Amy Fowley heads for the Roscommon goal Picture: Willie Donnellan
Showing huge resilience and determination, Leitrim held strong in the final ten minutes of Wednesday’s Connacht LGFA Minor B Championship in Kiltoom to see off the challenge of Roscommon to lift the title.
With County senior panelists Shaylyn Ward and Siomha Quinn coming to the fore in the crucial final ten minutes, the only worrying thing about this victory was the chances the Minor Ladies butchered that would have made their winning margin on the scoreboard as comfortable as what it was on the field.
Roscommon desperately threw everything they had at Jerome Quinn’s team in the final quarter but four missed chances in a row were punished in devastating fashion when Shaylyn Ward lifted the siege with a free with just less than ten minutes to go.
Two minutes later, Leitrim’s captain repeated the trick with a point that summed up the Green & Gold’s determination on the night. A chance had been lost but ferocious pressure on the Roscommon defenders turned the ball over, a quick pass and Ward was soon sending the ball flying between the posts for a huge score.
In truth, Leitrim should have won this game much more comfortably than they did for they missed a succession of great chances while the lightning fast Amy Fowley was denied goals on three occasions during added time at the end of the game.
Crucially for this group of players, they achieved victory without the presence of Muireann Devaney, off on international duty with the Irish soccer team and considering how much influence the Glencar Manorhamilton player has on this grade, it is a major confidence boost for this group of players that they achieved success without her input.
Shaylyn Ward played a real captain’s part in the victory and you could see the effect of training and playing with the Senior squad in her performance and that of Siomha Quinn. Both were incredibly influential during the final quarter and their fitness and desire to get onto the ball inspired their colleagues.
Leitrim's Connacht LGFA Minor B Champions pictured with their management team of Jerome Quinn, Marian McKeon, Liz Ward and Maeve Quinn after Wednesday's victory over Roscommon Picture: Willie Donnellan
Centre-back Niamh Morahan was rock solid at the heart of the defence that worked well as a unit while keeper Niamh McDonagh certainly looks like a great prospect for the future while Sarah Reynolds and Amy Fowley had real potential.
Leitrim got the perfect start when Aoibhe McGrath’s shot from 20 yards caught Roscommon keeper Lily Vickers off her line and ended up in the net. Sarah Reynolds was unlucky to see a shot come back off the post before the impressive Aisling Hanley played a one-two before firing over for Roscommon’s first point.
From that kickout, Hanley found the net for the home side after a kickout was turned over and a quick pass found her in behind the Leitrim defence. Roscommon were very much on top but kickout four wides to one from Leitrim over the next six minutes.
Amy Fowley converted a free for a foul on herself on nine minutes but Orla Connolly edged Roscommon back in front from a free on 12 minutes. Patient build up play resulted in Siomha Quinn firing over a minute but Roscommon were still hitting more wides than Leitrim, two for the home team to one from Fowley.
Marian Nolan won a Leitrim kickout to set up Hanley for a good point on 16 minutes but Leitrim levelled after a Shaylyn Ward free fell short but Roscommon were unable to clear their lines, Sarah Reynolds doing good work to get the ball to Riona McKeon and the Kiltubrid player pointed.
Roscommon had another Hanley free in between two wides but Leitrim were beginning to waste good chances with Amy Fowley missing two opportunities while she also collided with the Roscommon keeper as both chased the ball on 25 minutes.
The Leitrim defence made an important block on a shot from Connolly but Ward saw another free blocked on the line but again the ball was won back and again, after the ball going through three or four hands, Kiltubrid’s Riona McKeon fired over to restore parity.
Roscommon looked as if they would plunder a goal before halftime with a great move that cut through the Leitrim defence but Abi Flanagan’s shot was blocked and cleared but they did go back in front when Hanley finished off another good move with a fine point.
Leitrim responded instantly - Aoibhe McGrath and Riona McKeon combined to set up Sarah Reynolds for a point that could have been a goal. And finishing off the half in style, Leitrim turned over the Roscommon defence again and Brigid O’Reilly fired over an injury time point with Hanley missing a free at the other end for Roscommon.
Captain Shaylyn Ward pictured with the Connacht Minor B Shield after Leitrim's victory over Roscommon Picture: Willie Donnellan
That left Leitrim with a 1-6 to 1-5 halftime lead which was quickly doubled as good work from Shaylyn Ward and Siomha Quinn set up Sarah Quinn for a point inside the first minute. Niamh Fitzgerald and Marian Nolan then combined to set up Hanley for a good point.
However, it was now Leitrim missing chances with Reynolds and Fowley both shooting wide while another Hanley free levelled the scores after eight minutes of the second half. Two minutes later, Hanley provided the pass for Abby Curran to fire Roscommon back in front.
However, despite wides from Megan McGovern and Fowley, Leitrim drew level when Siomha Quinn tapped over a free on 11 minutes.
Now it was Roscommon who were missing chances with four bad misses in as many minutes as they put the Leitrim defence under fierce pressure. The crucial go-ahead score came with ten minutes to go when a foul on Megan McGovern was punished with a successful Ward free.
Siomha Quinn looked certain to score only for a Roscommon player to block the shot but another block, this time a Leitrim one on a Roscommon defender, turned the ball over and led to Shaylyn Ward scoring a brilliant point from distance after 52 minutes.
Incredibly that was the last score of the contest as Roscommon tried everything to get the scores they needed but a massed Leitrim defence turned the ball over time and time again. In fact, Leitrim should have extended their lead but had some terrible wides from chances that could have killed the game off.
Sarah Reynolds had a bad wide from play while Amy Fowley was denied a goal three times in two separate incidents in injury time, her first shot brilliantly saved by Lily Vickers, her second hitting the crossbar with the follow-up saved by the keeper once more.
But the fact that Roscommon were having to defend desperately deep into injury time meant that the goal they needed would never come, leaving Leitrim deserving and delighted winners.
Scorers: Aoibhe McGrath 1-0; Riona McKeon, Shaylyn Ward (f), Siomha Quinn (f) & Sarah Reynolds 0-2 each; Brigid O’Reilly & Amy Fowley (f) 0-1 each
Team: Niamh McDonagh (St Francis), Emma Honeyman (Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins), Niamh Donohue (Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins), Mairead Clancy (Glencar Manorhamilton), Lauryn McKeon (St Francis), Niamh Morahan (St Francis), Rachel Reynolds (Keeldra Gaels), Siomha Quinn (St Brigid’s), Megan McGovern (Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins), Aoibhe McGrath (Glencar Manorhamilton), Riona McKeon (Kiltubrid), Brigid O’Reilly (Dromahair), Sarah Reynolds (St Mary’s Kiltoghert), Shaylyn Ward (Keeldra Gaels), Amy Fowley (Dromahair). Subs: Celine Shortt (St Joseph’s) & Mollie Murphy (Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins) for L McKeon & R Reynolds (43)
Scorers: Aisling Hanley 1-6, 2f; Abby Curran & Orla Connolly 0-1 each
Team: Lily Vickers, Ruby Cahill, Aine McGrath, Ali Campbell, Mia Macken, Reece Higgins, Shannon McGuinness, Ella Thompson, Niamh Fitzgerald, Marian Nolan, Abby Curran, Saoirse Timon, Orla Connolly, Abi Flanagan, Aishling Hanley. Subs: Rachel Freyne for Campbell (37), Aoife Leonard for Nolan (46), Nicole Reaney for Flanagan (55)
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.