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Knockananna prove too hot to handle for Louth champions

Tom Byrne’s side march on to Leinster Junior ‘B’ final

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Knockananna’s Shannagh Goetelen gets her shot away as Orla McGeeney of St. Brides tries to block.

Knockananna’s Shannagh Goetelen gets her shot away as Orla McGeeney of St. Brides tries to block.

Aimee Maher of Knockananna in action against Orla McGeeney of St. Brides.

Aimee Maher of Knockananna in action against Orla McGeeney of St. Brides.

Knockananna’s Jessie Byrne looks to head for goal as Cara McKeever of St Brides gives chase during the 2021 Leinster Junior ‘B’ camogie semi-final in Knockananna.

Knockananna’s Jessie Byrne looks to head for goal as Cara McKeever of St Brides gives chase during the 2021 Leinster Junior ‘B’ camogie semi-final in Knockananna.

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Knockananna’s Shannagh Goetelen gets her shot away as Orla McGeeney of St. Brides tries to block.

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Knockananna 1-12

St Brides (LH) 1-1

A crisp but sunny afternoon in Knockananna saw the Wicklow Senior camogie champions, and reigning Leinster Junior ‘B’ champions, take to their home patch to launch into the defence of their provincial crown.

Having sealed the 2020 Leinster title, just a month ago, this mighty band of women embarked on the journey to reach the final again and a chance to go back-to-back.

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St Brides of Louth were the opposition on this occasion for Knockananna. They looked an impressive outfit with serious intentions of victory on arrival at the Wicklow village. The crowds from both sides flooded into the all-ticket affair, and we were ready for the off.

Knockananna started the strongest in the game. They grabbed the initiative from the off, and it would be fair to say they owned possession and field position for most, if not all of the game. They grabbed the first score of the game through stalwart and captain Laura Hogan who lanced the middle of the defence to land the score.

Rachel Byrne added a nice score from the left wing minutes later. Byrne had launched a free goalward only for it to be batted away, duly collected by the full-forward and dispatched between the posts. The Wicklow women looked to be in charge in the first 10 minutes.

It was then that St Brides showed signs of life. A long puck out was latched onto by their corner-forward speedster Emma McArdle. McArdle headed for the crossbar, when she was fouled by the Knockananna defence. A 21-yard free was the result, which ended up in the Wicklow champions’ net. Brides full-forward Cara McKeever stood over the free and appeared to slip on the lift. She put the head down, lashed at the ball and it fizzed to the net. A goal for the visitors.

Knockananna continued as they had been. The went back to dominating the possession and pinning Brides into their own half.

After the water break, Knockananna had their first real clear-cut opportunity at goal. Roisin Byrne effected a good turnover in the opposition half, she flicked the ball clear to an on running Sarah Byrne. Sarah then squared the ball to Rachel Byrne to tap into the net. The cheer went up and Knockananna were on their way, or so we thought. The referee trotted towards the goal, to be informed by his umpires that the goal was to be ruled out because of a square ball. Goal disallowed.

Not to be denied, Knockananna went right back to work. Ciara Byrne landed a lovely score over her left shoulder after a deft touch to hand from an Eimear O’Sullivan delivery. Two minutes later, Rachel Byrne landed a free from the right wing after Jessie Byrne forced her way through the Brides defence, to be fouled.

Minutes later, Knockananna had another goal chance. This time it was Sarah Byrne, who picked the corner-back’s pocket and drove the ball goalward. St Brides goalkeeper, Mairead McMahon, pulled off the first of a range of point blank saves in this game. The Wicklow women managed to work the ball and earn a free through Ciara Byrne. Rachel Byrne stepped up and converted.

Just before half-time, again, it was McMahon in the Brides goal to the rescue. This time it was Rachel Byrne who she managed to miraculously thwart. Shannagh Goetelen delivered a peach of a pass to Rachel who took aim. Another top drawer save.

Heading into the half time break, Knockananna were two points to the good. In truth, they could have had three goals on the board, and be out of sight. No panic on the sideline as the message for the second half was to be more clinical, and take their chances.

The second half continued in the same vein. The Wicklow champions in control of possession and the game. The main difference, however, was the use of field position and delivery of the ball. Corner forward, Ciara Byrne, drifted out the field and left space inside for Rachel and Sarah Byrne. The key to it was the delivery of ball from Ciara Byrne, Laura Hogan and Shannagh Goetelen. This was also helped by the hard running style of Roisin Byrne, Aimee Maher and Jessie Byrne to compliment the delivery.

Rachel Byrne landed a free to start the scoring in the second period. Sixty seconds later, the ball was in the St Brides net again, but it counted this time. Roisin Byrne stepped out of a ruck around the middle and popped a lovely, weighted hand pass to Aimee Maher who was coming like a train. She shot but came up short. Not to worry, as Rachel Byrne was on hand to pressure the goalkeeper and force the ball to the net with a well-timed flick, then pull on the ground. A goal that was a long time coming.

Knockananna were starting to find a bit of a groove now, as Aimee Maher went trucking up the middle again to land a fine score. This was followed by a great team score from the Wicklow champions. Áine Byrne repelled a St Brides attack, and Alice Mulhall played a lovely ball to Ciara Byrne. Ciara picked a gorgeous pass to the hand of Rachel Byrne who sailed the ball between the sticks. A clear picture of the quality of the Wicklow champions.

Rachel Byrne added another score from a tight angle. Ciara Byrne then added another point with a classy left-handed strike. Fully in charge now, Knockananna had broken the spirit of the Louth team, who did manage to get a consolation free. The Wicklow women landed two more scores through Shannagh Goetelen and a Rachel Byrne free.

Knockananna will have ‘work ons’ for the next game, as they could have registered four goals on the day and did have plenty of wides. However, the Wicklow champions now face into a second Leinster final in as many months. What an achievement for the club.

With the squad involved and the momentum gained, let’s hope it happens for the women from the small village in the Wicklow hills.

Knockananna: Loretta Mutton; Dervla Byrne, Aine Byrne, Alice Mulhall; Emily Mulhall, Emily Hadden, Eimear O’Sullivan; Aimee Maher (0-1), Jessie Byrne; Shannagh Goetelen (0-1), Laura Hogan (0-1), Roisin Byrne; Ciara Byrne (0-2), Rachel Byrne (1-7), Sarah Byrne. Subs: Eimear Mutton for Roisin Byrne, Niamh Byrne for Alice Mulhall.

St Brides: Mairead McMahon; Naoise Kirk, Caoimhe Hoey, Niamh Sweeney; Orla McGeeney, Daire Hoey, Niamh Cunningham; Rebecca Mooney, Sarah Fagan; Grainne Mackin, Aimee McNally, Sinead Boyle; Emma McArdle, Cara McKeever (1-1), Lily Fagan. Subs: Sarah McArdle for Naoise Kirk, Ann McCormack for Lily Fagan, Claire Ward for Niamh Sweeney.

Referee: Brian Deering


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