The Leitrim ladies dreams of glory in the All-Ireland U-14 ‘A’ Shield competition came to an end in Banagher, Co Ofally on Saturday afternoon last when they were defeated by a very well organised and skilful Kerry side in the final.
By Philip Rooney
Ladies U-14 All-Ireland ‘A’ Shield Final
Perhaps slightly affected by big match nerves Leitrim got off to a slow start and although they got back on level terms with a Dearbhaile Beirne goal, Kerry always appeared to have the upper hand and were able to deal with anything the Leitrim ladies threw at them.
Lorraine Heslin and Katie Kelly, both of whom had been key to Leitrim’s progress in this competition had their hands full in midfield against Megan O’Connor and player of the match Katie Dennehy while Kerry’s captain, Savannah McCarthy proved to be very difficult to contain when she dropped deep to claim possession and then ran dangerously at the Leitrim defence.
From a Leitrim point of view, the opening minutes were worrying as Kerry opened up a three point lead with scores from Erin Finucane, Eilish Ni Chiobhain (free) and Savannah McCarthy.
Having struggled to make an impact in the game during the opening exchanges, Leitrim responded in impressive style in the seventh minute with the game’s opening goal.
Dearbhaile Beirne, who was well marshalled throughout the game burst free of her marker before playing a short pass to Emma Guckian. Those two Leitrim players exchanged passes several times before Beirne found herself in a shooting position and she duly dispatched her shot to the roof of the Kerry goal.
It was hoped that score may invigorate the Leitrim players and briefly they did bring the game to Kerry. Emma Guckian saw a shot deflected wide after good play from full-forward Niamh Maguire but it wasn’t long before Kerry regained control of the contest.
Eilish Ni Chiobhain converted a free to regain the lead and the same player struck a minute later for her side’s first goal to open up a four point lead for Kerry. Although Leitrim continued to battle all over the pitch, they were never able to truly get themselves back into contention.
A Ni Chiobhain free was quickly followed by a Sarah O’Brien point before Kerry struck for their second goal. Savannah McCarthy and Sarah O’Brien, both of whom were very impressive for Kerry combined well to create an opportunity for full-forward Erin Finucane who confidently dispatched her shot past Leitrim goalkeeper Blaithin Sharpley.
Leitrim did manage to momentarily halt Kerry when Emma Guckian pointed but that proved to be little more than a temporary reprieve as Kerry immediately replied with another Erin Finucane goal.
Kerry extended their lead with further points from Eilish Ni Chiobhain and Finuncane but to their credit it was the Leitrim ladies who finished the half the stronger.