When you look at the final score-line, it is hard to imagine that it was only the width of the upright that denied Leitrim a place in the TG4 Ladies All-Ireland Intermediate Final after an epic semi-final joust with Cavan in Leahy Park, Cashel last Saturday.
By John Connoly
In the final seconds at the end of an enthralling 60 minutes that swung one way and then the other in the Tipperary venue, Leitrim launched one last attack, seeking to shock favourites Cavan and book a trip back to Croke Park.
In as heart-breaking a sequence you could imagine, young corner-forward Roisin Fowley saw her shot from a tight angle crash off the wood-work to the gasps of Leitrim fans.
There was still hope as Aine Tighe pounced on the loose ball but with the Cavan attack swarming all around the tall Kiltubrid woman, her shot was blocked and the chance to snatch a famous victory was gone.
As close and as dramatic as Fowley’s shot hitting the wood-work and Tighe seeing her effort blocked, the damage was done in the first half as Leitrim simply couldn’t build enough of a lead against a Cavan team who showed admirable strength and focus to twice haul in nine point gaps.
With a ferocious wind blowing down Leahy Park, Leitrim attacked in waves in the first half but relied on a goal just before halftime to give the Green & Gold an accurate reflection of their dominance.
Yet there was always the feeling that Cavan had more to come and it took three missed goal chances, including one incredible save from keeper Catherine O’Brien in the first half, to keep Leitrim in front and Cavan’s range of scoring was something that an over-worked Leitrim defence couldn’t cope with in the second half.
Cavan literally camped in the Leitrim half for the vast majority of the second period but in what amounted to a “guerrilla” action, Leitrim hit devastatingly on the break, twice winning penalties that were converted brilliantly by Aine Tighe but the scores were exceptions as Cavan’s strength around the field told its tale.
Leitrim were forced to move Tighe, who scored a remarkable 3-7 on the day with all but one goal coming from placed balls, out the field in the second half to win primary possession but in a combative and ferocious battle with Ballinaglera clubwoman Ailish Cornyn, Tighe couldn’t get enough possession to do real damage.
Leitrim’s tactic of bringing Sinead Fowley out the field also paid huge dividends in the first half but with St. Joseph’s Ciara Gray following her and adding to Cavan’s ball winning capability in the middle of the field, the tactic back-fired in the second half against the wind as Gray was vital in driving her team forward.
In defence, Leitrim struggled to cope with the pace and movement of the Cavan attack where Aisling Doonan from Corlough, Bronagh Sheridan, Claragh O’Reilly and subs Grainne Smith and Darna Clerkin caused all manner of problems for the back-line, their movement and point taking over-coming the tenacity and hard work of a back-line where Sharon Kerrigan was a vertible rock.
To read the full story see this week’s Leitrim Observer.