Against a well drilled Mayo side that featured three members of the current Mayo senior team, the Leitrim minor ladies were well beaten in last Saturday evenings Ladies John Miller Minor Connacht B Championship final, in what was for long stretches a very one sided contest.
By Philip Rooney
JOHN MILLER LADIES MINOR B CONNACHT CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
Inspired by midfielder Aileen Gilroy, Mayo proved far too strong for Leitrim with Gilroy, who represented Ireland at the U-17 soccer world cup last year, at the centre of all of Mayo’s good play. Her ability to always seem to have time and space on the ball meant she was either able to find a team mate in space or more often than not take a score herself.
Under the guidance of Jason Taniane, the man who brought Leitrim to All-Ireland intermediate glory in 2007 Mayo made life difficult for Leitrim in every area of the pitch.
The midfield pairing of Ann Marie O’Keefe and Aileen Gilroy gave Mayo the platform to build attack after attack while forwards Sarah Rowe & Carol Hegarty typified the work rate and desire within the Mayo ranks ensuring that even when the game was over as a contest they still played with a real intensity making life difficult for Leitrim until the very end.
Leitrim will be disappointed by the manner of the defeat as they seemed unable to deal with the manner in which Mayo ran from midfield and the clever support positions the half-forwards took up. Time after time Leitrim players were left in two minds as to whether they should meet the player with the ball or stay with the runners and that confusion more often than not resulted in Mayo scores.
From a Leitrim point of view the performances of Deirdre Moran and Michelle Heslin gave the travelling supporters something to cheer about and it is also worth noting that it was the Mayo goalkeeper Elaine Murphy who was presented with the player of the match award as a result of at least four excellent saves.
While Murphy had an exceptional game between the posts for Mayo, there was no doubting the fact that Mayo were worthy victors.
Straight from the throw-in they played with conviction and ruthlessness and scored two points inside the opening minute through Aileen Gilroy and Allanagh Naughton. With Leitrim struggling to clear the ball outside their own 45 Mayo continued to attack at will and further points from Rebecca Keane, Amy Hopkins and an Aileen Gilroy free left the Mayo in complete control with just five minutes on the clock.
Gilroy scored the game’s opening goal a minute later when she caught a kick-out with no Leitrim player near her and her floated shot sailed over goalkeeper Orla Gordon and into the Leitrim net.
It was to get worse for Leitrim as Sarah Rowe pointed either side of two Aileen Gilroy points before Mayo struck for their second goal of the game through Carol Hegarty.
Having been outplayed during the opening 10 minutes Leitrim burst into life with their first attack of real conviction. Ann Marie Gallagher, Bridget Gallagher, Shauna Clancy, Roisin Fowley and Denise Stenson linked up very well, displaying fine movement and precise passing to carve their way through the Mayo defence.
Just as Denise Stenson was about to shoot she was fouled by a Mayo defender leaving referee Paul Fahy with no option but to award a penalty.
Shauna Clancy took responsibility for the penalty but she was denied by a fine save from Elaine Murphy. Fortunately for Leitrim the attack did result in Leitrim’s opening score of the game as when the rebound came back to Roisin Fowley she calmly pointed.
Aileen Gilroy and Michelle Heslin exchanged points before the Mayo goalkeeper Elaine Murphy was back in action as she made two point blank saves to deny Ann Marie Gallagher and when the rebound fell to Michelle Heslin, Murphy once again proved nearly impossible to beat as she displayed lightning reflexes to make yet another fine save.
Leitrim were working very hard in an attempt to put some respectability on the scoreboard but when the Mayo ladies came forward they were proving to be very difficult to stop and they extended their lead further with two points from Amy Hopkins and Alannagh Naughton and a further point from Sarah Rowe.
After much perseverance Leitrim finally managed to get the better of Elaine Murphy in the closing stages of the half. Roisin Fowley and Shauna Clancy linked up well to create a scoring opportunity for Claire Rowley. Although Murphy produced another fine save, Rowley remained alert and when she claimed possession of the rebound she picked out Bridget Gallagher who scored into the empty goal.
It was the Mayo ladies who completed the first half scoring through full-forwad Amy Hopkins to leave the score at the break 2-15 to 1-2 in favour of Mayo.
Realistically the game was over as a contest as the players retook the field for the start of the second half but Leitrim would no doubt have been looking to put a more respectable slant on the scoreboard.
Unfortunately Mayo got the second half under way in the best possible manner from their point of view as Sarah Rowe’s speculative shot deceived Niamh McHugh who replaced Orla Gordon in the Leitrim goal at half-time.
To read the full story see this week’s Leitrim Observer.