Gaels scoreless in the second period with Miriam O’Keeffe slotting a free after a foul the saw Jessie Gill sent to the sin-bin, and then Horgan kicked her superb equaliser to bring the game to the free kick contest.
With five kickers per side, Southern Gaels slotted three of theirs, as did Finuge/St Senans, but when the north Kerry missed the first of their sudden death shots, Fitzpatrick, daughter of their manager Dan, scored the all-important winner to ensure the cup was staying in Waterville.
SOUTHERN GAELS: Mary Ellen Bolger; Jessie Gill, Shonagh Fitzgerald, Emily O’Sullivan; Fiona Keating, Caoimhe Teahan, Clodagh Quinlan; Megan O’Connell 0-1, Siofra O’Shea 1-1 (1-0 pen, 0-1f); Aoife Dwyer 1-0, Ellie O’Connell 0-1, Cliona Murphy 0-1; Shannon O’Donnell, Rachel Dwyer 0-10 (7f), Aoibhinn Fitzgerald. Subs: Deirdre Kelly for S Donnell (42), Maeve Daly for C Murphy (53), Shannon O’Donnell for A Dwyer (et, 65).
FINUGE/ST SENANS: Liz Houlihan; Elaine Ryall, Sarah Murphy, Cara Cullen; Aideen Cronin 1-0, Louise Galvin, Katelyn Stack; Patrice Diggin 0-1, Caitriona Dillon 0-1; Miriam O’Keeffe 0-4 (3f), Niamh Carmody 0-1 (f), Aoife Behan; Rebecca Horgan 0-1, Jackie Horgan 1-6 (0-1f), Emma McCarthy. Subs: Ann Marie Leen for E McCarthy (24), Kate Buckley for A Behan (56), Sinead Behan for C Dillon (et, 65), Aoife Behan for R Horgan (et, 69),
Referee: James Brosnan (Currow)