Wednesday 15 August 2018

Wonderful Wicklow crowned champions

Wicklow 4-17 Louth 2-08

Wicklow players celebrate their magnificent victory
Wicklow players celebrate their magnificent victory

Dean Goodison

In ladies football, like many other sports, there are paper ceilings you have to push through to get to the top.

It takes time but with hard work, belief and a stellar group of players none of these levels are impenetrable.

You can't just skip ahead, there are no shortcuts up the floors and you have to start somewhere.

That's exactly what Wicklow did with their comfortable victory over Louth in the Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 4 final in Birr on Monday.

Let's face it, Division 4 is a bit of a graveyard. Any team with ambition needs to get out of it and Wicklow are exactly the type of side - one filled with youthful, energetic players, who have the potential to get significantly better.

This type of performance must make manager Mick O'Rourke quietly content.

The Wicklow boss can sit down in his armchair in the coming days, flicked on the game again and watch with two overriding feelings.

Firstly, the satisfaction of a job well done. Wicklow should win Division 4 but the work is in the doing and his side have done it to perfection.

Secondly, huge optimism. This was comprehensive but O'Rourke will still be able to pick the performance apart and drill home to his players that there is significant scope for considerable improvement.

He will also find it impossible to locate one of his charges that didn't put in a performance.

Right across the pitch his side won individual battles all day long.

A couple of talented Louth players like Lauren Boyle and Kate Flood made fleeting impacts but their influence was curtailed by a strong performance from the full-back line.

Further forward 18-year-old Marie Kealy is an exciting talent and will get plenty of the plaudits.

However, her performance was made possible by exemplary showings from others, even, for example, when the bench was emptied the Wicklow level didn't drop and that bodes well for what's ahead.

It was clear early in this game that there would be no shock result.

Wicklow dominated proceeding, they took a while to find their shooting boots but there was nothing to be unduly concerned about.

Despite a Laura Hogan point, Louth were leading 0-2 to 0-1 when the excellent Laurie Ahern fed Kealy, she rounded the Wee County 'keeper and fired to the net.

With wides regularly sprinkled along the way, Wicklow were only able to go point-for-point up to 1-5 to 0-5.

Then they pushed on, Clodagh Fox and Meadhbh Deeney pointed before the latter sent a cracking shot from Laura Hogan's feed to the corner of the Louth net with eleven seconds left on the clock.

Ahead 2-7 to 0-5 at the interval, the Wicklow girls would have expected the big Louth push at the start of the second half.

Kate Flood pillaged a goal after Rebecca Carr hit the crossbar, then Kim Connors saved a Lauren Boyle rocket on to the post as the her side blinked for the first, and only, time in the contest.

Louth didn't score again until the game was as good as over.

With Sarah Hogan leading from the back, the midfield duo going through an endless stream of work and with Jackie Kinch to the fore, Wicklow pulled clear.

A shrill shout alerted Amy Murphy to Kealy all alone inside and the full-forward made no mistake after accepting the perfect hand-pass.

The Baltinglass clubwoman completed her hat-trick in the 42nd minute after more excellent work by Deeney.

Wicklow started to really loosen up and kick points for fun. So much so that corner-back Lorna Fusciardi found herself following her player upfield and, with the aid of the inside of the right upright, score a classy point.

Louth, to their credit, never downed tools and they got a goal back through Lauren Boyle.

However, there was no chance of any late drama as Naoise Baker scored from the bench and Kinch clipped over her fifth point as Wicklow ended with a flourish.

O'Rourke's team now have a four week break before they begin their Leinster Championship campaign against Division 3 finalists Meath on June 3rd.

This is a big step up for the Garden County girls but not one to be feared.

They played an open, expansive brand of football to win the league final but might need some adjustments to meet the challenge of Meath.

If they can take their chances and cancel out the influence of the supreme Niamh O'Sullivan Wicklow may have an outside chance of an upset.

WICKLOW: Kim Connors; Emily Mulhall, Sarah Jane Winder, Lorna Fusciardi (0-1); Laurie Ahern, Sarah Hogan (capt.), Alanna Conroy; Niamh McGettigan, Sarah Miley; Amy Murphy (0-2), Jackie Kinch (0-5), Meadhbh Deeney (1-3, 0-1 free); Clodagh Fox (0-1), Marie Kealy (3-3), Laura Hogan (0-1). Subs. - Aoife Gorman for Fox (46), Aoife Gillen for Fusciardi (50), Shona O'Connor for Deeney (50), Naoise Baker (0-1) for Miley (55), Rose Fagan for Mulhall (59), also, Shauna Bermingham, Katie Miley, Helena Dowling, Saoirse O'Reilly, Sarah Fennelly, Georgina Canavan.

LOUTH: Una Pearson; Emma Singleton, Rachel Kane, Shannen McLoughlin; Ceire Nolan, Deirbhile Osborne, Bronagh McGrane; Sinead Woods, Rebecca Carr; Paula Murray (0-1), Susan Byrne (0-1), Aoife Russell; Lauren Boyle (1-2, 0-1 free), Kate Flood (1-3, 0-1 free, capt.), Michelle McArdle. Subs. - Michelle McMahon for Russell (25), Ruth Hanna for Woods (36), Eilis Hand for Singleton (41), Catherine McGlew (0-1) for McArdle (41), Sarah Englishby for Osborne (47), also, Coirin Rice, Eimear Murray, Emma McArdle, Róisín Osborne, Róisín Kavanagh, Gráinne Murray, Fionnuala Begley, Shauna Markey, Leanne Sharkey, Alanna Conlon.

REFEREE: Gerry Carmody (Roscommon)

Wicklow People