Brave effort falls short
Under-14 girls beaten by strong Longford outfit in final - Longford 2-13 Wicklow 3-2
'It was a great game. I'm very proud of the girls. They were unlucky in the end; they ran out of steam, but they put in a great performance and I don't think the score reflected their performance because there were times when we were on top in that game,' was Wicklow under-14 leadies manager Martin Roche's reaction after the final whistle of the Leinster U-14 'C' Championship final.
The brave Wicklow girls who threw everything they had at a very strong Longford outfit could never recover from a devastatingly poor start that saw them fall to a 0-7 to 0-0 deficit after 15 minutes during which Longford looked almost unstoppable.
'We gave away seven points in the first 10 minutes and that was a killer. We came back to within four points but Longford, in fairness, they kept the gap to seven points. The last 20 minutes of the first half we won that, in the second half then it was 50-50. We just started cold,' said a disappointed but proud Martin Roche on the main pitch in Kinnegad GAA Club.
Wicklow could barely get their hands on the ball in that opening quarter, and what attacks they did mount were ruthlessly squashed by a talented Longford defence.
Martin Roche made his first two changes very early in this game as he tried to kickstart some kind of revival and a point from Laci Shannon who started at full-forward but whose ball carrying and quality was soon required out the field was soon followed by two goals, the first from the impressive Anna Dignam who lobbed Louise Tierney in the Longford goal, the second from Bray's Emma Nesbitt who lashed home to the back of the net having collected a wicked Dignam ball to totally turn this game on its head.
Longford immediately reacted and switched Caoimhe Crossan on to Laci Shannon and Ciara Heaney on to the now troublesome Nesbitt.
Longford recovered well from this barrage from Wicklow in the closing stages of the first half and they brought a good save from Holly Wright that saw the ball fly over for a point to leave the tally at the break at 0-10 to 2-1.
'They (Longford) are a good team. They're strong, and when I say physical, I mean it in a good way. We had to switch around our backs. I didn't like taking one or two girls off very quickly, but I had to, otherwise it would have been a whitewash. In fairness, we settled down after that. We brought on the two subs after about 15 minutes and the team settled down. I said to them at half-time that they played brilliant and at full-time that they gave a great show of themselves. They were up against a very good team and I couldn't have asked any more of them.
'I said to the girls (at half-time) that we had won the last 25 minutes, we had actually won that. I knew there were goals in my girls in the full-forward line, I was trying to shuffle them around to get them into space to score goals. We got three or four goals, we missed two or three goal chances and we could have won it in the end.
The second half was immense from Wicklow's point of view. They were hit with a rapid 2-1 inside the opening 10 minutes but they gave everything they had in search of the scores that would bring them back into this game but sadly it was one of those nights where things just wouldn't fall right for them despite the enormous effort expended by the girls from the Garden County.
In fairness to Martin Roche, he tried plenty of things to encourage change and progress out on the field which included bringing substitute Poppy Rose Cullen Dunne back from the full-forward line to the defence.
They goaled in the 14th minute of the second half through Elizabeth Burke after huge work from Laci Shannon while Anna Dignam would point following a superb ball from the excellent Shannon but, unfortunately, that would be the last score despite a plethora of chances.
Wicklow had fine performances in Aoibhe Harmon, Anna Dignam and Laci Shannon to name but a few and can hold their heads high after such a gallant performance.
Martin Roche said that it was an enjoyable campaign and that the standard that this Wicklow side are competing at can only be good for Wicklow ladies football.
'It was a great campaign. We got together in September/October, we played lots of friendlies. We played Dublin twice, we played Wexford and then we played our league and championship. The standard is very high, the squad has come on which is great for Wicklow as a county,' he said.
Scorers - Longford: Emma Shannon 0-4, Keala Brady 1-1, Anna Hayden 0-2, Mia Shannon 0-2, Kate Shannon 0-2, Ella O'Reilly 0-2, Rachael Penrose 1-0.
Wicklow: Anna Dignam 1-1, Emma Nesbitt 1-0, Elizabeth Burke 1-0, Laci Shannon 0-1.
Wicklow: Holly Wright (St Nicholas); Emma Kinnear (Carnew Emmets), Abbie Cleary (St Nicholas), Grace Murphy (Newtown); Ciara O'Brien (Tinahely), Aoibhe Harmon (Tinahely), Emily Rose O'Toole (Blessington); Kayleigh Keogh (St Patrick's), April Harty (Bray Emmets); Eva Doyle (An Tochar), Anna Dignam (Rathnew), Abby Magee (An Tochar); Aisling Roche (Éire Óg Greystones), Laci Shannon (Tinahely), Emma Nesbitt (Bray Emmets). Subs: Elizabeth Burke (AGB), Poppy Rose Cullen Dunne (Valleymount), Elaine O'Dwyer (Blessington), Aoibhe Traynor (Bray Emmets), Eimear Murphy (Coolkenno).
Longford: Louise Tierney; Ciara Heaney, Siobhan Egan, Caoimhe Crossan; Ella Duggan, Kate McEntire, Tessa Tiernan; Ella O'Reilly, Eimear McDonagh; Niamh O'Brien, Kate Shannon, Mia Shannon; Keala Brady, Emma Shannon, Anna Hayden. Subs: Rachael Penrose.
Referee: Des McEnery (Westmeath)