Leitrim U-14 Ladies secured their place in Friday’s Connacht Championship A Final on Thursday evening last after a very one sided game against Sligo in Geevagh.
Within 40 seconds of the throw-in Leitrim had struck through Dearbhaile Beirne for the game’s opening goal and it was a lead they never looked in any danger of relinquishing.
Such was the one sided nature of the game Leitrim were afforded the luxury of making substitutions from an early stage but their dominance was still never in any doubt.
While it was tough on the Sligo players to be on the receiving end of such a comprehensive defeat, the Leitrim players stuck to their task, no doubt with one eye on their Connacht Final encounter with Galway.
One again it was Dearbhaile Beirne who proved to be Leitrim’s chief scoring threat as she finished the game with a highly impressive personal tally of 5-4, with all her scores coming in the opening half. Her pace, ability to beat a player and clever link-up play along with her eye for a score was something the Sligo defence simply had no answer for.
However, it was not just Dearbhaile Beirne who had a fine game for Leitrim. Roisin McHugh quietly got about her role at centre-back and was hugely effective at breaking up attacks and gathering loose balls and then launching counter-attacks. Bronagh O’Rourke was another who had a fine game while the midfield duo of Katie Kelly and Lorraine Heslin dominated the exchanges in the centre of the pitch.
While Dearbhaile Beirne may have been Sligo’s main tormentor, Ailish O’Dowd, Aileen Maguire and Niamh Maguire all played key roles in Leitrim’s victory.
From a very early stage it was evident Leitrim were on course for a routine victory. In fact after 10 minutes of action Leitrim had already built a commanding lead of 4-4 to no score. Dearbahile Beirne had already registered 4-2, including a perfectly judged lobbed effort over Sligo goalkeeper Shauna O’Dowd.
The remainder of the half continued in the same vein with Leitrim attacking at will and confidently taking their chances when they arose. Aileen Maguire was on the end of an excellent team move started by Roisin McHugh and involving Aisling MacNabola, Katie Kelly, Ailish O’Dowd and Dearbhaile Beirne before Magurie duly goaled from close range.
Points from Ailish O’Dowd and Dearbhaile Beirne followed, either side of Beirne’s fifth goal of the game as a rampant Leitrim showed no sign of easing up.
The final 10 minutes of the half saw further points from Niamh Maguire (three), Dearbhaile Beirne and Ailish O’Dowd (two) to leave Leitrim in a commanding position as they led 6-12 to no score at the interval.
Leitrim made three substitutions at the interval but there was no sign of any drop in intensity when the second half got underway. Ailish O’Dowd pointed after good approach play involving Dearbhaile Beirne and Niamh Maguire before Leitrim struck for their seventh goal through Aileen Maguire.
Six minutes after the restart Aileen Maguire struck for her third goal of the game as she struck a composed shot across the face of the Sligo goal after being released by Ailish O’Dowd.
As was to be expected, the pace of the game and the regularity of the Leitrim attacks did slow down allowing Sligo, for the first time in the game, to enjoy any kind of possession. Unfortunately for the home side they were still finding it difficult creating shooting opportunities and despite dropping the intensity from their game it was Leitrim who scored next, through substitute Lauren McCann.
After Sligo’s Ciara Redmond hit the post with a fine left footed strike, Sligo did finally open their account with a well taken point from Katie McDermott.
However, it was Leitrim who would have the final say as Niamh Maguire completed the scoring after what was a very one sided game.
Although they will be pleased with the victory, the Leitrim players and management will be aware there is still room for improvement ahead of Friday’s Connacht Final clash with Galway in what promises to be a much more testing encounter.
The Galway girls have stormed through this competition and although Leitrim fared much better than anyone against them so far, they still fell to a 44 point to the Tribeswomen when they met in the round robin stages on Thursday week last.
Whatever about the outcome of next Friday’s Final and Galway have to be highly favoured, it is a major boost for Leitrim Ladies to finally make their way into an A Final rather than the B Shield, which they have won at All-Ireland level in recent years after losing the Provincial B Final.
They will face much tougher opposition at this grade but it will bring on these players far more in the years to come, playing at a higher level and also increase the ambition of these players.
Blaithin Sharpley, Aisling Sorohan, Shannon O’Rourke, Shauna Plunkett, Bronagh O’Rourke, Roisin McHugh, Aisling MacNabola, Katie Kelly, Lorraine Heslin, Ailish O’Dowd (0-4), Aileen Maguire (3-2), Dearbhaile Beirne (5-4), Rebecca Rooney, Niamh Maguire (0-4), Caoimhe Canning. Subs: Martina Gallagher, Laura Beirne & Emer Masterson for O’Rourke, Sharpley & Rooney (HT), Lauren McCann (0-1) for Beirne (30 mins), Rebecca Rowley for Aileen Maguire (32 mins), Leanne Flynn for Heslin (34 mins).
Shauna O’Dowd, Emma Keaveney, Aine Costigan, Maeve Kenneally, Ellen O’Grady, Katie McDermott (0-1), Shauna Gorman, Shannon McManus, Katie Walsh Kerins, Ciara Redmond, Karren Griffin, Shauna Maloney, Rebecca Phelan, Emer Mulvey, Kayleigh Farragher.