On a day when they very definitely left their shooting boots at home, Leitrim were left to rue a host of missed opportunities as impressive and well drilled Cavan took a deserved victory in the All-Ireland Ladies U-14 B Championship Semi-Final in St. Aidan’s Park Templeport last Saturday.
Cavan 1-7 Leitrim 0-3
In one of the lowest scoring underage ladies matches in years, both sides can bemoan their lack of accuracy in front of the matches but they still served up what was still an enthralling match played at a cracking tempo in very warm conditions.
In the end, Cavan’s strength in key positions and their ability to stop Leitrim’s running game told the tale at the end.
The Breffni women had obviously done their homework on Leitrim and done it well – instead of trying to match up against the running ability of the Green & Gold girls, they funnelled players back and forced Leitrim into blind alleys, making them shoot wildly for distance.
Unfortunately, Letirim’s shooting boots were definitely left back across the border and while the Green & Gold might have sought small solace from the fact that they kicked so many wides over the hour, the truth was that Cavan were equally wasteful, the Breffni girls missing a host of clear cut goal scoring chances.
Over the course of the game, Leitrim registered 17 missed scoring opportunities to Cavan’s 12 but the home team had four golden goal chances that they missed, crucial misses in one-on-one situations where it seemed easier to score.
In contrast, Leitrim never created a goal opportunity over the game and were forced to shoot from long range.
Dropping players back also played into Cavan’s hands as the impressive Catherine Dolan in the middle of the park dominated the game and Geraldine Smith, Leanne Kiernan and Laura Keegan caused the Leitrim defence awful problems.
Dearbhaile Beirne’s extraordinary scoring ability has carried this team all year but with the Cavan girls well warned, the Mohill player was surrounded and never allowed to impact the game the way she normally does.
But it was far from a one person affliction as Leitrim seemed unable to recreate the heights of their Connacht B Final victory. With Cavan’s defence marshalling Beirne and the supply lines shut down so effectively, Cavan were convincing winners on the day.
To their credit, Leitrim kept going and in defence, Eimhin Quinn, Kathy McLoughlin and Elise Bruen stood out with immense work-rate against impressive forwards in Gearldine Smith, Leanne Kiernan and Laura Keogan while Emma McGovern, Aine Flood and Nicole McGarry worked their socks off in attack.
Referee Tommy McSorley brought agreement from both camps in that neither were happy with his performance, maybe a sign of an even-handed referee? The official did give some soft frees but if anything, Leitrim probably benefitted more from his tight application of the contact rules.
Certainly, nobody can blame the referee for the result as Leitrim failed to reproduce the sort of form they had displayed in previous games.
Cavan set the tone for the match straight from the throw-in when Katie Fitzpatrick blasted wide when through on goal within 30 seconds when a goal seemed certain.
Two Geraldine Smith points followed, one from a free, as Cavan dominated before a nice pass from Emma McGovern set up Dearbhaile Beirne to open Leitrim’s account in what was almost their first attack.
Both sides then missed chances, Beirne putting three frees wide, but Cavan hit back when Catherine Dolan’s good run ended with a fine point on 16 minutes. Cavan’s ability to use the open spaces in front of them meant they should have goaled when Leanne Kiernan shot across goal and a Cavan team-mate somehow scooped the ball back out of the danger area.
Cavan finally made the breakthrough with seven minutes left in the half – Ballinamore Post Primary School student Keely Doonan, who minutes earlier had been in distress with breathing difficulties, got on the end of a flowing move that started after a Leitrim defence had been repelled and her long, low shot nestled in the bottom corner of the Leitrim net.
Dara Morahan hit back with a point after good work from Eilish O’Dowd and Beirne for a stunned Leitrim but Cavan were dealt a blow when sub Jenna McConnell was sin-binned for persistent fouling, somewhat unluckily. it must be said.
Yet, despite being down a player, it was Cavan who finished the half best with points from Doonan and Geraldine Smith that saw the home team go into the halftime break with a 1-5 to 0-2 lead., a huge lead in a game where scores were at a premium.
The home side started the second half just as they had the first, missing an open goal after Catherine Dolan cut through the centre of the Leitrim defence and blasted wide when the goal was at her mercy.
But whatever was said at the halftime break, Leitrim then mounted a siege of the Cavan goal as they took advantage of the extra player. But unfortunately the Green & Gold hit seven wides in the first ten minutes, including three frees.
Dearbhaile Beirne pointed after a short fifty routine ten minutes in but it was to be Leitrim’s last score of the game as Cavan twice hit the Leitrim post with frees before the increasingly dominant Catherine Dolan pointed.
Leitrim’s cause was dealt a hammer blow when Carla Le Guen was sin-binned for a heavy foul, stopping the Green & Gold’s momentum right in its tracks but it was now Cavan’s turn to miss chances, as another free hit the post and Dolan crashed a quick free off the Leitrim crossbar with a goal at her mercy.
Leitrim’s attacking confidence was obviously shot as they hit some more bad wides, the shooting attempts beoming increasingly despite and Cavan opened up a seven point gap when Catherine Dolan put over another free, although Cavan had another chance of a late goal but Laura Keegan drove a shot into the side-netting.