Encounters against Galway are rarely straight forward from a Leitrim point of view but on Sunday last in Charlestown the Leitrim ladies proved far too strong for their opponents in the Connacht U-14 Ladies B Final.
Leitrim 8-11 Galway 4-7
Having previously been beaten by Galway in the round robin stage of the tournament, Leitrim would have been hoping for an improved performance but they delivered much more than that. Forwards Dearbhaile Beirne and Carla LeGuen caused havoc for the Galway defence all afternoon while the midfield pairing of Emma Quinn and Eilish O’Dowd gave Leitrim the platform from which victory was possible.
With an incredibly strong breeze blowing across the field it was Leitrim who were the quicker to impose themselves on the game. After Carla LeGuen opened the scoring, in the opening minute Leitrim sought to build an early lead. However, plenty of pressure failed to produce any extra scores and it was Galway who struck next as they took the lead, scoring the game’s opening goal in the ninth minute.
Chelsey Blade dispatched a penalty after Leanne Coen was fouled to give Galway an unexpected and arguably undeserved lead.
However, there was no sign of heads dropping on the Leitrim side and they hit back within a minute as Dearbhaile Beirne struck for Leitrim’s opening goal. Playing with plenty of composure and urgency, Leitrim extended their lead with points from Carla LeGuen and Eilish O’Dowd before Dearbhaile Beirne registered her second goal of the game. After another Eilish O’Dowd point, Beirne turned provider as she released Carla LeGuen who struck for Leitrim’s third goal.
With just seven minutes of the first half remaining, Leitrim appeared to be in a very strong position but it was to get significantly better. Although Roisin Godwin’s point illustrated that Galway were still a threat, Leitrim replied with a Carla LeGuen point quickly followed by an Eilish O’Dowd goal.
With just a minute of the half remaining Dearbhaile Beirne scored Leitrim’s fifth goal before Leanne Coen pointed from a free to leave the half-time score 5-5 to 1-2 in favour of Leitrim.
Knowing they were facing an uphill battle Galway began the second half with renewed spirit but were struggling to make their early dominance count. Michelle Burke’s point for Galway was cancelled out by a Carla LeGuen free before Galway registered their second goal of the game. Laura Field raced on to a dangerous ball played over the Leitrim defence and finished confidently past Aisling Gill.
Galway had further chances to further reduce the deficit but it was Leitrim who struck next with a Carla LeGuen point quickly followed by a fine goal from Emma Quinn.
Although Leitrim were enjoying a comfortable lead there were no signs of complacency from the Leitrim dugout as Galway still looked dangerous when attacking. A Michelle Burke point was quickly followed by a Leanne Coen goal and although Dearbhaile Beirne replied with a point, Galway were now enjoying their best period of the game.
Amy Dempsey pointed before Galway were awarded their second penalty of the game. For the first time in the game the Leitrim players looked rattled as Galway, despite trailing by 12 points, were now bringing the game to Leitrim. However, Galway passed up the opportunity to put further pressure on Leitrim as Chelsey Blade’s penalty flew over the bar.
That miss proved significant as Leitrim immediately replied with a point from player of the match, Eilish O’Dowd and with nine minutes remaining Carla LeGuen scored a fine individual goal to all but end the game as a contest and the result was put beyond any doubt when Dearbhaile Beirne goaled four minutes later
To their credit Galway continued to battle until the end and were rewarded with a goal and a point from substitute Vivienne Mannion. However, it was Leitrim’s day and it was only fitting that the two most dangerous forwards completed the scoring with Carla LeGuen (free) and Dearbhaile Beirne both registering late points.
Leitrim will now face the Ulster champions in the All-Ireland B semi-final.