The Ladies Football team fell at the final hurdle in the Donaghy Cup in
Galway last Saturday. Following a very impressive run to the finals, they
prepared to meet a strong Limerick I.T. feeling quietly optimistic. What they
met at a windswept Daingean was a strong team on top of it’s game, and
unfortunately the girls didn’t match this with collective performances of the
kind that saw them put together such an impressive run to the finals.
The Ladies Football team fell at the final hurdle in the Donaghy Cup in Galway last Saturday. Following a very impressive run to the finals, they prepared to meet a strong Limerick I.T. feeling quietly optimistic. What they met at a windswept Daingean was a strong team on top of it’s game, and unfortunately the girls didn’t match this with collective performances of the kind that saw them put together such an impressive run to the finals.
Looking back there can be no argument over the outcome (a nine-point margin on the day) but the girls are left with the haunting thought that if they had matched their previous performances things could have been very different. And indeed on the day they certainly could, an extremely disappointing first half left them with a huge uphill struggle, but to their credit they found it in them to launch a spirited comeback, and had the Limerick girls very worried with ten minutes remaining.
At that stage had the referee not called Melissa Casserly back to award her a free when she was bearing down a goal- surely advantage must be applied in such cases- the closing stages could have been extremely difficult. If the goal that came off a high Maeve Murphy free been allowed to stand rather than cancelled for a highly contentious Square ball, the comeback might have been sparked a little earlier.
It seemed that Sharon Mahon was the only one really clued in at the start and her strong runs were causing Limerick all sorts of problems, however she had to come to deep to get the ball meaning that she was left with too much to do at the end of energy sapping runs. With a strong wind at their back the girls were going for scores from difficult angles and long ranges when patience might have served better. That Limerick were soaking up this pressure and managing to score when they broke was worrying. With an incredibly strong midfield pairing and Centre-half forward (who was awarded player of the game) in superb form, Limerick set themselves up with what proved an unassailable lead. It wasn’t until Aishling Ni Griofa was moved to Mark her that this particular avenue was closed down.
In arrears at half time and facing a strong wind things did not look good but the girls finally found their form and started taking the game to a startled Limerick side, who had thought they had the game wrapped up. The move of Kerry McNulty to midfield was the spark for the revival, she won valuable possession time and again and sent great ball into the forward line. With this Maeve Murphy started to find the form, which everyone knows she is capable of. And when she gathered possession at the edge of a packed square she turned to dispatch it expertly to the net. When Bernie Kelly followed this up with a well-taken score doubt was starting to creep into the Limerick side.
Deirdre Harmon and Sarah O’Regan were winning the ball in the half-back line that had been going the other way and Catherine McGuire, who worked tirelessly at midfield was cleaning up anything that was left loose. Terri Gallagher started to pause problems with her long runs and with efforts from Ailish McGinty going close the limerick goal was living on borrowed time. The girls knew they needed goals to get back into it and pushed everything forward to push the game into a close final minutes and give themselves the chance to drag the game back.
Reward came, for this incessant pressure when in the space of three minutes two penalties had been awarded and Melissa converted both with great conviction.
Pushing everything forward now to draw level, there were unfortunately gaps left at the back and the Limerick girls exposed these cruelly to tack on an extra couple of points and the goal that eventually broke the hearts and the resistance of a team that had left themselves too big a hill to climb.
When the final whistle blew and the Shannon-siders leapt into celebration the girls fell to the cold realisation that another All-Ireland Title had eluded them,
(they were runners up in both the league and Championship last year), as with everything else they faced this together and rallied around, shoulders were needed to cry on and they were duly given. Like no other level there is a sense of finality in colleges football, along with the hurt of what they had just lost was the truth that some of these girls would never play together again- never get a chance to bring back what is becoming a Holy Grail. Maeve Murphy in particular had given everything for the last four years, Lorainne Lee likewise won’t get another shot, though there is no doubt that if we get there next year they won’t be far away, such is the bond that exists for this group- indeed many of last years team had, made the trip for the final.
There are always regrets, for this team it was that they couldn’t hit the heights that they had achieved in a magnificent run to the final. It was a run that they can be extremely proud of, accounting for teams from Sligo I.T., University College Dublin, and in particularly impressive fashion an NUI Galway team, in a semi-final played only four day’s before the final. It was a run that will be remembered for some outstanding individual displays; Keeper Mary Burke’s Heroics in the snow in Sligo; Sharon Mahon’s Virtuoso performance against Dublin; Terri Gallagher Inspirational semi-final with goals, defensive clearances and long pressure relieving runs. Indeed that Galway game brought star performances form all quarters, Tara Kilbane, Sarah O’Regan and Bernie Kelly all rose to new heights. That game however stands out for one performance- as fine a defensive display as has been seen in a long time, Aishling Ni Griofa was truly outstanding.
Catherine McGuire anchored the midfield brilliantly, while Deirdre McGrath and Evelyn Bonar were always dependable when thrown into the action.
Outstanding throughout however were Maeve Murphy, who plays with more heart and passion than you would find at any level; Melissa Casserly who’s has a goal scoring record to make premiership strikers blush and of course the "Island Girls", Helen Grealis at Centre-Half back was outstanding all year and she’s an inspiration to everyone who play’s with her. The Final word has to go to the captain,(as it did on the day), she found it in herself when she was at her lowest to pick up those around her, her words will be an inspiration for next years campaign, her thanks a comfort to those that are leaving. Ailish McGinty has played a Captains role all year, she has been unfaltering in her dedication to training and in giving 100% in every situation. There are different types of leaders, some can be heard a mile off, not so Ailish but she leads by example, wouldn’t ask for anything she wouldn’t do herself, follow this example and you can’t go wrong.
Ailish finished off by thanking everyone for the work they put in all year, especially Coach Billy McNicholas who has done such a marvellous job over the last eighteen months, she also thanked club sponsors, Castlebar Credit Union, The Irish House and Country Fresh Westport. But while it is time for thanks it should be going to Ailish and her Girls for an amazing championship run, with great memories and proud moments and the promise of even better things to come
© Copyright 2003 by www.castlebar.ie and the author