Chairperson Aidan Heron and Brian Coyle, on behalf of Gotham Drywall New York, present team captain Michelle Heslin with the new Leitrim Ladies jerseys for 2019
It was a year in the making but the Leitrim Ladies returned to competitive inter-county action on Sunday afternoon with victory over a gallant Derry side in Aughnasheelin.
Conditions did not make things easy for anyone involved in the Division 4 clash of two teams who surely fancy their chances of promotion.
It was the Ulster outfit who started strongest, midfielder Emma Doherty pointing from a free following some good work from Megan Devine and that score was quickly followed with another as Erin Murray struck over from fourteen yards out.
Leitrim, playing against a strong wind, responded instantly with Carla Le Guen picking out Eilish O’Dowd with a pinpoint pass and the resulting shot from distance ended up lobbing Derry keeper Thomasina Cassidy to give the home side the lead for the first time.
That advantage didn’t last too long as Derry got the next three scores, another free from the impressive Emma Doherty, closely followed by points from play from Kayleigh Fleming and Megan Devine.
Leitrim captain Michelle Heslin stemmed the tide in the nineteenth minute following an exceptional pick out from Carmel McGovern to reduce the deficit back to a single point.
A few minutes later, one of the most vital scores of the game came along courtesy of Dromahair’s Edel Kelly, who, after making a brilliant run off the back of the Derry defence, coolly found the top corner of the net to finish Michelle Heslin’s precise through ball in style.
Derry roared back into contention once more, Emma Doherty and Aoife Laverty scoring before Heslin got her second point of the game for Leitrim on the back of good work from Carla Le Guen.
Le Guen was the provider for the next score, which proved to be the final point of the half, finding Bronagh O’Rourke in acres of space. 2-3 to 0-7 the half-time score in favour of the home side.
With weather conditions worsening and the wind changing direction, Leitrim again had to settle for the short end of the stick and although it was still an absorbing contest to watch, defences were the dominant force throughout the second spell.
It was the Derry Ladies who struck first with Emma Doherty kicking a fourth free over the bar after five minutes, leaving a single point between the sides once again. Ten minutes later, Leitrim struck the decisive blow they badly needed to pull clear, Carmel McGovern finishing an excellent counter attacking move started by Clare Owens.
That proved to be the final score of the game but there was plenty of incident afterwards, both teams going down to fourteen players due to sin-bins and Michelle Guckian was also forced to make an exceptional one-on-one save in the closing couple of minutes to keep Leitrim’s lead at four.
Overall, it was a pleasing return to action from Leitrim and one would expect that a tough outing such as this one won’t be lost on the squad for the tasks that lie ahead.
GAME AT A GLANCE
MAIN WOMAN - Any number of players can be delighted with their performances; Michelle Guckian was outstanding in goals, Aoife Gilmartin covered every blade of grass, Deirdre Moran & Eilish O’Dowd dominated midfield whilst Abbi Sweeney, Clare Owens & Edel Kelly made vital contributions throughout.
TURNING POINT - Carmel McGovern’s goal midway through the second half turned a one point lead into four and ended any hopes the Ulster side had given how difficult it was to get scores on the board.
TALKING POINT - There was a good crowd out to cheer on the team but with the men’s game starting at the same time, many supporters had to choose one over the other. With better planning in the future and the GAA & LGFA facilitating more double-headers, it’s hoped that frequent clashes such as this one will soon become a thing of the past.
REF WATCH - Siobhan Coyle was fair to both sides throughout and helped to allow the game to flow as best it could under the circumstances.
HIGHLIGHT - Simply seeing the Leitrim Ladies take to the pitch after failing to field beyond the second game of 2018 was a huge highlight for many of those in attendance and hopefully all of the good work going on behind the scenes will be built upon over the coming weeks, months and years.
LOWLIGHT - The prevailing weather conditions took away from what had the potential to be a fast, free-flowing game in the early stages and turned the contest into a war of attrition that Leitrim ultimately proved better suited to.
WHAT NOW? Leitrim travel to Queen's University in Belfast to take on Antrim next Sunday in a refixed game.
TEAMS & SCORERS
Scorers: Carmel McGovern, Edel Kelly & Eilish O’Dowd 1-0 each; Michelle Heslin 0-2, Bronagh O’Rourke 0-1
Team: Michelle Guckian, Abbi Sweeney, Aine Heslin, Clare Owens, Shannen O’Rourke, Sinead Tighe, Aoife Gilmartin, Deirdre Moran, Eilish O’Dowd, Emma McGovern, Michelle Heslin, Edel Kelly, Carla LeGuen, Carmel McGovern, Bronagh O’Rourke. Subs: Laura O’Dowd for S. O’Rourke (45), Vivienne Egan for McGovern (50), Eimhin Quinn for Sweeney (54), Patricia Forde for Kelly (55)
Scorers: Emma Doherty 0-4, 4f, Aoife Laverty, Erin Murray, Kayleigh Fleming & Megan Devine 0-1 each
Team: T. Cassidy, Cait Glass, D. Donnelly, A. Glasgow, A. Frizelle, G. Conway, D. Kivlehan, Aoife Laverty, E. Doherty, K. Holly, R. Curran, E. Doherty, K. Fleming, M. Devine, E. Murray.